Disrupting China’s Military-Academic Complex
Disrupting China’s Military-Academic Complex
April 5, 2022
Jonathan Schanzer, Senior Vice President for Research, FDD
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Vice Chair, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
Speakers (clockwise from top-left):
Craig Singleton, Senior Fellow, FDD
The Hon. Bonnie Glick, Director, Center for Tech Diplomacy at Purdue
Phelim Kine, China Correspondent, Politico
Anna Puglisi, Director of Biotechnology Programs and Senior Fellow, Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology
RADM (ret.) Mark Montgomery, Senior Fellow and Senior Director of the Center on Cyber and Technology Innovation, FDD
Speaker biographies included below.
The American public – and policymakers on a nonpartisan basis – are quickly coming to terms with the multi-faceted threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). That includes Beijing’s concerted efforts to harness the talent and technology needed to win its strategic competition with Washington. America’s top universities, for example, must now contend with re-examining risk within the broader research enterprise, including how they engage with Chinese universities that directly support China’s military-industrial complex.
The CCP’s efforts to infiltrate and exploit American institutions, businesses, technology, and critical infrastructure is coming to the fore, and Washington is poised to act. Congress is wrestling with significant measures to better position America to compete strategically with China in technology and related sectors, and unprecedented initiatives to limit China’s ongoing campaign to blur the traditional boundaries between academia, defense research, and the private sector, are under consideration.
FDD’s China Program and Center on Cyber and Technology Innovation host a discussion, with keynote remarks by Vice Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), to discuss these complex threats and the ways in which Washington may tackle them.
The Middle Kingdom Meets Higher Education
Reconciliation of China bills in Congress could produce big cybersecurity wins
Chinese Communism 101: Beijing’s Campus Strategy
Higher Education’s Confucius Institute Hangover
Real Clear Defense
House bill seeks to prolong higher ed’s China hangover
The Hon. Bonnie Glick
The Hon. Bonnie Glick is Director of Center for Tech Diplomacy at Purdue. An American diplomat and businesswoman, she who served as the Deputy Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development from 2019 to 2020. Nominated for the post by President Donald Trump in April 2018, she was confirmed by the United States Senate by unanimous consent in January 2019. She began her career as an American diplomat and served for 12 years as a Foreign Service Officer at the United States Department of State. She later worked for IBM as a global account executive, where she co-authored three patents as part of IBM Research. She served as the Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of Aging from 2017 until 2019 under Governor Larry Hogan.
Phelim Kine is the Washington-based China Correspondent for Politico and host of China Watcher. Phelim has more than two decades of experience reporting in and on China in roles ranging from Beijing-based foreign correspondent at Dow Jones Newswires in Beijing and Hong Kong-based human rights researcher at Human Rights Watch to environmental campaigner at the D.C.-based nonprofit Mighty Earth.
RADM (ret.) Mark Montgomery
RADM (ret.) Mark Montgomery serves as senior director of the Center on Cyber and Technology Innovation, where he leads FDD’s efforts to advance U.S. prosperity and security through technology innovation while countering cyber threats that seek to diminish them. Mark also directs CSC 2.0, an initiative that works to implement the recommendations of the congressionally mandated Cyberspace Solarium Commission, where he served as executive director. Previously, Mark served as policy director for the Senate Armed Services Committee under the leadership of Senator John S. McCain, coordinating policy efforts on national security strategy, capabilities and requirements, and cyber policy. Mark served for 32 years in the U.S. Navy as a nuclear-trained surface warfare officer, retiring as a rear admiral in 2017.
Anna Puglisi is the Director of Biotechnology Programs and Senior Fellow at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET). Previously she served as the National Counterintelligence Officer for East Asia, advising senior U.S. and foreign government officials at the highest levels, academia and the private sector on counterintelligence issues. She played a prominent role in drafting the recently released U.S. National Counterintelligence Strategy, and in designing mitigation strategies for both the public and private sectors to protect technology. As a member of the Senior Analytic Service, she developed multidisciplinary efforts to understand global technology developments and their impact on U.S. competitiveness and national security, as well as efforts to target U.S. technology. Anna also started a government-wide working group looking at developments in biological sciences and has worked on several bio-security issues.
Senator Marco Rubio
Senator Marco Rubio serves the people of Florida in the U.S. Senate. He is Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, where he provides oversight over the U.S. government’s Intelligence Community and national security apparatus. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issue, Senator Rubio fights for human rights and to uphold democracy around the globe. Additionally, Senator Rubio is a member of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, which is responsible for allocating funding for the federal government.
Jonathan Schanzer is senior vice president for research at FDD, where he oversees the work of the organization’s experts and scholars. Jonathan previously worked as a terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where he played an integral role in the designation of numerous terrorist financiers. He has held previous think tank research positions at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the Middle East Forum. Jonathan has written hundreds of articles on the Middle East, along with more than a dozen monographs and chapters for edited volumes. His new book, Gaza Conflict 2021: Hamas, Israel and Eleven Days of War (FDD Press, 2021) challenges and corrects the some of the wildly inaccurate news reported during the conflict. It is the first book published on the war. Jonathan testifies often before Congress and publishes widely in the American and international media.
Craig Singleton is a senior fellow at FDD, where he analyzes great power competition with China. He previously spent more than a decade serving in a series of sensitive national security roles with the U.S. government, where he primarily focused on East Asia. In that capacity, Craig regularly briefed federal law enforcement, U.S. military personnel, foreign governments, congressional oversight committees, and the White House on a wide range of issues, including China’s overseas military expansion, Chinese malign influence, and North Korea. His latest report, “The Middle Kingdom Meets Higher Education: How U.S. Universities Support China’s Military-Industrial Complex” identifies 28 American universities and schools in 19 states that maintain academic and research partnerships with Chinese institutions that power Beijing’s defense establishment.
SCHANZER: Hello and thank you for joining us today. I’m Jonathan Schanzer, Senior Vice President for Research at Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
We’re delighted to you’ve joined us today for a stellar lineup of policymakers and experts who will soon discuss a complex and imminent national security threat: Beijing’s efforts to infiltrate and exploit American institutions, businesses, technology, and critical infrastructure.
Through its China Program and the Barish Center for Media Integrity, FDD was proud to recently publish a comprehensive report about 28 American universities and schools that maintain research partnerships with Chinese institutions that empower Beijing’s miliary. We’re pleased to note that since FDD first published the report, we’ve seen a number of universities sever their ties. But there is still much more to be done.
Today’s program has two parts. First, we are very honored to welcome Senator Marco Rubio of Florida for some opening remarks. Senator Rubio serves as Vice Chair for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He recently delivered letters to 22 U.S. universities urging them to terminate their academic and research partnerships with universities that contribute to Beijing’s military-civil fusion strategy. We’re honored he’s joined us today to share his thoughts thoughts on how Washington should tackle this issue.
From there, we’ll dive into a discussion with our experts.
First, I welcome my colleague, Craig Singleton. Craig is a senior fellow at FDD and author of the aforementioned report: “The Middle Kingdom Meets Higher Education.” Craig previously spent more than a decade serving in sensitive national security roles with the U.S. government.
We’re also pleased to welcome Bonnie Glick, who serves as director of the Center for Tech Diplomacy at Purdue. An American diplomat and businesswoman, she most recently served as the Deputy Administrator and Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID.
Next, I am pleased to introduce Anna Puglisi. She is director of Biotechnology Programs and a senior fellow at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology. She previously served as National Counterintelligence Officer for East Asia, advising senior U.S. and foreign government officials at the highest levels, and academia and the private sector on counterintelligence issues.
