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Op-Ed: American universities give Chinese people a lesson in politics of fear

By Curtis Stone (People's Daily Online)    16:37, January 16, 2018

The University of Texas at Austin (www.utexas.edu)

The University of Texas at Austin recently rejected a donation to the China Public Center from the Hong Kong-based China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF) on the grounds that it is linked to the United Front Work Department and could place limits on academic freedom and the robust exchange of ideas. U.S. media emphasized that the foundation’s leader, Tung Chee-hwa, is vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, which is listed as “a united front organization.”

“The university will not accept programmatic funding from CUSEF. Neither will we accept any funds for travel, student exchanges or other initiatives from the organization,” Gregory Fenves, President of the University of Texas at Austin, wrote in a letter to U.S. Senator Ted Cruz.

The Global Times recently contacted CUSEF but did not get a response. According to its website, CUSEF was established in Hong Kong in 2008 as a privately funded, non-governmental, non-profit entity. The website also lists the names of several sponsors.

Li Haidong, a professor at China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times that one of the most important principles emphasized by China is that it will not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. The United States has a habit of interpreting the behavior of other major nations in the way of its own thinking, which can lead to distorted conclusions.

Li said that there are many cultural exchanges between China and the United States and sources of funding vary, but the purpose is to promote a healthy China-U.S. relationship. CUSEF is not supported by the Chinese government but by private donors, Li added. Unfortunately, U.S. media and politicians interpret China’s goodwill in a distorted and even sinister way.

Those who have heard this news may be surprised to learn that an effort to promote understanding between China and the United States is being viewed as “political influence.” What comes to mind is how many American foundations and non-governmental organizations are carrying out political activities in China. If China was to respond in the same manner, every single one of them would probably have to take a hike.

At the end of last year, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China held a hearing titled “The Long Arm of China: Exporting Authoritarianism With Chinese Characteristics,” which was described by some media outlets as a counterattack on China’s “ideological invasion.” Imaginations are running so wild in the West that it is now a trend to link artificial intelligence to China’s so-called “infiltration” efforts.

Fort Leonard Wood, an Army base in the U.S. state of Missouri, just removed surveillance cameras made by Hikvision. Colonel Christopher Beck, the chief of staff at the base, said he never believed the cameras were a security risk, but removed them to “remove any negative perception” surrounding them. Just this month, the U.S. government blocked U.S. business deals involving Alibaba and Huawei on the grounds of national security.

Ironically, a lot of Chinese now think that Americans are the narrow-minded ones. In their view, the United States has put “politics in command” and is constantly on the lookout for foreign influence. If China was to follow the U.S. standard in guarding against China, then it would be virtually impossible for China to reform and open up.

All countries must safeguard their national security. But the recent wave of warnings about China in the United States and other countries, such as Australia, has been borderline hysterical.

First it was Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, then Chinese “infiltration” of American universities. But it is the United States that is by far the world’s largest exporter of intellectual and artistic products and the largest exporter of technology, which means that it is the United States that has the greatest ability to infiltrate other countries.

To put it simply, the voices that are wary of China’s “infiltration” are a little scared of China. But neither side should let fear of the other influence the bilateral relationship.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Wu Chengliang, Bianji)

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