A Republican senator is calling for an investigation into the University of California, Berkeley’s reported multimillion dollar deal with a Chinese university, according to a letter obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Indiana Republican Todd Young urged the Department of Education (DOE) to investigate whether any U.S. laws were violated related to Berkeley’s reported $220 million joint venture with China’s “state-owned” Tsinghua University to build a 1.7 million-square-foot research campus in Shenzhen, known as Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen Institute (TBSI), according to the letter sent to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona Friday. According to The Daily Beast, who broke the story in May 2023, Berkeley allegedly failed to report the foreign funding for the TBSI project to the Department of Education in possible violation of the law, which Berkeley disputes.
“The longevity, scope, and origin of the funding is concerning,” Young’s letter states, “but what that funding provided to the Chinese is equally, if not more so, concerning from a national security perspective.”
The Daily Beast reported that, between 2014 and 2018, the TBSI project allegedly received $220 million from the Shenzhen government as well as a $19 million investment from Tsinghua University that was backed by a grant from a Chinese state-owned enterprise.
Furthermore, Berkeley allegedly failed to report any of these foreign funds to the DOE prior to being contacted for comment by The Daily Beast in February 2023, according to the outlet.
Young’s letter asks the DOE to investigate whether or not Berkeley may have violated “existing U.S. law with regards to the disclosure of foreign gifts.”
In May 2023, Dan Mogulof, assistant vice chancellor of Berkeley, told the DCNF that although the university had indeed signed a “Master Affiliation Agreement” with Tsinghua University in 2016 that “arranged” for $22 million in “sponsored research” and “startup operations,” Berkeley has allegedly never received, nor benefitted from, a $220 million investment “made by the Shenzhen government, or any other entity in China.”
“UC Berkeley has no ownership of any of the facilities in Shenzhen and no agreements or plans to receive ownership interest in them,” Mogulof told the DCNF. “Therefore, UC Berkeley is not required to report this funding under Department of Education Section 117 guidelines.”
Young also expressed concern that the Chinese government may have “received other, more tangible, benefits from its arrangement with UC Berkeley,” according to his letter.
Between 2012 and 2021, Berkeley allegedly received over $4 billion in federal research funding from the Department of Defense and other government agencies, according to Young’s letter.
Therefore, TBSI may have allegedly benefited from “competencies, experience and expertise funded by the American taxpayer,” which China could have subsequently exploited, Young’s letter claims.
“Recent reporting calls into question the adequacy of existing guardrails to protect the security and integrity of American institutions of higher education from the malign influence of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese government,” Young’s letter states.
Berkeley’s Mogulof told the DCNF that the university “takes concerns about national security very seriously” and will review “past agreements and actions involving or connected to the TBSI to reconfirm that all required reporting and compliance has occurred.”
DOE did not respond immediately to the DCNF’s request for comment and The Daily Beast declined to comment.
Daily Caller News Foundation investigative reporter, political journalist, and China watcher. Twitter: @LenczyckiPhilip
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