This terrific panel will also include my colleague retired Rear Admiral Mark Montgomery. Mark is an FDD senior fellow and senior director of FDD’s Center on Cyber and Technology Innovation, or CCTI. He also directs CSC 2.0, an initiative to implement the recommendations of the congressionally mandated Cyberspace Solarium Commission, where he served as executive director.
Finally, we’re pleased to welcome a very talented journalist who will moderate today’s discussion: Phelim Kine. Phelim is the DC-based China correspondent for Politico. Phelim has more than two decades of experience reporting in and about China.
Before I hand the virtual floor over to Senator Rubio, a few words on FDD. We are a non-partisan policy institute focused exclusively on national security and foreign policy. We provide timely research, analysis, and recommendations to the policy community. We take no foreign government funding or corporate funding, and we never will.
Today’s program is one of many that FDD hosts throughout the year. For more information on the work that we do, please visit our website at FDD.org.
With that, I am pleased to welcome Senator Marco Rubio.
RUBIO: Hello, everyone. I’m Senator Marco Rubio from Florida. And first, let me just thank you for the opportunity to join you virtually. The Foundation for Defense of Democracies understands as well as anyone that we are now in an era, once again, of Great Power Competition, primarily with the Chinese Communist Party. And in this new era, our adversaries, they break into our computers to steal our data. They penetrate inside of our companies to take technologies. They use social media to divide us against one another with misinformation. And they place their technology in our critical infrastructure, ready to one day hold our nation hostage in the time of conflict.
Today, I’ll just focus on one aspect of this dangerous new world of great power competition, and that’s the concerted effort to infiltrate the research at our universities. Beijing is laser focused on surpassing us in the race to develop all of the technologies that are going to transform the 21st century. From artificial intelligence and biotechnology to quantum computing and aerospace technology. And we can see their efforts reflected in strategies, for example, in Made in China 2025, which is Beijing’s plan for boosting high tech industrialization and curbing their dependence on foreign-made technology. And as China’s Military Civil Fusion program makes very clear, Beijing is determined to make its rivalry with the United States a whole of society, whole of government effort on their part. They believe that blurring the lines between civilian and military technology is a fundamental characteristic of modern warfare, since upwards of 80% of the technologies used by modern militaries are dual use in nature. Military Civil Fusion breaks down barriers between civilian and military institutions to mobilize the former in service of the latter. In short, the strategy renders the traditional distinction between the civilian world and the military, renders it meaningless in the context of China.
The People’s Liberation Army now has access to, and to some extent a presence in, civilian institutions throughout China, including universities. There’s no questions asked about that. What this means for academic research is disturbing. It means we can no longer pursue scientific collaboration with institutions in China. Because if we do, it is all but guaranteed that any promising research or emerging technology that can have military applications will wind up in the hands of the Chinese military. And so Congress really needs to act to combat this. Last year, the Senate passed a massive spending bill and it was passed under the guise of making the US more competitive with China. But that bill does not position us to better compete with China because it lacks safeguards that prevent the theft of taxpayer-funded research, which will fuel China’s technological development and military buildup once it falls into their hands. I strongly support, in fact I’m one of the first ones that called for, robust spending on basic science research in strategic areas. But because that bill does not do enough to protect the integrity of that research, I can’t support the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act unless that’s fixed.
In the coming weeks, I’ll introduce legislation to counter China’s national strategy of Military Civil Fusion. My bill will prohibit U.S.-covered entities from engaging with Chinese entities of concern and any scientific research or technical exchange in technologies that the Communist Party of China has identified as a priority of its Military Civil Fusion strategy. This new bill would also prevent partnerships or joint ventures between U.S. Private companies that receive federal financial assistance and entities of concern in China.
I recognize that one of the difficulties of countering the Military Civil Fusion strategy of China is resistance to restrictions that exist within our own academic community, within our own schools. Restrictions on academic exchange is not something that we should impose lightly. But we have to understand that China today is ruled by a totalitarian, authoritarian, Marxist, Leninist regime that seeks to replace and supplant America as the world’s greatest power. We simply have to limit our engagement with China in the sciences until the day comes that China is free from that kind of regime. Cases like that of Harvard chemistry professor Charles Lieber illustrate how in involvement in Beijing’s Thousand Talents program can end up corrupting U.S. Researchers and lead them to committing criminal acts. And we can’t underestimate how the scale of this problem amplifies the threat that it poses.
In July 2020, five researchers from China were arrested for failing to disclose their affiliations to the People’s Liberation Army or Communist Party in their visa application. In the six months that followed, more than a thousand visiting researchers from China left the United States in response to those efforts to investigate CCP influence on U.S. Campuses. We have to recognize what we’re up against, and that means we have to be smarter about protecting our research universities from those who would seek to use our openness against us. Our obligation to protect the American people and the national interest simply demands these kinds of action. So thank you again for bringing attention to this important topic, and God bless all of you.
KINE: Thank you so much, Jonathan, for the introduction and many thanks to Senator Rubio for his remarks. My name is Phelim Kine, I am your moderator today for this panel. This panel is particularly interesting and particularly pertinent given the topic and the time. We’re talking about China, we’re talking about the U.S., and we’re talking about the challenges of the U.S.-China relationship and how China and the way that it operates is becoming an increasingly more worrisome security threat, particularly through academic institutions. I think it’s fascinating that we are at this historical inflection point in this relationship between the U.S. and China, occurring at a time when we’re just past the 50th anniversary of Nixon’s historic trip to China that began, paved the way to this half century of engagement with China.
We’re just passed the 20th anniversary of China’s entry into the World Trade Organization. And both of those events and the thinking and strategy that followed was based on a premise implicit and explicit that opening China to the world and making it part of the international economic community, opening up our academic institutions to Chinese partnership, to Chinese students, would lead to maybe not the flowering of liberal democracy in China, but perhaps a kinder, gentler form of authoritarianism in China that would not be antithetical to U.S. interests.
We’re finding more and more that is not the case. And that there, as this relationship has developed, and particularly since 2012, 2013, since Xi Jinping ascended to the reins of power in Beijing, that the relationship has curdled due to an increasingly authoritarian or even totalitarian bent by the Chinese government and its interactions with the world, not least that of the United States. The panel we have here today can unpack some of the really most crucial aspects of the relationship and of those challenges. And I want to start by referencing and talking to Craig Singleton at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. And Craig has deep knowledge of the role of Chinese academic institutions, particularly Confucius institutes, which operate through campuses and on campuses of U.S. universities, and partnerships between Chinese academic institutions and U.S. schools that are increasingly posing a potential threat to the security of the United States in terms of theft of intellectual property and technology.
And Craig, I want to start today by talking about and referencing something that Senator Rubio said today. And that is that the sense that, and his idea that, essentially engagement with China in the sciences is something that the U.S. can no longer afford to do until China is free of this authoritarian, Chinese Communist Party regime. And I’m just interested in your views in terms of how you – To the extent that you agree with that. Because to a certain extent, that sounds like shutting a lot of doors that maybe some of them need to be maintained and kept open, but you know this deeply from your knowledge and research of Confucius institutes and Chinese-U.S. educational institution partnership. So I’d love to unpack that with you.
