Biden Admin Outsources Congressionally Mandated China Threat Report to Undergrads

'This report is literally the opposite of adults being back in charge,' Ted Cruz says

Xi Jinping (Feng Li/Getty Images)
January 24, 2024

The State Department outsourced the authorship of a congressionally mandated report on the threat posed by Communist China to six undergraduate college students, drawing accusations that the Biden administration is not taking the matter seriously.

As part of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the State Department was tasked with producing a report on the Chinese Communist Party's efforts to censor and intimidate Americans. The issue has fueled bipartisan concerns in Congress as China's government orchestrates propaganda campaigns inside the United States and works to silence its critics.

The final nonpublic report was transmitted to Congress earlier this month and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. It was authored by six undergraduate students from James Madison University and "does not represent the views of the Executive Branch," according to a cover letter included on the document.

At least one lawmaker who reviewed the report was surprised to learn the State Department outsourced such a sensitive matter to a team of college undergrads, telling the Free Beacon it is a sign that the Biden administration is not taking China's malign activities in the United States seriously.

"This report confirms, again, that the Biden administration is simply unserious about confronting the full range of threats posed by the CCP," Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told the Free Beacon. "No doubt these students are talented, but this report is literally the opposite of adults being back in charge."

"The Chinese Communist Party," Cruz added, "spends billions on propaganda and censorship, with the goal of controlling what Americans see, hear, and ultimately think. These activities pose an acute national security risk to Americans."

The State Department confirmed that the reporting mandate was handed over to James Madison University and said that U.S. officials did not play any role in producing the analysis or providing guidance.

"The Department entered into an agreement with James Madison University to write the independent report through the Diplomacy Lab Project, and the Department did not select the specific authors nor exercise editorial authority over the report," a State Department spokesman told the Free Beacon.

Congress required the secretary of state to "enter into an agreement with a qualified research entity that is independent of the Department of State to write a report on censorship and intimidation in the United States," according to the reporting requirement written by Congress.

Cruz said that lawmakers did not anticipate the report would end up being authored by college students.

The topic and origin of the congressional mandate made the choice particularly unusual. The language instructing the State Department to contract for the report was laid out in the NDAA, a vehicle used in Congress to address national security and defense issues annually, and dealt with Chinese coercion of American citizens, a charged and delicate topic, according to a congressional source who reviewed the materials.

All six of the students are members of James Madison's class of 2024 and are studying either political science or international affairs. Just one is listed as specializing "in coursework regarding China and its trade practices, the politics and economics of the European Union, and international trade law."

The report details "how China's censorship and intimidation of U.S. citizens domestically, and U.S. businesses in China[,] pose a serious threat to the United States."

It discusses how "American businesses are censored" by China and reviews several examples of the CCP's repressive tactics.

The report includes policy recommendations for Congress, such as passing laws to protect consumer data on social media. The report also advocates for a "policy to support American business in China" and "policy and positions against physical surveillance" by the CCP.