Chinese Communist Party (CCP) actors have infiltrated the University of Texas system.
Many institutions of higher government education in Texas are praised for their academic rigor and contributions to society. These institutions, funded by the taxpayers, are expected to provide such academic services to the American public and are accountable to the Texans that fund their endowments.
However, it is becoming increasingly obvious that government education is unresponsive to obvious threats growing in the wider world. Threats such as the CCP.
The U.S. Director of National Intelligence’s “Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community,” published in February 2023, outlined the threat poses to the USA and Western world.
“China’s Communist Party (CCP) will continue efforts to achieve President Xi Jinping’s vision of making China the preeminent power in East Asia and a major power on the world stage. As Xi begins his third term as China’s leader, the CCP will work to press Taiwan on unification, undercut U.S. influence, drive wedges between Washington and its partners, and foster some norms that favor its authoritarian system,” the report states. “Beijing is increasingly combining growing military power with its economic, technological, and diplomatic influence to strengthen CCP rule, secure what it views as its sovereign territory and regional preeminence, and pursue global influence.” The report added that the CCP will “will seek opportunities to reduce tensions” with the U.S. where it regards their own interests. It also notes of Russia and China’s growing partnership to oppose the U.S.
In recent years, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been making inroads into various sectors of Texas life. Texas Scorecard previously published two investigative series on the infiltration of CCP influence into education, politics, commerce, and land in 2022 and 2023.
This includes higher education. These infiltration efforts go even deeper than previously thought, and many Texans are unaware of them, thanks in large part to government university giants like the University of Texas System lacking full transparency. Citizens are required to go to great lengths to uncover whom these institutions are beholden to and whose interests they seek.
The importance of revealing these infiltration efforts in government education is made clear by a quote attributed to President Abraham Lincoln: “the philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.” Influencing American views and policies are a key goal of the CCP, according to the 2023 DNI report. “Beijing uses a sophisticated array of covert, overt, licit, and illicit means to try to soften U.S. criticism, shape U.S. power centers’ views of China, and influence policymakers at all levels of government,” it states. “Beijing has … redoubl[ed] its efforts to build influence at the state and local level to shift U.S. policy in China’s favor because of Beijing’s belief that local officials are more pliable than their federal counterparts.”
Who are the local officials responsible for overseeing and protecting state universities?
In most organizations, there is a body that is accountable for organizational health. For state universities, this power is held by the board of regents. The university chancellor is accountable to them for university operations. In Texas, regents are all appointed by the governor, and confirmed by the Texas Senate.
Texas Scorecard found several CCP connections to the University of Texas, raising questions about how well the taxpayer-funded university’s board of regents is doing its job for the citizens of Texas by holding Chancellor James Milliken accountable.
Department of Education Probe
In April 2020, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) sent a letter to open an investigation into the University of Texas System (UT). This was due to concerns that UT was underreporting foreign gifts and contracts. The letter targets “the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and/or all other foreign sources, including agents and instrumentalities of the government of the Peoples’ Republic of China.”
The Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) has become ever more highlighted since the outbreak of Sars-CoV-2, also known as the Chinese coronavirus or COVID–19. In September 2023, the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services published a letter to WIV, announcing they “had suspended and proposed WIV for debarment from participating in United States Federal Government (Government) procurement and nonprocurement programs.”
“After years of conducting dangerous gain-of-function research at inadequate biosafety levels, cutting off all American taxpayer dollars from the WIV is an essential and obvious step in the right direction,” wrote Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) in a subsequent press release. “This is especially timely as mounting evidence and intelligence continue to suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic originated from a laboratory failure in Wuhan. Rewarding the likely source of a global pandemic with American resources will only lead to more future health risks.”