SINGLETON: Sure. No, thanks for having me. I think the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which is led by Senators Rubio and Warner has really just led the way in exposing China’s broader military civil fusion strategy. And I think that was really reflected in the senators comments. I think big picture, it’s really important to understand that China made no secret of its intention to harness its students, its professors to advance the country’s military modernization. Accordingly, Beijing is focused on obtaining everything from foundational knowledge taught on U.S. college campuses to cutting edge research, much of which is not technically classified, but still has potential military applications. American universities feature prominently in China’s military civil fusion strategy. For instance, to support its defense industrial base, the Chinese government among other things sponsors Chinese students specializing in 280 of what Beijing calls disciplines with national defense characteristics to attend joint degree and exchange programs here in the United States.
These students are then contractually obligated to return to China, to provide the technology and talent necessary to prevail in Beijing strategic competition with the United States. And dozens of China’s civilian universities also host defense laboratories on campus where Chinese students and professors directly contribute to classified research for China’s nuclear weapons program, it’s cyber espionage platforms, and the PLA itself. So, I think what’s less known is that America’s top research universities quietly maintain very lucrative partnerships with the same Chinese schools that are working to give the PLA an edge over the U.S. military. These academic partnership agreements, not only allow Chinese students working on Chinese military projects to live and study in the United States and to stay here for extended periods of time, but they also facilitate research collaboration between U.S. universities and these same Chinese schools in STEM related fields.
The kicker to all of this though, is that at present U.S. universities are not required to coordinate their activities with federal or local authorities, nor are they required to conduct any formal due diligence on these foreign partners. They’re not even required to publicly disclose that they maintain these partnerships. And they’re also under no legal or regulatory obligation to sever ties with Chinese universities that are supporting China’s military. All told, I think that it sort of raises some pretty uncomfortable questions about where we can establish some common sense guardrails as we sort of rethink risk in the broader research enterprise.
KINE: Right. Craig, I want to follow up on something in terms of the nature of this military civilian fusion that you have described in such great detail on your work. That exists in the United States. I think one of the interesting things I’ve learned from your research is that a fairly large number of U.S. schools have broken their ties with Confucius institutes due to the fact that the Department of Defense had issued an edict that said if you don’t do that, you don’t get any more defense money. So schools in the United States depend on money from the DOD for, I assume, for military research that develops military applications of various kinds. The other thing is I can remember years ago driving past the Livermore Laboratory in California, which was started by the University of California at Berkeley. And this is sort of the core of the U.S. sort of military nuclear weapons production and development program. So looking at this from Beijing’s perspective, they’d be saying, “Well, wait, don’t you do this too?” Could you help me on that?
SINGLETON: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the Chinese have definitely learned from how the United States has tapped into its civilian university structure to advance its broader interests, particularly as it relates to sort of innovation and its defense industrial base. The difference here I think is that the Chinese government has not been completely transparent about its defense buildup, specifically the Chinese Communist Party has not published the full list of those 280 official defense research areas. And it makes it very difficult then to determine what kinds of cooperation pose a national security risk. Nevertheless, some information about these disciplines has been revealed and it shows that they vary widely, from specialties like artificial intelligence and armament technology to fields that we might not typically associate with the defense industry like geology. And so as a result, I really do think that U.S. universities should strongly consider severing some of these partnership agreements, especially when their partners are involved in military civil fusion pursuits, mainly to avoid unwittingly aiding China’s military modernization.
KINE: Right. I have one last question really quickly, Craig. So Senator Rubio made the point that 80% of civilian research can have dual use – it can have military use. And so I’m going to channel what many academics have told me is that, look, if you slam the brakes on this because you’re worried about that overlap, then you’re going to really harm bilateral mutual interests in terms of research in the medical field, regarding cancer potential cures, vaccine development, new energy sources. What do you say to that?
SINGLETON: Look, I don’t think all academic collaboration with Chinese entities entails risks and certainly not all Chinese students are spies, but I do think we do have to sort of rethink how we manage that risk in that research enterprise. And just because we used to do things a certain way doesn’t necessarily mean that we should be continuing those same activities. I just think it’s particularly true in the case of Chinese partnerships that may compromise particularly democratic values or policies adopted by the U.S. government in response to threats posed by authoritarian regimes. And key to these efforts is increased transparency surrounding all of these different partnerships, includes enhanced financial disclosures on U.S. schools that in some cases we see millions of dollars from these problematic Chinese entities while also receiving millions of dollars from the U.S. government. But I do think that the government itself, our government has an important role to play in assisting U.S. universities in performing due diligence.
I think that means every year they should sort of publish an annual updated list of all the Chinese universities that are known to support China’s military civil fusion, simply to inform and advance the, sort of conversation about where we can determine risk and in what different sectors and where necessary. It might be necessary for the commerce department to consider adding some of these entities to what’s referred to as the entity list, because they are actually operating as military end users for the PLA. But I do think beyond efforts to proactively engage U.S. universities and talk to them about this threat, it might be necessary to reconsider U.S. government funding for some universities that refuse to take appropriate steps to terminate or curtail some of these pretty problematic Chinese liaisons.
KINE: Thank you very much, Craig. I’m going to shift gears and go to Anna. Anna, you’re really at the, sort of at the front lines, the coalface here at your position at the Center for Security and Emerging Technologies at Georgetown. And I just want to – Something you wrote really caught my eye. You wrote that Chinese leaders view universities as key players in military modernization, economic growth, and promoting China’s soft power. And I read that and – I had the benefit of just returning from a short trip Stanford. And I thought, to a certain extent, I was thinking of Stanford and Yale and Harvard and Brown to a certain extent playing similar roles, that these are sort of educational adjuncts to the concept of that shining city on the hill. And again, this is playing devil’s advocate a bit, but I guess if you could take that perspective that I’ve presented and just tell me how it’s different from the U.S. context and the Chinese context.
PUGLISI: Great, thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here. We get that question a lot, right? Because on the surface it really does look similar. And in some ways you can almost argue that that’s kind of purposeful. But since China’s – It’s no surprise, they’ve had a multi decade effort to build its S&T foundation, and it really does see building its universities as key to that. Now, it’s important to remember that universities are all but shut down during the culture revolution. And so this rebuilding has really taken place, especially over the last few decades, but really since the late nineties. And in its medium long-term plan for S&T development, it actually talks about the importance of those universities because they are open, and that to engage on certain S&T topics, that it’s essential to have that kind of open face for engagement.
It actually talks about exploiting some of those collaborations for not only military modernization, but also that economic development piece. And that’s really important, especially as we’re looking at some of these emerging and disruptive technologies, such as AI, biotech, new materials that those are those foundational pieces that will really drive those industries of the future. And so I think it’s important to remember that the difference is really the role of the state, right? And we did a recent study where we looked at the number of party secretaries and who really has power on those campuses. And it’s really important to kind of revisit that because really it’s the party that has the most power on those campuses. And we see, especially in the last five to 10 years increasingly cracking down on academic freedom. And it really raises the question of when you have these joint campuses or when you have this collaboration who is really calling the shots.
And then it’s also really important to remember that U.S. academics can say no. I think that’s the biggest difference. When we pretend that our systems are the same and that we don’t have the same level of human rights violations as we are seeing a increasingly crack down on civil society and human rights violations, that really kind of changes the game.
KINE: Right. So obviously we have this balance and it’s a difficult and very tenuous balance, particularly in this point of time and point of history that we’re in between engagement, cooperation academically, while the same time maintaining sort of security and protection. And I just think that there’s obviously, when looking at how to address this there’s the scalpel and there is the sledgehammer in terms of being able to provide the protection that the United States needs without cutting itself off from the sort of hybridization and cooperation and engagement that actually is sort of the fount of scientific development and initiative. So I want to put it to you. What do you see as the way to approach this in a way that we don’t throw the baby out with the bath water, but we do protect U.S. interests?
