In Company of China's Spies

December 11, 2020

America's college campuses have been a problem for years, but lately, for reasons no one is talking about. The Chinese Communist Party is here, Secretary Mike Pompeo warned -- and they're hiding in the shadows of our liberal schools.

"These aren't hypotheticals," he insisted earlier this year. Speaking at Georgia Tech, Pompeo was blunt. "They know that Left-leaning college campuses are rife with anti-Americanism and present easy targets for their anti-American messaging." This has gone on too long, he told the audience. And what is "this," exactly? According to top State Department officials, it's a massive network of Chinese communists fanned out across the country with one goal: penetrate higher education and, as Pompeo said on "Washington Watch" Thursday, "steal, replace, and repress."

Not only have they infiltrated these places of higher learning, he explained, but they've begun to "exert enormous influence there -- both by their presence and by their connectivity to students who are studying there." Although not all of the 400,000 Chinese students studying here are involved, he was quick to point out, a good number "have deep connections to the Chinese People's Liberation Army." The FBI has been monitoring this situation for months -- including cases where the Chinese government is trying to pressure the students studying here to pass along information. That's not fair to them either.

"Our institutions of higher learning have a responsibility to protect their students, including the Chinese nationals who are studying there." They also, he explained, have an obligation -- legally -- to disclose whatever money they're getting, so that our government can "make sure that they're using these funds in a way that's consistent with the American mission that they're all engaged in." Even in secondary schools, experts warn, the Chinese have an agenda. In some communities, they've quietly built a foothold with local school boards, K-12 administrators, and county officials that's giving them a powerful voice they should never have.

In terms of threat level, Pompeo explained, "it's not remotely close." China is the "largest, most significant threat to our national security anywhere on the global stage today." And is he concerned with how a Biden administration would handle that threat? Absolutely. "It would be unacceptable for the American people to go back to where we were before the Trump administration came in," he insisted, "and I don't mean that as a partisan attack. Frankly, there were Republican administrations before President Obama that didn't confront China in the way that it demands to keep us all safe and prosperous."

In these last several months of the coronavirus, a lot of Americans' eyes have been opened. People have finally started to see China through the lens of the pandemic, their horrible treatment of religious minorities, and crackdown of Hong Kong. If anything, Pompeo hopes that our country finally realizes the gravity of the situation. If they do, it might help keep Joe Biden, who's signaled his intent to cozy back up to China, in check. "I think whoever has the burden and the opportunity of being president of the United States, [not] just in February of 2021 but February of 2025 and '29 and '33 -- I think every one of those leaders will feel the challenge and recognize they have a duty and responsibility to confront this in a very real way," he said.