The 2023 DNI report raises another concern with such a working relationship. President Jinping plans for China to make the world dependent on its supply chains and use such “dependencies to threaten and cut off foreign countries during a crisis.” It noted that pharmaceuticals are one of those global supply chains where China is at the center, producing 40 percent of medicinal drugs’ key ingredients. “China’s dominance in these markets could pose a significant risk to U.S. and Western manufacturing and consumer sectors if the Government of China was able to adeptly leverage its dominance for political or economic gain.”
The University of Texas Medical Board (UTMB)-run Galveston National Laboratory (GNL) signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in 2017.
The 2017 memorandum sets up a five year agreement to “promote talent and education exchanges by initiating visiting scientists and education programs” as well as organize meetings, workshops, conferences, and exchange “virus resources strictly for the scientific research purposes.” The “virus resources” included were UT sending a strain of the deadly Heartland virus and 2 different strains of the Zika virus to the WIV.
In a 2022 article, the Houston Chronicle revealed that they had obtained a nine-page copy of the memorandum, which included a worrying clause. This clause would empower the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) to ask the University of Texas Medical Board (UTMB) to destroy or return any files, materials, or equipment without backups. This clause is applicable even after the five year agreement ends. Public record law specialist Bill Aleshare told the Houston Chronicle that this clause is illegal if UTMB follows through with such a request. “[UTMB] can’t destroy records that are part of a publicly funded document. And Wuhan sure as h[—] can’t ask [UTMB] to destroy its records.” The article also claims that UTMB and WIV have had a relationship since 2013.
The copy of the memorandum acquired by Texas Scorecard was only eight pages and does not contain the clause found by the Houston Chronicle. Texas Scorecard asked the University of Texas about this discrepancy. No response was received before publication.
When asked, a University spokesperson told the Houston Chronicle that UTMB “has not been asked to destroy any documents nor would UTMB follow through with such a request.” He also claimed that they would not be renewing the agreement when it expires in 2023.
Texas Scorecard asked the University of Texas Board of Regents if there was still no intention of renewing the agreement. No response was received before publication. We also sought comment from the chairs of the state legislative committees that oversee higher education: State Rep. John Kuempel (R–Seguin) and State Sen. Brandon Creighton (R–Conroe). No response was received before publication.
According to records Texas Scorecard obtained, UTMB had asked the DOE to give all files related to this investigation an exception to the Freedom of Information Act, and mark them as confidential.
However, the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) have had more dealings than this, which lawyers for the University of Texas summarized in their cover letter response to the U.S. Dept. of Education.
In 2015, before the formal agreement, the Director of the WIV, Dr. Zhiming Yuan, visited the Galveston National Laboratory (GNL) to receive a tour of the facility and discuss potential training for his staff and collaborations. In 2018, two scientists from the WIV visited the GNL to receive training from UTMB staff. One of the visiting scientists was a former fellow at UTMB. There were five other Chinese scientists who were fellows from 2013-2020.
The U.S. DOE was concerned with more than just the University of Texas’ dealings with WIV. They requested records of gifts and contracts between UT and 15 different Chinese Universities. Five of these universities earned a rating of medium or high risk from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI). This organization published a database that ranks Chinese universities based on their involvement in defense research for the Chinese Communist Party.
Of the 15 universities listed in the probe, three are rated as medium risk. These universities are Shanghai University, South China University of Technology, and Nanjing University, which works with both the CCP and a facial recognition company accused of being involved in the abuse of the Uyghurs.
Uyghur persecution by the CCP has been well-documented in an October 2023 white paper by Adrian Zenz, who is with the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C. “In early 2017, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in north-west China embarked on a campaign of interning 1–2 million Uyghurs and other predominantly Turkic ethnic groups into re-education camps,” Zenz wrote. “Xinjiang’s forced labour extends the region’s decades-long campaign of frontier settler colonialism, an effort that accelerated dramatically under the region’s party secretary Chen Quanguo (2016–21) who oversaw mass internments and efforts to ‘optimize’ the ethnic population structure through birth prevention and population transfers (Smith Finley 2021; Zenz 2018, 2021b).” Zenz further mentions how labor transfers are imposed through massive transfers of property usage rights. “Chinese academics themselves argue that these transfers ‘crack open solidified [Uyghur] society’ and ‘reduce Uyghur population density’, linking them with an attack directed against the population (Zenz 2021a, 14–15, 2021b).”