PUGLISI: Right. I do love that metaphor of scalpels not sledgehammers, because that’s really important and collaborations especially, that’s the essence of the scientific endeavor. But I think we have to enter into them and our institutions have to enter into them with their eyes wide open, and to really understand both the Chinese system and who are they partnering with. And it really comes down to, the scientific endeavor is based on trust, right? And when you hide your affiliations or your incentives or the drivers of the kinds of research that you’re doing, it really undermines the global norms of science. And I actually like to push back on the idea that everything is open, because it’s really important to highlight that yes, it is open, but you decide when and where you share your research, which collaborators you work with, what students you work with. And you share that when it’s ready. And so having opportunities to learn all about your research, what’s worked and what doesn’t is very, very different than actually sharing it when you’re ready.
And so I think it just really means that it’s important to take a step back and look at, really come back to that transparency and reciprocity, because it really helps you kind of understand, okay, what really is that risk matrix?
KINE: Right. Thank you so much. I appreciate that-All right. Thank you so much. I appreciate that. Bonnie, I want to transition to you. And Bonnie, you also obviously are at this coalface in terms of your position at the Director of the Center for Tech Diplomacy at Purdue. Also, you bring to this, the perspective of a long time state department, diplomat, someone who has been in the tech sector at IBM. So I think your perspective is particularly valuable here. And I’ve watched an interview that you did recently in which you described China as the greatest challenge of our time. So with that said, I guess I would like to know in terms of how are you folks at Purdue reassessing or balancing this risk opportunity of academic collaboration openness with China. How’s it working with you guys? And how should it work if it’s not working?
GLICK: Phelim, thanks so much. And thanks to this great panel that’s been assembled. I think we’re all learning from each other and taking away some of the great ideas that are out there about how to consider approaching this very serious problem that faces American Academia. Look, American research universities are the envy of the world. The breadth and the depth of research and innovation are unmatched, although often imitated. So too the United States generates more intellectual property than any other country in the world. And much of that IP is coming from American universities.
But as much as the open university system of the United States is designed to foster collaboration and enhanced learning as Senator Rubio pointed out, it can also be taken advantage of by malign actors like the people’s Republic of China to further its own goals. The Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Liberation Army are keen to have access to as much of our open innovation as possible. It helps them because it’s a shortcut to innovation without actually having to invest the time, the money and the resources in their own innovation efforts. Instead, they can steal it or manipulate American experts into sharing their knowledge on the cheap. It’s much more economical to pay an American expert to share his lab results than to build a lab and generate your own results. It makes sense, right?
But it also cuts to the core of what we’re here to discuss today, which is that this activity has to be guided by a principled approach to innovation and research. Those guiding principles, for example, should advance innovation and freedom. They shouldn’t be used to advance the PLA’s goal of military civil fusion or the CCP’s goal of made in China 2025. American lobbyists employed by some of our great universities are pushing back on the need for types of regulations and required reporting. They say that it stifles innovation and harms American professors’ ability to engage their international peers. The efforts of these lobbyists need to be viewed in the context of potential harm done to the United States.
And I think this is where Senator Rubio’s proposed legislation could have the greatest impact. We’ve all read reports about American professors being arrested. I’m not mentioning any specific universities here. Arrested for collaboration, whether knowingly or unknowingly with the CCP or the PLA. The lobbying efforts to remove reporting requirements on American universities mean that U.S. taxpayer dollars that are awarded to universities for research, including in sensitive technologies, could be used to aid and abet crimes that are being committed by the CCP and their efforts at economic and military dominance.
Look, American innovation and invention are often funded through government grants, as you rightly noted. From entities like the National Science Foundation or for some of the most cutting-edge research through DARPA or IARPA. The problem has become clearer and clearer over the last five years or so that the PRC and its organs, the CCP and the PLA have infiltrated this research. Sometimes it’s downstream infiltration, meaning that Chinese researchers collaborate with American academics on related research, you mentioned geology, but not on specific dual use technologies. But then sometimes it’s pretty blatant where the PRC funds American researchers to collaborate directly with Chinese counterparts on military civil fusion.
This has certainly been the case for decades. China is infamous for stealing American intellectual property or for reverse engineering American innovations. This is how companies like Huawei grew to become economic behemoths as quickly as they did. They stole IP and they reverse engineered wireless systems and built their own state funded wireless giant that competes and seeks to trounce companies that invested their own research dollars into their own innovations. This has been the case with Chinese industry for years, but in more recent years under Xi Jinping the theft has become more brazen and more strategic. Business as usual cannot be our modus operandi. Industrial and academic research funded by the US government cannot be shared with our most strategic adversary, especially as that adversary has explicitly stated that all research is dual use.
KINE: Thank you so much. Really interesting, Bonnie. I want to ask a bonus question here while I have you, and that is, one of the approaches, lawmaking approaches that has been applied to this problem was the China Initiative, which recently was shuttered and has transitioned to a broader transnational threat investigation system. I just wonder from your position at Purdue, do you think that’s a good idea? Was the China Initiative, was it precipitous and not a good idea to abandon it? Or how do you feel about that approach to dealing with this problem?
GLICK: So I’ll make a qualification here in caveat. I am not an employee of Purdue university, nor do I represent Purdue university. I’m part of the Purdue Research Foundation, which is a 501(c)(3) separate from the university. So my comments do not represent Purdue University or its position, they’re my own.
In terms of the China Initiative, I think that it’s really important that the issues that surrounded it come to light. And I am not a lawmaker. And I think that from a policy perspective, one of the things that we are seeing more and more is that China increasingly shamefacedly will work its fingers to the bone to extract as much information, innovation and technology, IP from the United States. We are aware that invention is created. And it is, as I said, a shortcut for the PRC and the CCP. So, should it be revivified? I leave that question to true experts. I think that what really needs to happen is there have to be guardrails. And Craig talked about this as well. We all need to have this understanding of what is going on, open our eyes to the reality of the day, which has changed since Xi Jinping came into office.
KINE: All right. Thank you. Thank you so much. And I apologize for mistaking your affiliation. You are not Purdue University. Thank you very much. I appreciate that. Thank you for clarification.
Mark, I’m going to switch to you. Thank you for your patience. And I’m really excited to talk to you because obviously you have this intersection of, you have a military background, you’ve spent time in the National Security aspect of past administrations. I mean, your perspectives on this in terms of both kind of the wood and nails in terms of what’s needed for protection, but also how things work on the Hill is really important here. And it’s clear that this administration, the previous administration, have not sat on their hands in terms of addressing this problem and trying to bring legislation to bear on it.
We have an alphabet soup of legislation draft or otherwise that implicitly or explicitly targets the China threat in terms of espionage, intellectual property theft, insinuation into and through academic institutions that could harm U.S. interests. You have USICA, we have the COMPETES Act. We have the CHIPS Act. We have a, yet unnamed, but pending bill that Senator Rubio just mentioned. And I know from briefings that I attend with the Chinese Embassy in DC, that they’re aware of this, that they always complain about the number of bills that are targeting them and the number of pages that they need to work through and translate. So I want to ask you what’s your assessment in terms of, have they got this right on Capitol Hill in terms of what we’re seeing so far? I’m thinking specifically about USICA, about CHIPS, about the COMPETES Act, what’s your assessment in terms of where it’s hitting the right marks and where it’s missing? Thank you.
