Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) unveiled an ambitious proposal this week that aims to curb foreign influence and intellectual property theft by China and other “nations of concern.”
Those nations are: Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria, and Venezuela.
“We need to take action, stand firm against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and foreign influence and interference in American research, education, and public affairs,” said DeSantis Monday during a press conference in Tallahassee.
The primary objective of his proposal is to keep the CCP out of Florida’s schools.
“The CCP’s mass infiltration and theft of American research is well documented, resulting in numerous arrests at college campuses across the country,” continued DeSantis. “It’s high time we tackle these issues and eliminate any tolerance of clandestine foreign influence in our schools.”
Before he left office, President Trump attempted to decrease China’s influence in American schools with a proposal that would have required them to disclose any agreements with organizations backed by the Chinese government, including Confucius Institutes (read more here). The Biden Administration scrapped the effort in January.
DeSantis’s proposal will ramp up efforts to monitor foreign travel linked to research institutions. It will also enhance screening of foreign applicants, require any entity that wants a contract with the state of Florida to disclose any and all ties to the “countries of concern,” block schools from establishing foreign-language or cultural programs from said countries, and force schools and businesses to report all foreign donations greater than $50,000. Entities found in violation will be fined 105% of the undisclosed donation.
“We must ensure that our research, innovation, and talent benefit Florida and benefit our country, not foreign interests like the CCP,” said DeSantis. “Not only is this an issue of establishing barriers to foreign influence, but also a measure of sound fiscal stewardship to ensure tax dollars don’t end up in the hands of the likes of Maduro, Kim Jong Un, or the CCP.”
Florida lawmakers investigating China’s influence in the state’s schools say they have discovered numerous examples of IP theft and other crimes.
Lin Yang, a former professor at the University of Florida, was indicted on six counts of wire fraud and four counts of lying to government officials after he managed to obtain $1.75 million in grants from the NIH. Four researchers at the University of Florida also maintained secret relations with China. However, a cyber attack conveniently targeted them before investigators could learn more.
“We found that there are no limits to the depths to which other countries – especially China – will go to steal our science and technology,” said Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls, who led the investigation. “Foreign adversaries use our university systems, local governments, research institutions, and companies to intimidate, influence, and steal their way to strategic advantage. Today, we are introducing legislation to combat foreign influence in our public institutions and prevent corporate espionage in Florida.”
Not surprisingly, the liberal professors working for these institutions oppose efforts to curb Chinese influence.
“Hate crimes about Chinese nationals has [sic] been on the rise since the former president blamed the pandemic on the Chinese,” argues Candi Churchill, executive director of United Faculty of Florida. “Now, the governor is fueling those hate crimes by blaming a whole group for the alleged actions of a few.”