All three universities are considered to be threats, as the CCP controls Chinese colleges and universities, and involves a number of them in military development.
The remaining two universities, Sichuan University and Jilin University, are rated as very high-risk. Both universities have strong ties to China’s nuclear weapons program. Sichuan University has been on the US Entity List (trade restrictions list) since 2012, for concerns over its connection to a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) intelligence unit.
Texas Scorecard sent UT an open records request, seeking their response to this section of the investigation. After multiple communications where Texas Scorecard narrowed our request twice, on November 1, 2023, the university appealed our request to the Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R).
The U.S. Department of Education closed the investigation in November of 2020, citing that UT had produced sufficient records.
However, there are still more concerning connections between the University of Texas and the CCP.
Texas Global Universities
Texas Global is the entity responsible for coordinating the University of Texas’s international collaborations and campuses. UT has 12 different “partner” universities in China, eight of which are rated as medium risk or higher by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Fudan University, Northeastern University, and Shanghai University are rated medium risk for their involvement in research into stealth technology, military aircraft, and missile projects, respectively. Zhengzhou University is also rated medium, due to its immense collaboration with a Chinese military affiliated university in the same town, as well as having a supercomputer center on campus as of November 2020. This center’s focus was reported at the time to be artificial intelligence, “social management, digital economy, and environmental governance.”
Peking University, another UT “partner,” earned a rating of high risk because of “its involvement in defence research and links to China’s nuclear weapons program” for the CCP. Still another “partner,” Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU), is also high risk and known for “its high level in defence research and alleged links to cyber attacks.” In 2010, investigators reportedly were able to trace a series of cyberattacks on Google and other American tech companies to school computers on campus. SJTU denied these findings. ASPI also reports that SJT “has ties to the PLA Unit 61398, a cyber espionage unit that has been implicated in cyber attacks on the United States.”
Two more CCP universities are also University of Texas “partners.”
Huazhong University of Science and Technology is rated as very high risk, due to “its high number of defence laboratories and close links to China’s defence industry.” Tsinghua University, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s alma mater, also earned a rating of very high risk. It was linked to cyberattacks on the Alaska state government and Tibetan community.
Despite nearly all of UT’s Chinese partner universities being considered security risks, the University of Texas continues to foster relationships with them.
Texas Scorecard asked the University of Texas Board of Regents about these connections with CCP-run universities. No response was received before publication. We also contacted the chairs of the state legislative committees that oversee higher education: State Rep. John Kuempel (R–Seguin) and State Sen. Brandon Creighton (R–Conroe). No response was received before publication.
UT doesn’t just cultivate these relationships internationally; it also harbors CCP influence groups on American soil.
Texas Scorecard previously reported on a student organization located on nearly every college campus in America: the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA). Although at first glance, this club might seem to promote innocent displays of cultural heritage and engage in Chinese cultural activities, the origins of this organization are more sinister. According to the U.S. State Department, the CSSA was originally created by none other than the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) with the express purpose of “monitor[ing] Chinese students and mobiliz[ing] them against views that dissent from the CCP’s stance.” Although all of these clubs are individual organizations and not connected by any central authority, this initiative is overseen by the United Front Work Department, a branch of the Chinese government that seeks to spread its Communist ideology abroad. According to a former Chinese official, Li Senghzi, the Chinese government views “CSSAs as a means to conduct ‘information collection’ and propaganda.”
Some of these groups have connections to the Chinese Embassy, while some even receive embassy funds. It is difficult to assess how close each of these clubs are to branches of the Chinese government since there is little to no transparency about how they operate or their funding history.
