Rubio Moves to Confront China, Senate Votes “Nay”

David Acevedo

CounterCurrent: Week of 5/30

On April 20, 2021, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced the “Endless Frontier Act,” a bipartisan bill cosponsored by six Democrats and seven Republicans designed to strengthen “U.S. leadership in critical technologies through basic research in key technology focus areas, such as artificial intelligence, high performance computing, and advanced manufacturing, and the commercialization of those technologies to businesses in the United States.” On a macro-level, the bill was written to increase America’s science and technology (S&T) competitiveness on a global scale, particularly with China in mind.

The National Association of Scholars supports increased funding for American S&T, as it has been lagging behind other nations for some time. But this funding must be distributed with appropriate protections in place. For years, governments such as the Chinese Communist Party have been secretly funding researchers in America, stealing their work, and duplicating it within their own labs. China is most well-known for this, especially through its Thousand Talents Plan, but it is far from alone. Other nations, including Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, have poured untold billions of dollars into American higher education to advance their own interests.

Clearly, this is a problem we must take far more seriously. The Endless Frontier Act does not do so to any great extent.

To address these concerns, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) filed 22 amendments to the Endless Frontier Act (which has now been expanded and rebranded as the United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021). These include the following amendments of particular interest to the NAS:

  • Amendment 1802 - Protecting American research from China: “An amendment to establish a counterintelligence screening process to protect the United States against the CCP’s and other adversaries’ efforts to engage in economic espionage and misappropriate America’s intellectual property, research and development, and innovation efforts.”
  • Amendment 1938 - Increasing transparency of NIH grantees: “An amendment to require that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) report to Congress annually on the status of its investigation into NIH grantees with ties to foreign governments.”
  • Amendment 1939 - Reviewing and modernizing NIH’s approach to national security: “An amendment to require a top down review of ways to update the NIH’s approach to national security in light of existing threats.”

In his press release announcing the amendments, Rubio correctly warns that “The CCP will stop at nothing to achieve its objective of reshaping the international rules-based system to its benefit. Confronting the CCP’s threats and challenges will take a whole of nation approach, and part of that means strengthening our resiliency at home, ensuring the CCP cannot exploit America’s open society, and to hold the CCP accountable for its malign activities around the world.”

NAS commends Senator Rubio for his fine work in addressing these longstanding issues facing American research. We especially appreciate his focus on the National Institutes of Health, which, according to our own research, is the grantmaking agency most frequently robbed by the CCP’s research theft operations. These amendments join Rubio’s stellar record in combating the CCP, including his cosponsorship of the Foreign Influence Transparency Act and his work supporting the closure of Florida’s Confucius Institutes.

Unfortunately, Amendment 1802 has already been tabled with a 55-40 vote. Every Democrat in the Senate (save for one, who did not vote) voted to table the amendment, along with six Republicans and both Independents. All who voted against tabling are Republicans. We wish that protecting American research and improving its transparency were not seen as partisan issues—indeed, they are not, and all who support the true advancement of American science and technology ought to get behind these common-sense protections.

CounterCurrent is the National Association of Scholars’ weekly newsletter, written by Communications & Research Associate David Acevedo. To subscribe, update your email preferences here.

Image: Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia CommonsCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license, cropped.

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