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US senators want review of Chinese donations to US universities, United States News & Top Stories

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – US senators offered legislation on Wednesday (May 26) that would require national security reviews of major Chinese gifts and contracts to US universities.

They hope limiting such reviews to China alone would ease concerns in academia that reviews of foreign funding could threaten research.

The measure, an amendment to a broad Bill seeking to boost US competitiveness with China, would require the federal government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to review grants and contracts from China whose value exceeds US$1 million (S$1.3 million).

The broad Bill could come up for a vote in the Senate as soon as this week. It must also pass the House of Representatives before being sent to the White House for President Joe Biden to sign into law.

The amendment, seen by Reuters, was offered by Republican Senators Jim Risch and Marco Rubio and Democratic Senators Bob Menendez and Ben Cardin. All four are members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Menendez is the panel’s chairman and Risch is its top Republican.

Risch has championed the measure, which reflects increasing concern in Washington about Chinese influence on US higher education and the potential national security threat it poses.

China sends more students to study at US universities than any other nation and is the largest source of foreign donations to American higher education, making more than US$1 billion in gifts since 2014.

Last year, former Republican president Donald Trump’s Department of Education accused universities of failing to disclose hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign donations, including from China.

Colleges and universities had baulked at the CFIUS requirement, saying requiring CFIUS reviews of all foreign donations would imposed a time-consuming and expensive burden on US schools that could cut them out of important international research efforts.

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