The February 2023 U.S. Director of National Intelligence threat assessment also warns of these types of CCP efforts. “As part of efforts to stifle anti-Beijing criticism, the PRC monitors overseas Chinese students for dissident views, mobilizes Chinese student associations to conduct activities on behalf of Beijing, and influences research by U.S. academics and think tank experts,” it states. “These activities have included pressuring family members in China, denying or canceling visas, blocking access to China’s archives and resources, and disrupting or withdrawing funding for exchange programs.”
Furthermore, “Beijing will continue expanding its global intelligence and covert influence posture to better support the CCP’s political, economic, and security goals.”
These kinds of groups are present across the UT System. The University of Texas at Austin has a CSSA. Their university website appears to have been active as recently as 2022. Their standalone website shows activity as recent as March 2023. Records Texas Scorecard obtained from the university show that in 2023 it reported 58 members in 2023, and 65 members in 2020. According to these records, from 2020 to 2023, only in 2021 did this CSSA report raising funds since May 1, 2020. The amount was $2,000, when they had 57 members. No source of funds was provided. In their report to the university, the organization reported that year how they spend funds.
“To support the regular business of our organization
To support the advertising/marketing of our organization (e.g. t-shirts, printed advertisements, food sponsorship)”
The publicly available information about this organization is telling. According to their website, the UTCSSA “serves as a bridge between Chinese students and scholars and the Chinese Embassy in the United States, and actively safeguards the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese students and scholars overseas [Google Translation].” The exact nature of this relationship with the Chinese Embassy is unknown, but the lack of transparency surrounding this relationship with a foreign government is cause for concern.
The University of Texas at Dallas likewise has a “Friendship Association of Chinese Students and Scholars (FACSS)” that appears active as of the fall semester of 2023, although their website appears to be outdated and the last posted events are from fall 2021.
Texas Scorecard was unable to determine whether the University of Texas-El Paso (UTEP) has a CSSA on campus, but other connections to China were discovered. In the 2018-2019 school year, the university had a study abroad program with Shijiazhuang Tiedao University in China. According to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, this university ranks as low risk due to low levels of defense research, although they have secret security credentials that allow them to partake in classified defense research in technology. They also host the “National Defense Transportation Research Institute (国防交通研究所), which is the only civilian university research institute that specializes in national defense transportation research.” According to the information posted by UTEP online, Shijiazhuang Tiedao University is the “predecessor of Chinese People’s Liberation Army Railway Engineering Institute.” (The People’s Liberation Army is the ironically-named Chinese military.)
Texas Scorecard contacted the UTEP Study Abroad office for comment about whether this program was ongoing. In response, a representative from the university said that the page may be out of date, and that “[w]e do not have anyone traveling on that program at this time.”
A lesser-known member of the UT System—UT Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV)—has a CSSA chapter. No information about its presence or activity on campus was available. However, the university provides a scholarship in Chinese Studies called the “Dr. Lang Scholarship,” named after Dr. Yong Lang. Now deceased, Dr. Lang was the founding president of the CSSA at UTRGV. He was also instrumental in forming various sister-university relationships between UTRGV and universities in China. The full extent of these agreements is still unknown, but one of the partner universities was Hengyang Normal University. Dr. Lang himself was educated in China at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology, where he received both his Bachelors and Masters degrees. According to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the Huazhong University of Science and Technology is a very high risk university with secret security credentials. It works closely with the Chinese military and nuclear weapons programs.
Like UT Dallas, University of Texas – Arlington (UTA) has a Friendship Association of Chinese Students and Scholars (FACSS). One of their organization’s faculty advisors, Yawen Wang, is an assistant professor of research at the university. Wang was educated at Chongqing University in China, an institution labeled as medium risk by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. The faculty advisor who signed the club’s constitution at its founding, David Kung, is still a professor of computer science and engineering at UTA. Kung was educated at the Beijing University of Science, also known as the University of Science and Technology Beijing, which ASPI found to be a high risk university.
