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U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Ranking members of seven House committees asked the Department of Education to disclose the findings of the department's ongoing investigation into Chinese government funding at U.S. universities, according to a letter viewed by Axios.

The big picture: The coronavirus pandemic has deepened the rift between the U.S. and China, and it's renewed calls for decoupling across multiple sectors.

Details: In a May 4 letter addressed to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, seven Republican lawmakers cited the Chinese government's recent attempts to control scientific research relating to the coronavirus as the reason for greater oversight.

  • The letter also mentions theft of research and intellectual property, Chinese Communist Party propaganda on U.S. campuses, and concerns that Chinese government-connected funding puts pressure on U.S. institutions.
  • The letter was signed by the ranking members from the House committees on oversight and reform; education and labor; homeland security; science, space and technology; armed services; foreign affairs; and intelligence.

What they're saying: These actions "bring into question whether U.S. [institutes of higher education] receiving federal taxpayer dollars should be allowed to accept funds from China, the CCP, or other affiliated organizations," wrote the lawmakers.

  • "The interests of the two nations appear to have diverged."

“We cannot allow a dangerous communist regime to buy access to our institutions of higher education, plain and simple," Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who spearheaded the letter, told Axios in a statement.

  • "The Chinese Communist Party’s cover-up of the early outbreak of the coronavirus immeasurably worsened this disease’s impact on the United States and the world. We owe it to the American people to hold China accountable and to prevent them from doing further harm to our country.”

Context: Last year, the Department of Education began investigating several U.S. universities to determine if they had failed to disclose foreign funding as required by law.

  • In February, the department announced it had uncovered at least $6.5 billion in undisclosed foreign funding and that it was extending the investigation to include Harvard and Yale.
  • The investigations include donations and contracts with foreign governments, including those of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, China and Russia, and companies with strong state ties.
  • The investigations have been deeply unpopular among some faculty and staff, and university administrations have said that the funding disclosure requirements are byzantine and difficult to follow.

The bottom line: Republicans feel the coronavirus has confirmed their worst fears about the Chinese government's intentions, leading them to double down on pre-coronavirus efforts to scrutinize China's influence in the United States.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Aug 11, 2020 - Sports

Trump on the NBA: "The way they bowed to China is a disgrace"

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump criticized the NBA's ties to China during a Fox Sports Radio interview on Tuesday, saying, "The way they catered to China, the way they bowed to China, is a disgrace."

Why it matters: China is one of the biggest international markets for the NBA, and its attempts to balance those business interests alongside criticism of the Chinese Communist Party's human rights abuses has been a flashpoint for the league in recent months.

Aug 11, 2020 - World

The end of Hong Kong's political freedom is here

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The end of Hong Kong's relatively free political system is no longer looming. It's here.

Why it matters: The Chinese Communist Party is already wielding the new national security law it forced upon Hong Kong just over a month ago — and through the extraterritoriality enshrined in the new law, Beijing has signaled that its push against pro-democracy activism is going global.

IG report: Saudi arms sales were legal but didn't weigh civilian casualties

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Photo: Gabriel Kuchta/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acted legally when he bypassed Congress to approve $8 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, but failed to "fully assess risks and implement mitigation measures to reduce civilian casualties" that resulted from the deal, according to a report by the State Department inspector general.

Why it matters: The 2019 sale drew bipartisan ire among lawmakers, who worried it could lead to a pattern of the administration using "emergency declarations" to circumvent Congress to approve weapons deals. The report comes two months after former Inspector General Steve Linick testified that he was pressured by a top Pompeo aide to drop the investigation.