by James C. Sherlock
Chinese fighter and U.S. jet over South China Sea. Courtesy CNN and YouTube.
William and Mary’s superb AidData program makes major contributions to America’s understanding of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC). The school is justly proud of it.
AidData published in December of 2021 a study Corridors of Power – How Beijing uses economic, social and network ties to exert influence along the Silk Road.
Chapter 3 is “Social ties: How does Beijing leverage education, culture, and
exchange to amplify its foreign influence strategy?”
I recommend it to the President and the Board of the College.
I promised in this Part to look at:
- the William and Mary/Chinese Foreign Ministry Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA);
- Chinese student recruiting and admissions;
- the courses they take, and their internships and the applicability of their skills to the People’s Revolutionary Army and Navy;
- what happens when those “students and scholars” return home; and
- the money.
We’ll do that, and we’ll look at the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) to see if it possibly applies.
FARA. Let’s take FARA first.
We note that the position of Associate Provost for International Affairs,
may also include outreach to federal agencies such as the national endowments for the humanities and the arts and the U.S. Department of Education.
Dr. Hanson was a prominent spokesperson for WMCI, served as Interim Director and provided university oversight to that institution.
The terms of the contract that President Reveley signed for William and Mary and his multiple positions as both interim WMCI Director and Vice Provost may have required Dr. Hanson to register under FARA. I hope the Office of Legal Counsel at least studied the issue and informed him of his potential obligations under FARA.
That is one of several reasons the College should have rejected the language of the Confucius Institute contract.
CSSA. As for the campus CSSA, we note that among the published goals of the CSSA at W&M is “to link with the United States Chinese Embassy and Consulates in relevant affairs.”
It is worth asking what are considered “relevant affairs” for which the CSSA contacts the embassy?
Virginians have to ask whether William and Mary has a contract with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the embassy concerning that government’s CSSA? And if so, what are the terms?
We would also like to know whether the CSSA is unique among William and Mary’s more than 475 Clubs and Organizations as an on-campus agency of a foreign government.
Chinese students and faculty. We note that the Associate Provost for International Affairs is in charge of foreign student admissions. He also served as Interim Director of WMCI. So, Dr. Hanson had the whole Chinese relationship in his hands.
From the time the WMCI started operations in 2012, the number of Chinese students jumped from 212 in the fall of 2011 to 307 in the fall of 2012 to 345 in the fall of 2013 to 408 in the fall of 2014 to 415 in the fall of 2015 to 442 in the fall of 2016. It peaked at 454 in 2019-20.
The number of Chinese nationals who served as “scholars, faculty and staff” in 2018-19 was 88.
Scholars are foreign professors, researchers, short-term scholars, and specialists who are invited to the U.S. on a temporary basis by academic department or units at W&M and VIMS (Virginia Institute of Marine Science).
That number increased to 104 by 2019-20, fully 61% of William and Mary’s foreign scholars, faculty and staff in that year.
The numbers declined with the arrival of COVID and the closure of WMCI in 2020-21 to 351 students and 38 scholars, faculty and staff. They have not recovered.
In 2023 the number of Chinese students is down to 273. This year there are 12 Chinese scholars, faculty and staff.
That tracked with a general decline in Chinese students coming to America for school. Part of that is the perception of violence and crime here. Part is China’s zero-COVID policy. Part is generally deteriorating relations between China and the U.S. Maybe some fear Donald Trump returning as president, though it was Joe Biden who promised to defend Taiwan.
The declines are I am sure disappointing, if for no other reason than they represent a huge financial hit. The 181 “missing” Chinese students in 2023 compared to 2019-20 represents a shortfall of over $13 million in tuition, room, board and fees.
The influence of the shutting down of WMCI on the number of Chinese nationals at William and Mary is clouded by the simultaneous arrival of COVID.
The full historical records of international students and scholars, faculty and staff can be found here.
Chinese student admissions
How Chinese students actually get recruited and admitted to William and Mary is something of a black box to the public.
From the school:
International students also have the option whether or not to submit SAT/ACT scores. However, they are strongly encouraged to submit an ACT or SAT if other external test results (and/or predicted results) for exams such as IB/AP/A levels aren’t available. Additionally, if English is not your native language, and if your schooling during the past five years or more has been in a language other than English, the university urges you to take either the TOEFL or IELTS exams to demonstrate English language proficiency.
That does not tell us how Chinese students are rated against U.S. applicants who do not need to submit standardized test scores. American applicants don’t even have social credit scores to offer. [kidding]
Given China’s position as America’s number one foreign adversary, Chinese students and faculty should be welcomed at U.S. universities with caution.
One Chinese national William and Mary student proudly represents herself on the web as studying quantum computing and oceanography. She says she wants to save the oceans and has studied at W&M’s School of Marine Science / VIMS.
I hope her dreams come true.
But, as a retired naval officer, I cannot fail to note that the U.S. Navy uses oceanographers with quantum computing skills in support of its submarine forces.
Read about the Chinese military-civil fusion (MCF) program here. You will note that:
Key technologies that are targeted under MCF include quantum computing, big data, semi-conductors, 5G, advanced nuclear technology, aerospace technology and artificial intelligence.
China especially wants to exploit the inherent ‘dual-use’ nature of many of these technologies, which have both military and civilian applications.
It would be useful to know how many of the Chinese nationals at William and Mary, at Virginia Tech, and other state institutions of higher learning are studying in those fields.
What happens to Chinese students when they return home? Awaiting them in China are the Western Returned Scholars Association (WRSA) and the Chinese Overseas-Educated Scholars Association (COESA). That is not necessarily an honor.
President Xi recently
stressed the importance of these groups in supporting the country’s development and contributing to the socialist path with Chinese characteristics.
Xi sees western-educated, and therefore western-exposed, Chinese as a double-edged sword that he must ensure supports his goals. He uses the WRSA to keep a watchful eye on them.
Bottom line. William and Mary has been an asset to the Commonwealth and the nation since 1693, though the issuers of the royal charter for that school may have reconsidered if it had known how many revolutionaries it would train.
I hold no animus towards that school.
But what it has done over the past decade-plus in its relationship with China is not in the national interest and I felt it necessary to expose it.
As I did with Virginia Tech on the subject of Chinese Students and Scholars Associations, I have used William and Mary as a deep-dive example of the complex and troubling relationships some of Virginia’s state colleges and universities have with China.
William and Mary and Virginia Tech are not by any means the only ones.
I know that both the globalists and the treasurers in American colleges and universities want as many Chinese students as possible, but they are going to have to be much more careful than they have been in past years.
China poses our greatest foreign national security threat, and our public institutions need to act like it.
Correction Nov 15 at o930. W&M President Reveley signed the Confucius Institute contract. This article previously said Dr. Hanson signed it. Dr. Hanson as Vice Provost and Director of the Reves Center provided oversight to the WMCI and served at its Interim Director.
In Part 4 of this series I will address what I see as the Commonwealth’s strategic interests, and therefore actions, in the relationships of its state colleges and universities with the Peoples Republic of China.