'Addicted to Funding From China': Stanford Rakes in Chinese Cash

Stanford University has taken more than $27 million from Chinese entities since the start of 2021

Then-Stanford University president John L. Hennessy and then-Peking University party chief Zhu Shanlu in 2012 /
April 24, 2023

Stanford University has raked in more than $27 million from Chinese entities since the start of 2021, underscoring the Communist Party's influence-peddling operations at major American colleges.

The funding came through 42 donations throughout 2021 and into early 2022, according to the latest figures publicly available through the Education Department's reporting database. The database does not specify the exact source of the funding, beyond the country of origin, but details the total amount of every gift and contract from the CCP as part of federal reporting requirements. Stanford did not respond to a Washington Free Beacon request for further information about the donations or its partnerships with China.

The opacity of this funding—and the millions of dollars China hands out to a range of prominent U.S. universities—could place Stanford in Congress's crosshairs as the Republican-controlled House ramps up investigations into Chinese influence-peddling. Stanford University is not the only university raking in cash from China—the University of Delaware, which houses the Biden Institute, since 2017 has taken more than $6 million from the country. The House Select Committee on China is eyeing a potential probe into the Chinese Communist Party's supply of more than $426 million to U.S. universities since 2011, according to sources who spoke to the Free Beacon.

Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.), a member of the House Select Committee on China, told the Free Beacon that Chinese funding for American schools has skyrocketed under the Biden administration because the administration stopped enforcing a federal code governing how foreign gifts and donations are reported. Lobbyists representing American schools have been pressuring the administration to relax regulations governing the reporting of foreign donations. The administration also nixed several federal investigations into CCP influence at U.S. universities, Banks said.

"Colleges are likely pocketing even more than reported," according to Banks. "Even worse, the Biden administration shut down all ongoing investigations into the Chinese Communist Party's influence efforts at our universities. House Republicans need to force Joe Biden's hand and pass legislation to crack down on foreign influence at our universities."

National security analysts have also been sounding the alarm over China's presence in American higher learning. The country has been the largest source of foreign donations to U.S. universities since 2013, according to congressional information, and tuition from Chinese students is worth an estimated $12 billion per year.

Michael Sobolik, a China expert at the American Foreign Policy Council, said that "American higher education is addicted to funding from China," money that he says "greases the skids for CCP malign influence in our colleges, like espionage, IP theft, and censorship."

While Stanford is not the only university raking in Chinese cash, the school has publicly battled the perception that it is a breeding ground for Communist Party espionage.

In 2021, for instance, the school opened up a Chinese studies center that hosted "scholars, guests, and programs affiliated with groups backed by the Chinese Communist Party," the Free Beacon reported at the time. The Stanford-run institute also has ties to China's Peking University, which work alongside the Communist Party's defense industry and nuclear weapons program.

That same year, federal authorities accused a Chinese researcher working at Stanford of secretly working as a member of China's military. The researcher, Chen Song, "destroyed documents in a failed attempt to conceal her true identity," according to prosecutors.

Concerns about China's influence at Stanford come against the backdrop of the university's parallel work on behalf of the Pentagon. The school in 2022 took in $1.9 million from the Defense Department to study "multiphase detonation of liquid aeropropulsion fuels," which could apply to advanced military technologies such as hypersonic missiles—weapons of great interest to China. Other Pentagon grants revolve around work on the Air Force's technology and science sectors.

Banks and other lawmakers say that China's foothold at Stanford could endanger the operational security of these delicate Pentagon-funded research projects, particularly because the Communist regime is bent on stealing proprietary American research.

"It's outrageous that schools like Stanford are taking millions from Beijing while partnering with [the Defense Department]," Banks said. "While some institutions like Purdue, a hypersonics research hub in my state, cut off all ties with its [Chinese] Confucius Institute over espionage concerns, not all schools take national security seriously, and the White House is making it easier than ever for them to cozy up with China."