As a U.S.-China trade deal hangs in the balance and the world’s two largest economies are locked in a race for technological supremacy, concerns have arisen about China’s counterintelligence threat to the United States. In July 2019, FBI Director Christopher Wray told members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee that China poses the most severe counterintelligence threat to the United States than any other country, and described that national security and economic espionage threat as “deep and diverse and wide and vexing.” He noted that the FBI has to contend not only with Chinese officials but also with “nontraditional collectors,” including Chinese scientists and students who are looking to steal American innovation. There are currently multiple legislative proposals in Congress, all of which, in one way or another, are aimed at limiting university collaboration with Chinese nationals and the education of Chinese nationals in “strategic” research fields by U.S. higher education institutions.
These legislative endeavors, however, argues Arthur Bienenstock, co-chair of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Committee on International Scientific Partnerships, may endanger the U.S. science and technology workforce and limit the effectiveness of U.S. academic research, thus weakening the very fields the nation is most anxious to protect.
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