Even more concerning are some of the provisions of the UTA FACSS constitution. In one clause, it reads: “All visiting scholars and students from the P.R. China, working or studying at UTA are automatically become full membership unless special announcement [sic].” In the financial provisions, it states that “the club funds are from Chinese council or other sources.” The exact identity of this “Chinese council”—whether it refers to the Chinese Embassy or another body—is unclear. However, the shroud of mystery surrounding these CSSAs are cause for concern.
The public servants who chair committees overseeing higher education have not replied to questions Texas Scorecard sent to them regarding our findings in this article. State Rep. Brian Harrison (R–Midlothian), however, expressed concern when asked for comment on our findings. “The State of Texas and all of our public universities must ensure robust safeguards against threats posed by hostile foreign governments, and I will be requesting information from UT and relaying my concerns about these arrangements,” he stated.
The Quest for Transparency
Despite these discoveries, Texans are left with more questions than answers when it comes to the influence and activities of the CCP within government institutions like the University of Texas System. Until there is militant transparency about state university’s relations with CCP universities, and information about the functions, processes, and funding of CSSAs are revealed, Texans cannot be assured that their institutions of government education are free of CCP influence.
Where are the Board of Regents?
A university’s board of regents holds university management accountable. In business, it is a company’s board of directors that has this responsibility. They hold the company’s chief executive officer (CEO) accountable. In 2004, a former company board member called out his colleagues for not doing their job and allowing his family’s company to sink.
That man was Roy E. Disney, the nephew of Walt Disney. Roy was upset at how then-CEO Michael Eisner was mismanaging the Disney Company.
In a March 2004 speech to a conference on Corporate Governance, Roy called out the Disney board members for not doing their job. “In the absence of outright fraud or severe financial distress, the critical question is what does it take for a board of directors to act?” he asked. “Unfortunately we faced a board that simply deferred to management or was unwilling or uninterested in a dialogue on the critical issues.”
Roy challenged Eisner and the board at the 2004 annual shareholder meeting, where 43 percent of shareholders withheld support for re-electing Eisner to the board. In September 2005, Eisner resigned from the company. But all of this would have been unnecessary had the board acted in the way Roy said they should have in his March 2004 speech.
“Boards must act long before a crisis for long-term shareholders to be best served. One of the most fundamental and important duties of a board is to monitor and hold the chief executive officer accountable for the long-term performance and strategy of a company.”
In 2023, the Disney Company again finds itself under threat on multiple fronts, thanks in no small part to their promotion of woke ideology and opposing school transparency. The company has also been widely criticized for its significant ties with the CCP. While CEO Bob Iger has been accused of mismanagement, investor Nelson Peltz is targeting the board of directors for allowing the company to decline so dramatically.
With the CCP posing a significant threat to the United States, and its already deep infiltration of Texas, what will it take for the University of Texas Board of Regents to act?
The regents for the University of Texas are:
Kevin P. Eltife, Chairman
Janiece Longoria, Vice Chairman
James C. “Rad” Weaver, Vice Chairman
Christina Melton Crain
Robert P. Gauntt
Jodie Lee Jiles
Nolan Perez, M.D.
Stuart W. Stedman
Kelcy L. Warren
Inquiries to the board can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Texas Scorecard reviewed documents from the Department of Education relating to the federal probe into the UT System and its connections to China. Those documents can be viewed here:
Department of Education opening investigation lettter
Memorandum of Understanding
Zika Virus transfer
Heartland Virus transfer
Department of Education closing investigation letter
Cover Letter to UT’s response to the DOE
This article also contains highlights from the following documents:
The U.S. Director of National Intelligence’s “Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community” (Published February 2023).
“The conceptual evolution of poverty alleviation through labour transfer in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region,” by Adrian Zenz (Published October 2023)
The UT-Austin CSSA 2021 Registration
Citizens wishing to conduct a deep dive should click on the links above.
This article was updated to correct Xi Jinping’s title from premier to president.