MONTGOMERY: Thanks for the question, Phelim, and a real pleasure to be here. First, I want to express no empathy for the Chinese embassy. I’m fairly certain they helped create this problem, but you’re right there is a lot out there. The good news is it is being rapidly refined down. The Senate several nights ago took the COMPETES Act name and put a USICA bill in there, voted it through. So we can now conference the two bills. So we’ll conference the two China bills, the one in the House known as COMPETES. The one in the Senate known as the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act or USICA. And you’re right. They do have a lot in there. They have too much in there, and a lot’s going to be cut out because a lot of what was in the House bill, which was passed on a partisan basis needs to be conferenced with the Senate bill that was passed on a bipartisan basis with 68 senators.
So, first bet would be more stuff from the Senate bill is going to end up in here than in the House bill. And a lot of the House bill that’s fairly partisan’s going to be cut away. But having said that, there’s really good stuff that’s in both bills and in either one bill or the other, including on this very specific issue. You got to start out by not acknowledging that the shiny objects are CHIPS, which is 52 billion in appropriations for chips and 5G O-RAN emergency appropriation. So that money I think is in both bills. It’s probably pretty solidly in both bills, and we’re going to see that passed. And I think that’s helpful.
I don’t think that means, well, slap your hands together, we’ve fixed the chips problem in the United States. There’s a lot more to the challenge we have, and we have to think about not necessarily made in America, but made with American allies and partners when we approach chips and acknowledge the important role that Japan, South Korea, especially Taiwan, and even countries like the Netherlands play in maintaining a leadership position and maintaining a what I’d call Western advantage or transparent rules based order advantage in dealing with chips. So, that’s good. I think you’ll see that through.
Less certain is what’s going to happen with $100 billion in Endless Frontier’s Act, the other shiny object in here. Which was a really important bill because it put a lot of money into the R&D, particularly the basic R&D level from our universities. Not DARPA-led stuff, but broadly in universities. And I think that’s one of the things that made America highly successful in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, and clearly DARPA had a lot to do with that. And Defense Department R&D had the most to do with it. Even companies like Google, they’ve had some amnesia about who gave them that first $3.5 million, but these companies, this investment in our university R&D structure is critical as a hundred billion on – ironically the House language, the original House Endless Frontier language bipartisan from Mike Gallagher and Ro Khanna is mimicked in the Senate bill, and then in the House bill, when they did their partisan version, they jumped it up into a different thing.
So I don’t know how that’s going to work its way out, but I certainly hope the spirit of it, which is a significant investment in our R&D either led by the National Science Foundation or by a collection of agencies, I’ll bet on the leading it by one, just in general, I think the government does an average job when they have one boss in charge and a significantly below average job when they have more than one boss in charge. So hopefully they’ll figure that out. And there’s also some great cybersecurity stuff in there. Funding of really needed things in terms of our own national critical infrastructure. And some of it’s in the Senate bill, some it’s in the House bill, some of it’s in both.
But getting specifically to the question we’re dealing with today, both bills had a provision for dealing with Confucius Institutes. They’re very similar. And what it does is take the NDAA language and then say, “This applies to all federal funds.” Now it didn’t do it in the exact same way. So probably, you can have some criticism on this, but the principle that the university cannot receive federal funds unless the Department of Education and the National Academy of Sciences can certify that there’s an agreement between the Confucius Institute and the university that protects academic freedom prohibits the application of foreign law and any campus of the Institute. Surprising, we even have to say that out loud, but I guess we do. And then grant full manager authority of the Confucius Institute to the university.
And then kind of much more importantly, some transparency around this because a lot of universities have been loath to have transparency about their agreements with the Confucius Institute. So there’s going to have to be some transparency involved in this that involves a copy of the contract that’s broadly available in English, that would be helpful. Embarrassingly, we’d probably need that if we’re going to really assess it and that’s available. And it does have a special rule that acknowledges, if you already pass the NDAA test, then this rule isn’t going to apply to you. In other words, the more restrictive NDAA law about DOD funding. But that agreement will be the one that applies, it is now expanded to include other non-DOD federal funding.
And I think it’s important. I think by being in both bills, there’s some likelihood this will pass. I think it’s important. Do I think that we need to assess whether this truly solves the problem after a year or two years? I do. I think that’s why we have congressional oversight. We have senators like Senator Rubio and Warner on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to keep up good eye on the effective implementation on this and assessment. If it achieves the goal of first and foremost, promoting academic freedom. Second, promoting the security and safety of Chinese students studying in the United States, which I don’t think Confucius Institutes help. And then third, protect intellectual property of U.S. universities as they work with Chinese partners in the Confucius institutes. So some real opportunity here to get an improvement, but I’d caveat, and we always have to take a look to see if more improvements needed later.
KINE: Right. Mark, that’s really helpful. And I want to pick up on, if I may, you mentioned one of one of my favorite shining objects, which of course is the CHIPS issue. And the chips issue, as you mentioned, is related to the Taiwan issue. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation, TSMC produces an inordinate amount of the chips that this economy and other economies rely on. I’ve known from your bio that you are a retired Rear Admiral. I picture you on a bridge of a ship going through to Taiwan Strait. I wonder whether you could tell me to what extent is U.S. legislation draft or otherwise being adequately protective of Taiwan in the sense of that key cog in the world economy, the chips that Taiwan produces, if I can put you on the spot.
MONTGOMERY: Sure. Well, first of all, I think it’s critical that we recognize
KINE: On the spot.
MONTGOMERY: Sure. Well first of all, I think it’s critical that we recognize our long-term solution to having semiconductors built and designed, built, fabricated in transparent, open societies involves Taiwan. We should not be looking for a solution outside of Taiwan. I get very uncomfortable when some American commentators argue for that. Taiwan needs to be part of our long-term solution. And the reason I say that is that we shouldn’t plan for something that our own Taiwan Relations Act tells us not to plan for. We are required to help prepare the Taiwanese to fend off a Chinese attempt to coerce them into a solution and be prepared to assist them if necessary if China does that. So from my point of view, we have to include Taiwan.
Am I worried about what’s happening? I think we have to work with TSMC to make sure, seven of their foundries, seven or eight of their foundries are in Taiwan. They’re 200 nanometer ones, they’re the ones that go into your F-150 and your fridge, the things that weren’t available during the COVID crisis. The military stuff isn’t at the very high end. The very high end 357 nanometer, that’s for your children. It’s mostly for iPhones and gaming stuff. Somewhere in between is where a lot of our military stuff is, and some of that, most of that’s in Taiwan, in Japan, in Korea, in the United States, a little bit’s in China so we have to keep an eye on that and maybe make some decisions on that with TSMC.
I think we need to work more closely with TSMC. Their agreement to do some, build a foundry in Arizona is an important step, along with Intel’s decision to increase their building. And I think the CHIPS Act will push both research and development, there’s R&D money in there for fabless foundries, but also there’s going to be money in there for factories as well. So I think we’re getting at the issue. I don’t want to overreact and think of a solution without Taiwan. And long term, I think we’re going to be in a good position if we can pass this legislation here.
I would mention one other thing, which is that Senators Cotton and Representatives Gallagher and Senator Hawley and others have passed some good bills for the protection of Taiwan that we need to take a look at. They involve foreign military financing for some grant programs to Taiwan and a lot of investments and support for the Taiwan military that I think is critical, but that’s not going to get directly at this issue of Confucius Institutes and China military fusion.
KINE: Yeah. Thank you very much, Mark. Fascinating, appreciate it.
Craig, I want to go back to you and I want to go back to the issue that we raised a couple minutes ago beginning of my conversation with Mark about the legislation that is being rolled out on Capitol Hill to address these issues of the Chinese state threat to U.S. technology, to intellectual property, to essentially using, and perhaps even sort of hijacking the academic enterprise to benefit the Chinese military industrial complex.
