National Security

Abetting Chinese Espionage

Why it matters that a Harvard professor was charged with spying for Beijing.

Arnold Ahlert · Feb. 3, 2020

Charles Lieber, chair of Harvard University’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, was charged last Tuesday with lying about payments he’d taken from Communist China’s “Thousand Talents Plan,” which is an effort to recruit researchers. Two Chinese nationals were also charged. Yanqing Ye, a Boston University robotics researcher, was charged with lying about her position as a lieutenant in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, and Zaosong Zheng, a cancer researcher at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, was arrested in December for allegedly attempting to smuggle research samples out of the country. “No country poses a greater, more severe or long-term threat to our national security and economic prosperity than China,” stated Boston FBI agent Joseph Bonavolonta. “China’s communist government’s goal, simply put, is to replace the U.S. as the world superpower, and they are breaking the law to get there.”

Indeed. And like so many other Americans whose concerns for personal gain apparently transcend concerns for our nation, Leiber had quite a lucrative deal going for himself. According to prosecutors, Lieber was paid $50,000 a month by the Wuhan University of Technology in China and received up to $158,000 in additional living expenses. He was also awarded more than $1.5 million to establish a research lab at the Chinese university. In exchange, Lieber was expected to publish articles, apply for patents on behalf of the Chinese university, and organize international conferences, all with the intent of helping China become proficient in cutting-edge science.

When confronted, Lieber gave “false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements” to both the Department of Defense (DOD) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) regarding his participation in the Thousand Talents Plan, according to a charging document written by an FBI agent. That would be the same Thousand Talents Plan the U.S. government has designated as a threat to national security.

The DOD and NIH also provided Lieber with $15 million in grant funding, which required him to disclose any ties to foreign funding, and his deception caused Harvard to make false statements to the NIH about Lieber’s work with the Chinese.

Yanqing Ye, who has apparently fled to China, is wanted for acting as an agent of a foreign government, visa fraud, making false statements, and conspiracy. In addition to being a People’s Liberation Army lieutenant (a fact she failed to disclose when applying for a U.S. visa), a search of her electronic devices allegedly revealed Ye obtained information about two U.S. residents with expertise in robotics and computer science.

Zaosong Zheng, who obtained a visa sponsored by Harvard University in 2019, was arrested at Boston’s Logan International Airport in December, while attempting to smuggle 21 vials of cancer-research material out of the country. Zheng, who stole the vials from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, allegedly hid them in a sock in his suitcase. Like Ye, the FBI alleges Zheng was also working for the Chinese government. Deemed a flight risk, he is being held without bail.

Both Harvard and Beth Israel are cooperating with authorities.

“The arrest of Charles M. Lieber, the chair of Harvard’s department of chemistry and chemical biology, signaled a new, aggressive phase in the Justice Department’s campaign to root out scientists who are stealing research from American laboratories,” The New York Times reports.

It also validates a bipartisan report by the Senate investigations committee revealing “how the American taxpayer has, in effect, unwittingly funded research that has contributed to China’s global rise over the past 20 years,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) stated last November.

The American taxpayer? Breitbart’s Neil Munro provides a far more accurate description: “Careless elites in government and in universities help the Chinese government steal U.S. technology and get taxpayer funding for Chinese research.”

The report’s co-chair, Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), also addressed the “lax oversight of federal research grants and the ineffective and mixed messages agencies have been delivering to schools and researchers.” Yet he was as myopic as Portman, further insisting that America should not abandon international collaboration with regard to science and technology. “As China’s aggressive efforts show,” he said, “our scientists, research institutions, and universities remain the best in the world and serve as a magnet for talented people looking to do meaningful, cutting-edge work.”

Not quite, Sen. Carper. China’s efforts show it’s determined to achieve global supremacy — by any means necessary.

Yet, for the American Left, President Donald Trump’s increased vetting is tantamount to racism. “The push to stanch China’s well-documented and costly theft of U.S. innovation and know-how has also raised questions about overzealous prosecutors and racial profiling,” Bloomberg News columnists Janelle Lawrence, Chris Dolmetsch, and Malathi Nayak assert.

Would Americans prefer a more lackadaisical approach toward a nation described by Victor Davis Hanson as one well known for “its gulag-like reeducation camps, its systematic mercantile cheating, its Orwellian surveillance apparatus, its serial public-health crises, and its primitive hinterland infrastructure”?

Unfortunately, for our elitists in government and business, the answer is yes. And in a speech given on October 13, 2016, candidate Donald Trump illuminated exactly why, saying, “There is nothing the political establishment will not do, and no lie they will not tell, to hold on to their prestige and power at your expense.”

Conspiratorial? Ask the millions of Americans living in outsourcing-ravaged communities. The same ones expected to abide poverty, hopelessness, and rampant drug addiction in exchange for cheap consumer goods — while being ridiculed on national television by a trio of elitist hacks.

“Western elites often harangue about misdemeanors when they cannot address felonies — a strange sort of psychological penance that excuses their impotence,” Hanson asserts.

Can’t, or won’t? And what if that impotence — impotence that invariably elevates avarice over national security — is by design?

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