VIDEO: Portman Highlights Upcoming Bipartisan Legislation to Stop China’s Theft of U.S. Taxpayer-Funded Research & Intellectual Property

May 18, 2020 | Portman Difference

In a new video, Senator Portman highlights bipartisan legislation he will introduce soon to crack down on China’s theft of American taxpayer-funded research and intellectual property (IP). Portman, as Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), led a year-long investigation into China’s talent recruitment programs like the Thousand Talents Program, culminating in a bipartisan report in November 2019 that detailed how China has recruited U.S.-based scientists and researchers since the late 1990s and incentivized them to transfer U.S. taxpayer-funded research and IP to China for their own military and economic gain.  

In response to the report, the FBI and the Department of Justice have announced the arrests of several academics affiliated with American universities for crimes related to their participation in China’s talent recruitment programs while accepting American taxpayer-funded grant funding. 

A transcript of the video is below and can be viewed here. 

“A big story right now is how China allowed the coronavirus to spread and become the global pandemic it is today. To me, it’s just the latest,  though, in a lack of transparency by China that’s been going on for a long time. In fact before this virus even started to appear in America our Subcommittee called the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations conducted an investigation, a yearlong investigation,  into another way that China doesn’t show transparency and that China doesn’t play by the rules, and that’s the intellectual property or IP theft at our research institutions and universities.

“So they’re taking research that has been paid for by US tax dollars and taking it back to China to help their military, to help their economy. It’s been going on for 20 years, if you can believe it.  China has been systematically recruiting US-based researchers and scientists. Some are Americans. You’ve seen some of the stories about this -- a Harvard professor, this week it was an Arkansas professor. But anyway, they get their research and they take it and then they use it to advance themselves, their own military in China, their own economy. And again what particularly aggravates me is the fact that a lot of this is being paid for by you. So, the US taxpayer is paying for $150 billion of research every year. It goes to our federal grant making institutions like the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation. It’s then going out to these institutions or universities, and then China just getting that research.

“Just this week another professor, again, was arrested, in this case for lying about his involvement in one of these Chinese programs. This is really unacceptable and we’ve allowed this to happen, so, people say we should hold China accountable, well let’s start home here let’s tighten up we’re doing at home, and that’s what we have in terms of our new bipartisan legislation, the ability to tighten things up and safeguard American research. It’s called the Safeguarding American Innovation Act, and it addresses the flaws that we found in our research system and it cracks down on this practice and holds China accountable.

“After our year-long investigation, we actually wrote a comprehensive report at the end of last year and our legislation takes the recommendations from that report. Among other things, the bill is going to make it a federal crime to lie about your federal grant, so if you get a federal grant and you say, ‘I’m not getting money from China’, which happens now ,there’s really no way to enforce that. So we provide a way to punish people for doing that, to hold people accountable. It also lets the State Department to deny a visa if the researchers are coming in to the United States to steal research. Right now they can’t do that, believe it or not.

“It also requires our research institutions, including our universities, to have more safeguards in place to help keep the research safe. Even this week, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security has sent a warning out to our colleges and universities saying 'tighten things up', because Chinese hackers are trying to get in to steal our research. In this case, it’s research about COVID-19, we’re told. But this is what our legislation would do, so it helps with that issue.

“Frankly, we have let China get away with this for too long and I think the coronavirus has shown that we do need to hold China more accountable and ensure that they’re being more transparent about everything and playing by the rules more, so I look forward to getting this important legislation introduced. It’ll be bipartisan, it’ll be hard-hitting but fair and it will say basically, let’s not allow China, a global competitor, to steal the research the American taxpayers are paying for to benefit their economy and their military.

“That’s just not fair, and we need to put a stop to it.”