And Reuters reported in November that the Chinese embassy had furiously lobbied against these China related bills in Congress and telling them implicitly, if not explicitly, that if certain business executives and business groupings in DC, that if they didn’t work to kill or dilute those bills that it would impact their bottom line in terms of market access and revenues in the China market, which is no small thing in this globalized marketplace. And I know that the Chinese foreign ministries’ view of these bills is that they reflect “Cold War thinking.”
I wonder whether you could unpack your sense of how, Beijing’s view of these bills and what it tells us about their intentions, their concerns, and whether, on this side of the pond, the legislators are getting it right or wrong in terms of approaches?
SINGLETON: Sure. I mean I think for decades we could all agree, China has pursued a brand of centrally planned economic policies that the US was more or less happy to tolerate, namely because those policies benefited US consumers and companies, but a subtle, yet I think pretty critical recalibration by Beijing, began about I’d say 15 years ago. And it has really just set off alarm bells in Washington and it’s all about China’s ultimate goals and tactics, not least because China is catching up in many industries by adopting certain aspects of what we would call U.S. industrial policy.
I think at its core, I would say China aspires to be the first “government steered” market economy. And what we’re seeing now is an attempt by Beijing to find the right mix between market and Marxist policies to support the country’s long-term development objectives. And so like during the Cold War, China still relies on so-called five year plans, but rather than focusing on farm or factory production, China now directs resources into basic scientific research with industrial applications. And Beijing, like Washington, is pouring billions of dollars into government investments in its own versions of what we would call, I think U.S. Government research powerhouses like NIH and DARPA and NASA, and they’re really making some pretty significant bets right now.
And that doesn’t include, I think, a big bet on semiconductor production inside of China, which like the Chips Act here in the United States is often couched domestically in China as supporting China’s broader self-sufficiency goals. But whether or not the industrial policies that have been followed in the last decade will contribute, I think, to China’s technological and maybe economic prowess is, at least in the semiconductor space, it’s not really clear yet whether that’s going to pay off. And I would say that China and the United States for that matter have previously spent a lot of money to improve semiconductor capacity. And we don’t really have a lot to show for it, and neither do the Chinese. But that said I think the Chinese are not taking any chances and we can fully expect that Beijing will continue to prioritize these types of initiatives, all the while accepting and maybe even embracing that a lot of them are probably not going to pan out.
KINE: Craig, super helpful. Can I just ask, what’s your sense, my introduction to this was how the Chinese government via its embassy in DC sees value in pressuring U.S. businesses to comply. Obviously, U.S. private industry benefits from and has overlap with academic research programs. Is private industry in the US on side with this? Are they doing enough? What’s your assessment in terms of whether they could do more? Are they knuckling down to Chinese pressure? How would you assess that and what would you advise them to do?
SINGLETON: I think it’s most U.S. companies find themselves in a very, very difficult position. Until rather recently, the U.S. Government across multiple administrations was actively pushing U.S. Government or U.S. entities and U.S. companies to build factories in China to strengthen bonds of support with the Chinese. And it feels, as an outsider, that maybe they’re experiencing a little bit of whiplash. Now granted, Chinese, or rather US companies have been talking for years about the threat, particularly in terms of forced IP transfer, that they face in terms of their factories in manufacturing capacity inside of China, whether it’s on the university side of the house or whether it’s a Tesla factory that’s operating in China, those concerns have existed for a long time and I think the challenge now for so many of these companies is they’re starting to recognize that they don’t even fully understand their exposure.
They don’t understand their exposure to Chinese human rights violations, if you’re operating perhaps in the garment industry, and you certainly don’t understand head to tail all the different aspects of your supply chains in China and whether the Chinese government is involved at what particular level and to what extent. And for the longest time, I think Chinese companies could probably operate without knowing all of that deep, all of that knowledge, having all of that data, but not anymore. Both consumers and I think folks on Capitol Hill and here in Washington are demanding information about those linkages and sort of trying to understand the extent to which a lot of these companies are perhaps wittingly or unwittingly advancing or underwriting some of China’s long-term objectives.
And I think the hard part for so many of these companies is they say, where do we go? Relocating a supply chain is not easy. The most complicated being in the semiconductor industry, but even if you are in something that is an industry with low wage labor, it’s incredibly complex. Where do you go? And I think we’re starting to see the broad contours of a U.S. policy that perhaps incentivizes the movement of certain supply chains outside of China. The Japanese have done this exceptionally well in the last few years but there is incredible risk because, to your point, the Chinese could come in and nationalize your factory and take everything, all your IP. And they have shown a willingness, particularly I’d say in the case of Australia, to be quite punitive. And so there is just credible risk, I think, for U.S. CEOs who are trying to navigate an incredibly complex geopolitical landscape.
KINE: Right. Thank you very much. Anna, I want to switch to you and I was reviewing, I believe it was testimony that you’d given on the Hill fairly recently, but I found that the conclusions you made were, I found you made a really sinister observation that I just want to share because I think it’s a really good way to get into this. I’m paraphrasing here, but you said that Beijing understands and exploits societal tensions in the United States to deflect criticism of its science and technology acquisition effort under a veneer of development and science. And Beijing controls the narrative so that impacted groups, which would include us, but anyone in the academic sphere, academic or private, don’t see the threat. And so, how can that be countered? Because essentially what you outlined was a government gas lighting effort that works across multiple spheres here in the United States and probably elsewhere. Can you unpack that a bit?
PUGLISI: Sure. I think it really comes down to highlighting how different our systems are, right? And I think my co-panelists have alluded to, for so long really wanted to focus like this was going to be win-win, right? Yeah. It was, look a win-win is China wins twice, but it was really sold that way because the assumptions that were that, China was going to change. Again, and beautifully unpacked that in the beginning, but there really was that hope, right? And the kinds of things that we’re seeing just hasn’t materialized.
I kind of alluded to the myth of the stateless global society, that it was all, everything was going to work out along those ways. And we’ve seen that this just hasn’t happened. But that’s challenging because people see what they want to see. And I think I actually talked a little bit about that, and people benefit in the short term, both academics that are receiving grants, companies with a more short-term view, and so it’s harder to counter that. But it’s important to also look at ourselves because we need to protect our technologies, but we also need to promote it. And so it’s important to not let China control that narrative, that they’re the leaders for development and science.
KINE: Right. A quick follow up. I think that the figure, and I think Craig would know this, but I think the figure I’ve heard is that there are about 300,000 Chinese students in the United States, and obviously those are potential cultural ambassadors that can work both ways, people who can experience a free and open society and perhaps be inspired by it and go home and want to have that there, or want to stay and contribute. I think of all the Sergey Brin from Google was son of Soviet Russian parents. So I guess, how do you, and again you’re at the coalface here at Georgetown, what’s the tension between keeping the doors open, while at the same time making sure that there’s adequate security and protections?
PUGLISI: I think it comes down to, we really have to, and I sound like a broken record, but really focus on how different the systems are, because that really underlies a lot of these issues. And the assumptions that we’ve made about having the same drivers, having the same incentives for those collaborations. Or even the same incentives for sending students abroad, because that, as we see, is not always the case. And that’s not say that we need to close the door, but it’s really to, in some ways I think, maybe re-envision and also recognize that we really do those students a disservice if we pretend that they’re not under the pressures that they are.
