Joe Guzzardi: White House shrugs at Chinese espionage

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(AP Photo/Andy Wong, File)

A federal jury in Chicago recently found Chinese national Ji Chaoqun, 31, a member of the U.S. Army reserves, guilty of conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government. The jury also found Chaoqun guilty of one count of making false statements to the U.S. Army during his application process. Ji enlisted in 2016 via the controversial Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program (MAVNI) – an initiative allowing U.S. military offices to hire legal aliens deemed sufficiently useful for service. In light of Ji’s conviction, the MAVNI program should be re-evaluated.

In a statement, the Department of Justice said that Chaoqun worked for intelligence agents that operated within the Chinese government. In that capacity, he attempted to recruit engineers and scientists on behalf of the Chinese Intelligence Ministry.

Ji arrived in the U.S. on an F-1 student visa to study electrical engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology, which had forged ties with Chinese universities and colleges. During the academic year 2020/2021, 317,299 Chinese students were enrolled in U.S. academic institutions. China is the major sender of international students to U.S. college campuses. Among all international graduates, more than a million have remained in the U.S. and work as part of the Optional Practical Training Program. They have displaced American information technology employees or aspiring college degree holders looking for jobs.

Chaoqun’s conviction is the latest in a growing list of Chinese nationals who have infiltrated, with little difficulty, the federal government, academia, and U.S. corporations. Because of the victims’ high profiles, the two most well-known Chinese spy cases are Fang Fang, California U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell’s mistress, and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s chauffer and aide for two decades. At the time, Feinstein was the Senate Intelligence Committee chair. When the FBI investigations heated up, the two Chinese operatives fled the country and returned home. No further information about them has been gleaned. The conclusion is, however, that if two low-level Chinese spies can access the U.S. Congress, then infiltration must be a snap.

If China represents the biggest threat to the U.S., as FBI Director Christopher Wray and others insist, then tighter oversight on arriving Chinese nationals is paramount. Wray said that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has implemented a multi-layered, generational campaign with the goal to become the world’s economic and technological leader. Wray listed economic espionage, data hacking, intellectual property theft, bribery, blackmail, and other coercive attempts “to sway our government’s policies, distort our country’s public discourse, and undermine confidence in our democratic processes and values.” The FBI director could have pointed to Swalwell and Feinstein as examples to drive his point home. In June 2015, Chinese hackers stole the personal data of 145 million Americans when they accessed the Office of Personnel Management’s servers.

With a warning from Wray, a top-ranking law enforcement officer, and documented case history to support his concerns, the federal government should, at a minimum, be on high alert to China’s efforts to undermine the government. Instead, the Biden administration proceeds blasély on its existing course and may accelerate Chinese nationals’ admissions and their path to citizenship.

In February, the President’s Advisory Commission of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI) held its first-ever meeting. Joe Biden established the commission through a 2021 executive order and appointed Health and Human Services Secretary and U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai to co-chair. The 25 individual commissioners have extensive involvement in diversity and equity issues. Six subcommittees were formed to advance equity, justice, and opportunity, including a subcommittee to address immigration and citizenship. Whenever the Biden administration talks about immigration in the same breath with equity, justice, and opportunity, the takeaway is more immigration which in turn means more employment permits granted to immigrants and fewer jobs for Americans.

AANHPI is toiling in obscurity and will be disbanded when a new Congress takes over in January 2023. But the commission reflects Biden’s mindset; equity for all except working Americans, and specifically border city residents whose communities migrants have overrun, and whose lifestyles have been altered, possibly forever, by the president’s unshakeable commitment to open borders.

Joe Guzzardi is a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist who writes about immigration and related social issues. Joe joined Progressives for Immigration Reform in 2018 as an analyst after a ten-year career directing media relations for Californians for Population Stabilization, where he also was a Senior Writing Fellow. A native Californian, Joe now lives in Pennsylvania. Contact him at jguzzardi@pfirdc.org.