House Committee Investigates Georgia Tech for Alleged Ties to Chinese Military-Linked University

‘It has collaborated with Tianjin University and at least one other PLA-linked entity on developing sensitive technologies,’ the letter reads.

The chairman of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party has launched an inquiry into Georgia Tech over its alleged relation with a Chinese military-linked university.

In a letter dated May 9 to Georgia Institute of Technology President Ángel Cabrera, Rep. John Moolenaar (R-Mich.) and two GOP lawmakers raised concerns about Georgia Tech’s partnership with Tianjin University despite the latter’s close ties to the Chinese military.

“While Georgia Tech is now prohibited from exporting sensitive technologies to Tianjin University due to the Entity List’s prohibitions, it has collaborated with Tianjin University and at least one other PLA-linked entity on developing sensitive technologies,” the letter reads.

The lawmakers alleged that Tianjin University has deep links with the Chinese military and is under the supervision of the Chinese regime’s Commission for Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense. It is integrated into the Chinese regime’s military-civil fusion, where civilian companies and research institutes are utilized for military purposes. It also hosts defense laboratories.

In 2015, federal prosecutors indicted three Tianjin University professors and three Chinese individuals for allegedly engaging in stealing microelectronics designs from U.S. firms as well as economic espionage in a decade-long scheme on behalf of the Chinese regime. The U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security placed Tianjin University and one of its labs on the Entity List in 2o20.

In the letter, the lawmakers wrote about a recent technology breakthrough, a graphene semiconductor with military applications created by Georgia Tech and Tianjin University researchers. The letter alleged that semiconductors were produced in Tianjin University’s lab operated jointly with the Chinese military.

In January, Georgia Tech announced that its researchers based in Atlanta and at the Tianjin International Center for Nanoparticles and Nanosysms had created the world’s first functional semiconductor made from the nanomaterial graphene, which it said could lead to a “paradigm shift” in electronics and yield faster computing.

The United States and China, amid an intense geopolitical and scientific rivalry, both view semiconductors as a strategic industry with civilian and military uses, including quantum computing and advanced weapons systems.

A spokesperson from Georgia Tech said that it welcomed the congressional inquiry but that Georgia Tech Research Institute “does not have a collaboration, research partnerships, or provide any funding to Tianjin University.”

In addition, the lawmakers also questioned the $250 million allocation from the Shenzhen local government to build the Georgia Tech Shenzhen Institute campus in China.

The lawmakers then asked Georgia Tech to provide information related to its involvement with Chinese entities, including funding, collaborations, and research partnerships.

The letter was co-signed by Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.In 2020, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Georgia Tech. In his speech at the university, Mr. Pompeo warned about the influence of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on U.S. campuses.

“We cannot let the CCP crush the academic freedom that has blessed our country and blessed us with great institutions like the place that I am standing [within] today,” he said. “We need help of students. We need help of faculty. We need help of administrations all across America. We need trustees to police their endowments and the deals their universities are striking with the CCP and CCP-backed groups.”

In 2021, the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, chaired by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, recommended that Congress require U.S. universities to take measures to prevent the Chinese military from stealing sensitive technology.

In recent years, the FBI has discovered that many cases of technology theft involved Chinese nationals working at U.S. research institutions or tech companies. While working in the United States, they collected payments from the CCP to send information about cutting-edge U.S. technology back to China.

American and Western researchers have also been found guilty of stealing on behalf of the CCP. Some have been arrested and charged for failing to disclose their ties to Chinese research institutes.

The increased vigilance against technology theft by the CCP targeting foreign researchers is linked to a 2020 Trump administration rule that banned graduate students with ties to the Chinese regime’s military-civil fusion strategy.

Alex Wu and Reuters contributed to this report.


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