There’s been recent news reports and also information about the pressure that the Chinese government puts on students on college campuses, both having to check in, the pressure that they’ve put on families that are still in China. And so by ignoring that happening, we don’t allow them to take full advantage of the opportunities that are here. But again, I think it really circles back to really telling those stories and really highlighting the difference in our values, because that really is really what it comes down to. And the kinds of programs and policies that we see the Chinese government put in place, undermine those, whether it be market access, free and fair competition, or even undermining those global arm of science.
KINE: Thank you, Anna.
PUGLISI: Thank you.
KINE: Bonnie, I want to shift to you and I have a question about tech diplomacy and I’ve come to the right window frame, because you’re the Director of the Center for Tech Diplomacy at Purdue. And I want to set the table by just reading what I have read about tech diplomacy and this idea that the foremost premise of American technological diplomacy is that tech must advance freedom, but we’re learning how technological advancements actually enable human rights abuse. I found that tension incredibly interesting, compelling. And of course, we see that in terms of where facial recognition technology has all kinds of wonderful benign applications, but it’s also something that keeps Uyghur Muslims in China under the thumb of an authoritarian abusive government. So I want to ask you, from your perspective, this idea of tech diplomacy, what is it and how does it work or how should it work?
GLICK: Phelim, thanks, and thanks for giving me a chance to give a little bit of a commercial about tech diplomacy. Technology and diplomacy are two words that you don’t often hear said together, but I do believe that that’s changing and it’s what we’re fostering through tech diplomacy. Diplomatic engagement on critical cutting-edge technologies and their applications is more important now than ever as we see an explosion of technologies that, as you rightly referenced with AI, facial recognition, can be used for good, but that can also be manipulated for maligned purposes. It’s vitally important for American leaders to stay on the cutting edge of emerging technologies and to understand their implications for national security and international relations.
They can be equipped to advocate for America’s role in the world as the leading innovator and developer of technologies that improve life for everyone, no matter where they live. American leaders should also work closely with leaders from allied and like-minded countries to partner in the universal cause of freedom through technology. One of the things I’ve really enjoyed hearing from my colleagues here today is that when we’re talking about American technology and Chinese technology, we’re talking about technology, and Chinese technology. We’re talking about fundamentally different approaches to scholarly R&D. Scientific method-driven, looking for solutions to hard problems, versus state-driven research. However, it’s gathered often by less than legal or extra-legal methods. Mark mentioned chips specifically, and it’s important to recognize the number of countries that are part of the technology ecosystem of semiconductors. There’s the chip manufacturing itself, and the main players there are in Asia and the United States. I agree fully with Mark, when he said there’s no solution without including Taiwan in all of these conversations and all of these initiatives. But we have other partners, like Korea, Japan, the Netherlands, through some of the most advanced manufacturing equipment, Israel, through fabless chip development of next generation chip technologies. You see companies like the Israeli giant Tower Semiconductors getting acquired by Intel.
That’s a good thing. We’re distributing the needs across the supply chain. But the other thing that we saw, was that there was a full-on semiconductor crisis during COVID, not just here in the United States, but all over the world. And a lot of countries that felt particularly vulnerable, are now looking at ways that they can enter the supply chain at various entry points. That’s awesome. And we should enable those efforts to onshore, nearshore, or allied-shore critical technologies. Craig said that relocating the supply chain is not easy. Bingo, that’s like the understatement of the day. It’s exactly right, but we can take some concerted efforts to encourage diversification across this supply chain.
Technology has traditionally not been the forefront of diplomatic discourse. It was sort of a reserved conversation for the back rooms, those really cold server rooms. Or about emails, my email’s not coming through, or wireless connectivity. But it’s really important for American diplomats and policy makers to consider technology as our calling card. American innovations have changed the face of the world for the better. Think about things like the internet itself or the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, that has saved literally millions and millions of lives of people in the developing world through the provision of antiretroviral therapeutics, that allow them to live with HIV.
Think about artificial intelligence and quantum computing, that are built on the promise of rapid computational models that can solve the world’s hardest problem. These are all incredible inventions, each one individually. And so many more of them, could in itself, be called a tech revolution. Our diplomats need to be equipped to anticipate technological trends and to make sure that American values, like human rights, transparency, and fair play, continue to underlie our approach. So that’s what I would say the era of tech diplomacy is all about.
KINE: Okay, thank you. That’s a really excellent grounding in that, and I appreciate that. Thank you very much, Bonnie. Mark, I’m going to go to you, you’ve been very patient. You’re at the end here, but you’re going to be first up for final comments. So, I’ve got my eye on you. So, again your background in the military and National Security Complex is really useful here, in terms of one aspect of dealing with these issues, these problems, is the idea of cyber defense and cyber offense.
And my very general layman’s understanding of the United States’ capability, in terms of cyber offense, suggest it’s pretty good. I seem to recall that the U.S. had a role in something called Stuxnet, that caused parts of the Iranian nuclear complex to blow up, or to not function the way it should. But, I guess obviously, you need an offense, you need a defense. How is the U.S. doing, relative to obviously the massive amounts of resources, human and financial, technological that the Chinese government is pouring into these fields?
MONTGOMERY: That’s a great point. First, I’ll start off by saying, I’m not in a position to validate who did Stuxnet, but I would say that it’s a very mixed bag, in terms of our cyber defense capabilities. And here’s why, we are easily the most integrated network society, and economy, and infrastructure in the world. That’s given us great benefit. It’s been the cause of a lot of GDP growth, and we should be happy for that. That’s also introduced a ton of risk. And a second complicating factor is there’s more and more, a greater and greater availability of tools that can be used by malicious actors. And a growing group of people willing to use them, and that’s increased exponentially as well. And with those two kind of exponential risk drivers, our cyber defense has really struggled to keep up.
I kind of look at it this way, when you think about cyber defense and offense. You have a three-legged stool, the first is are companies investing enough to defend themselves? And the answer to that question is historically no, outside of a few specific industries like large banks and exchanges, who’ve been subjected to significant, malicious cyber activity from criminals for 25 years. But if you think about your pipelines, your water systems, some of your transport systems, they just didn’t factor security into their increasing automation 15 or 20 years ago. They didn’t understand that data would become a monetizable feature that could get them in trouble. And they didn’t recognize the threat from Russia, China, Iran, or North Korea. So, we have not spent enough on defense outside of a few areas. I think parts of our energy infrastructure are in good shape, particularly the companies that have nuclear power plants associated with them. Parts of our financial services are in good shape, parts of our telecommunications are in okay shape. It’s very sporadic in there, but large amounts of our critical infrastructure are our in poor condition. We need to invest more in cybersecurity.
The second leg of the stool is the government has to do more to support those companies. Historically, when we thought about conflict with a country like China or Russia, you think submarines, or fighter aircraft, or tanks. Everything was owned and operated by the government. Well, here we have a problem now with this critical infrastructure that’s vulnerable to cyber-attack, owned and operated 85% by the private sector, or even more—be still your heart—state, local governments, who just don’t have the money to make these investments, so we now have to do a much better job of the government collaborating with the owners and operators of the system we’re defending. That public-private collaboration, which we’ve been talking about for 23 years, but on a fairly bipartisan basis have not invested in properly, really needs that kind of event. You’re seeing this now with Jen Easterly at CISA, which is the Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency, trying to personally pull through with some legislative changes we did. But still, I would call that leg wobbly.
