China Tried to Indoctrinate U.S. Students to Spread Communist Party Propaganda, Slow Coronavirus Research, Republicans Say

A group of congressional Republicans have accused China of seeking to spread Communist Party propaganda and slow U.S. coronavirus research through the indoctrination of American students.

The ranking GOP members spread across seven House committees, who are also congressional allies of President Donald Trump, on Monday sent a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos accusing Beijing of providing funds and resources to universities in America. The members said Beijing attempted the operation to spread propaganda and impede U.S. research into COVID-19. The group also asked DeVos to provide further information pertaining to their allegations.

Congressman Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Oversight committee, led the group in the letter, which was also reportedly signed by members of the GOP on the Homeland Security, Science, Armed Services, Education and Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees.

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US President Donald Trump (R) and China's President Xi Jinping (L) arrive at a business leaders event inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 9, 2017. Nicolas Asfouri/Getty

Allegations of Chinese infiltration in the U.S. higher education sector is not new and predates the COVID-19 outbreak. Beijing critics have long questioned the potential security threat attached to domestic Chinese students, professors and other academics. In 2018, roughly one third—370,000—of the total number of international students in America were from China.

The U.S. and China have traded jabs in recent weeks over their respective handling of the global coronavirus pandemic, with each attempting to shift the blame onto the other. As Trump faces an uncertain reelection campaign, the president and his congressional Republican allies have ramped up their criticisms of Beijing over their response and the origins of the virus.

Trump last Thursday told reporters that he's seen evidence that gives him a high degree of confidence that the coronavirus originated from a lab in Wuhan, China. Hours earlier, U.S. intelligence officials confirmed they were exploring the possibility that the novel disease accidentally leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, confirming Newsweek's previous reporting on the matter. While the Office of the Director of National Intelligence maintained their position regarding the absence of human intervention pertaining to the outbreak, they noted that the disease's origins will require further examination.

Beijing has defended its handling of the virus, accused America of telling lies and urged Trump to focus on battling the virus. "American politicians have repeatedly ignored the truth and have been telling barefaced lies," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a press conference last week. "They have only one objective: shirk their responsibility for their own poor epidemic prevention and control measures, and divert public attention."

"The U.S. should know this: The enemy is the virus, not China," Shuang added.

Four senior Trump administration officials told the Washington Post on Thursday that U.S. officials have started discussing punishments for China. Some officials have reportedly suggested the federal government should wipe some of its debt obligations to the country in retaliation. When asked to comment, Trump also threatened the use of tariffs.

Newsweek reached out to China's embassy in Washington D.C. for comment. This story will be updated with any comment.