US Requires Chinese Officials to Report American Contacts

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration said Wednesday that it will soon require Chinese officials in the United States to notify the State Department before any contacts they plan to have with American educators, researchers, and local and state governments.

The FBI’s outreach to American colleges and universities about the threat of economic espionage includes this pamphlet, photographed above on Oct. 4, 2019, that warns specifically about efforts by China to steal academic research. (AP Photo)

The release of the new rules was accompanied by notices to American educational and research institutions and local governments informing them of the reporting requirement. The change is effective Wednesday.

State Department officials say the change is made to reciprocate for similar rules faced by U.S. diplomats in China. But they said the rules are less onerous than China’s because the Chinese must approve such contacts. In contrast, the American government will not be requiring any Chinese official to receive permission from the State Department for any of the meetings.

The rules cover all meetings Chinese diplomats have with representatives of state, local and municipal governments and all visits to public and private educational and research institutions, including national laboratories in the United States and its territories.

The Chinese were told of the new rule this week, according to a senior administration official who discussed the requirement with reporters on the condition of anonymity. The State Department has already gotten one notification and the official said the department expects, but does not know, that it will receive about 50 notifications per week.

The official said the United States hopes the new rules gain result in better access for both U.S. and Chinese diplomats.

The rule change comes amid a deteriorating relationship between the United States and China and as a trade war launched by President Trump contributes to stock market turbulence and fears of a global economic slowdown.

The FBI has been warning colleges and universities across the country that they are vulnerable to intellectual property theft by researchers recruited by China, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press through dozens of public records requests. Agents have lectured at seminars, briefed administrators in campus meetings and distributed pamphlets with cautionary tales of trade secret theft, the emails show.

U.S. officials believe that universities, as recruiters of foreign talent and developers of cutting-edge research, are ripe target for intellectual property theft by Beijing.

The Justice Department has for years accused China of stealing corporate secrets to develop its economy, indicting Chinese military officials accused of hacking into major American companies and pilfering proprietary information. But officials who increasingly see academia as a vulnerable espionage target say they’re working with universities to help them protect their research. They say they are not encouraging schools to monitor scientists by nationality.

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