The one leg of the stool that’s solid, is our ability to impose cost on adversaries. Do I think the Cyber Mission Force with 135 teams, or 137 teams, growing to 140s and maybe eventually into the 200s, do I think we have a good capability? Yes. But I think it deters Russia or China from overtly just taking out our electrical power grid in peace time, yes. But, we know that deterrence is not achieved purely through military tools, particularly in a non-nuclear state. With nuclear weapons, one nuclear weapon is unacceptable, and cyber, there are lots of attacks going on. So it’s a different type of deterrence. So you need all three legs of that stool to be strong. We need to improve our cybersecurity investments, improve our public-private collaboration, and then maintain that offensive cyber capability that we’ve built up over the years.
KINE: Right. Mark, super helpful. I’m going to put you on the spot. I just wonder whether you could give me a very succinct, concise rundown on the Cyberspace Solarium Commission Project 2.0, which I understand is grappling with this. Could you give us a sense of that?
MONTGOMERY: Sure. So the Cyberspace Solarium Commission worked for about two years. It was a really successful commission, it got about 60% of its recommendation, 65%, into law or executive orders. And that’s good. And the way we were able to do that, was we had four serving congressmen. And that goes a long way to getting a law passed, right? A lot of commissions do great reports, and they sit on a shelf. This one did an okay report, and we got a lot of it done, about 65%. But that left 35%. Now, I’ll tell you 5 or 10% are break-glass legislation that’s just not going to happen until you have a really severe event. But there’s another 20% or so of our legislation, that still needs to get done, so we’ve set up a 501(c)(3) under the leadership of the same commissioners, the same congressmen to tackle those issues.
And then, to look at some unique problems, one with the workforce. Our federal cyber workforce, which is two-thirds manned, and another with water, which really is the dumpster fire of infrastructure. Our water sector critical infrastructure is absolutely the weak link. And if you don’t have water, after a while you won’t have power, because power plants need cooling water. If you don’t have power, after a while you won’t have anything. So you got to go back to that weakest link and get it strong. And so we’ll work on those, and a few other issues.
KINE: Great. Thank you so much, Mark. Folks, we are almost at time here. This has been a fascinating discussion, and I want to transition to final thoughts. And I want to open up the floor, and I got to give Mark first dibs, because he has been so patient waiting. I just want to maybe plant a thought, and that is that this is not the United States’ first rodeo in dealing with an expansive, authoritarian power.
This country had a half century of that with the Soviet Union. And obviously technology was different, but I’d just be interested, perhaps, if any of you have any thoughts in terms of what are the lessons that are applicable from that period to this one. And which lessons are not applicable, how is that not helpful? So, anyway, I want to give everybody just a closing minute to give me whatever you got. The things that we didn’t talk about, things you want to hammer home. The floor is yours. Mark, I want to start with you. You have a minute.
MONTGOMERY: Yep, thanks. So two thoughts. The first is that this is not a problem that we can rapidly turn to and say, “Okay, all our effort is on the pivot to the Pacific.” That was the Obama administration. The National Defense Strategy from President Trump that prioritized China, now a new National Defense Strategy that we’re told they’re just coming out in these weeks is going to continue to prioritize China. The truth is, our resources have to be committed to dealing with our most challenging threat, which is China. And you have to do that over a decade. So Admiral Davidson, about six months ago, he was the INDOPACOM Commander a year ago, on his way out, said, “Oh, by the way, by 2027, China’s going to be able to do something significant to coerce Taiwan.”
What he didn’t say, he should have said, afterwards is qualified it with, “Unless the United States or Taiwan take actions to make that harder.” And that’s what we have to do. We, and our allies, and partners in Asia, and it’s particularly Taiwan, need to make deliberate, consistent investments in our R&D, and our procurement, and both our military and our non-military elements of national power to keep pace with the Chinese. And make Taiwan truly indigestible, not just on its own, but when you know the United States is going to show up a week to two weeks later with significant capability.
And the one big difference with the Soviet Union, my last point, would be that this really is all elements of power here. With the Soviet Union, our percentage of GDP that was trade with the Soviet Union was always less than 1%. You can’t say that about China. They truly are a leading import and export partner for the United States. That’s complicating, that doesn’t remove the problem, and the Chinese have exploited the living bejesus out that relationship. And we absolutely have to work in an integrated environment to get at it. I’d really love to see, something both parties have rejected, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, in its new state led by Japan. But unfortunately, President Trump, candidate Clinton, and President Biden have all failed to take the necessary steps to establish ourself as the economic leader in Asia. So that’s the big difference, I think with the Soviet times.
KINE: Thank you, mark. Bonnie, final thoughts?
GLICK: Sure. And Mark, that was a great wrap up. Phelim, you noted that I mentioned in another speech, that China is our greatest strategic adversary. It is true. We need to think about our outreach to the world, in that frame of reference. And today, we see other bad guys. You mentioned Iran, and its malign efforts toward nuclear capability. We’re watching Russia today, wage a disinformation and misinformation war on Ukraine, and the deployment they claim of hypersonic weapons.
But the biggest, baddest actor in every tech arena, across every single aspect of our lives, as Mark said, completely coupled with the United States, is the People’s Republic of China. So bringing this back to Senator Rubio’s proposed legislation, it’s encouraging to see that there is bipartisan agreement broadly on our approach to China. This is how we won the Cold War. We didn’t take our foot off the gas. Everyone viewed the threat emanating out of the Soviet Union. We need all hands on deck, I would say, for this great challenge of our time.
KINE: Thank you so much, Bonnie. Anna?
PUGLISI: I’m going to actually foot stomp that, I think Bonnie makes the great point that we really do need a strategy. And it really needs to be working together, and it’s going to be hard because in a lot of ways, when we look at those different systems, we really have to identify and challenge some of those deeply held beliefs. And that’s going to make us uncomfortable, but we have to recognize China’s not playing the same game.
Its policies are the expression of a deliberate state-sponsored strategy to save time, money, leap frog to the international forefront by leveraging the advances of other nations. And it undermines the global norms of collaboration. And we shouldn’t be okay with that, we need to work with our allies and partners and double down on those values.
KINE: Thank you so much, Anna. Craig, do you want to take us home?
SINGLETON: Yeah, I agree with everything everyone said, I don’t want to be that nay-sayer. But I would argue that I’m not sure D.C. does long-term, strategic thinking well. But I do think we have a real opportunity to establish a very solid foundation to sustain our advantage. To lay the groundwork for what is increasingly shaping up to be long-term strategic competition with China. And our approach must be iterative. The key, I think really, is staying true to our values and our principles. And we can embrace some of the important lessons from the Cold War with the Soviet Union. We can apply them to our new, emerging, geopolitical environment.
But we also have to open ourselves up to thinking about really novel, creative solutions to threats that are truly new. And I do think that there’s this amazing ecosystem that is entirely nonpartisan out there of folks that are thinking about amazing ideas to take on these challenges. And I do think that going forward, there’s a lot of opportunity space here, but there will be no one-and-done. This will be a long-term, iterative process, and we’re going to have to be constantly vigilant, because the Chinese Communist Party is quite adaptable, and it’s quite flexible. And there is this other player in the game, and so we have to be constantly thinking about how our moves and counter moves will affect China, but also how they’re going to affect us.
KINE: This has been a real treat, I want to thank you all. One of the best things about being a journalist is you get to sit at the feet of people like you and learn. All four of you. So, Mark, Bonnie, Craig, and Anna, it’s been a real pleasure. Thank you for participating today and your insight on these issues. Many thanks to our audience. And thank you again to Jonathan for that great intro, to Senator Rubio, for helping to tee this up. And the person who makes this all happen, Erin Blumenthal in the control seat at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Thank you all, bye.