Michigan Professor Questions University's Ties with China
June 15, 2007 Volume 14, No. 11 BY RICHARD McCORMACK firstname.lastname@example.org
A professor of aeronautics engineering at the University of Michigan says his university is engaged in transferring sensitive military technologies to China and that the practice is encouraged by the university's faculty and administrators.
"We are transferring every bit of knowledge and know how that we have to the People's Republic of China," says tenured aeronautics engineering professor William Kauffman. "This has been happening for at least a decade. It is done by having many of [China's] undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students, who pay out-of-state tuition, here in Ann Arbor and having University of Michigan campuses staffed by University of Michigan faculty in the PRC."
The University of Michigan isn't happy with Kauffman and his claims. It has had him arrested by campus police; it has tried to revoke his tenure; and it has cancelled all of his classes that he teaches on explosives, internal combustion engines, gas turbine engines, rockets and propellants. He says the university's dean, provost, president and his department chair have placed him in "Siberia," but that he can no longer sit idly by and watch as the university opens campuses in China, allows faculty engaged in Defense Department research to meet with delegations of Chinese defense researchers, and ignores the plight of Michigan's industrial economy and its blue-collar workforce.
"I have decided that I must come forward and discuss what is happening at the University of Michigan and other academic institutions which is endangering U.S. economic and military security," he wrote in an e-mail forwarded to Manufacturing & Technology News.
Kauffman says he was astonished by his department's willingness to host a six-person delegation in mid April from China's Harbin Institute of Technology. He claims the group, which included Harbin's vice deans of aeronautics and mechanical engineering, was on a "technology shopping trip seeking to acquire any and all information available which would assist them in the production of better rockets which could be launched at U.S. targets."
The Harbin Institute, which has 60,000 students, has been associated with the production of a solid propellant ICBM factory, according to Kauffman and research he cites from testimony presented to the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission. "Our Department Chair was obviously complicit in arranging this trip and knowledgeable concerning the members of the delegation," wrote Kauffman. University of Michigan faculty members also take extended lecture trips to China "discussing such subjects as cruise missiles," he added. "It appears as if some members of the UM Board of Regents benefit financially from UM/China ties."
The University of Michigan and Kauffman's department chair Wei Shyy did not respond to phone inquiries and questions submitted by e-mail by Manufacturing & Technology News seeking comments concerning his claims.
Kauffman says that his department has been "infiltrated" by Chinese interests. He cites numerous U.S government documents concerning China's intention to acquire military technologies, including a 2006 report from DOD's Defense Security Service entitled "Technology Collection Trends in the U.S. Defense Industry." That report says "the globalization of defense business will increase the threat from strategic competitors who will use legitimate business activities as a venue to illegally transfer U.S. technology."
Kauffman's recently appointed department head, Wei Shyy, lists in his bio as being a guest professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences since 2000, Beijing Institute of Technology since 2003 and the Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics since 1993. Kauffman notes that some of these institutions were cited as being engaged in China's military programs in an April 2006 report from the Congressional Research Service entitled "China and Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Missiles." Shyy is also engaged in aerospace research projects funded by the U.S government.
But Shyy happens to be Taiwanese. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and worked at General Electric's R&D Center in Schenectady, N.Y., from 1983 to 1988. Before moving to his present position, Shyy was department chair at the University of Florida between 1996 and 2004. He was the leader in creating the seven-university consortium funded by NASA called the Institute for Future Space Transport. He is also the principal investigator of the Michigan/Air Force Research Laboratory Collaborative Center in Aeronautical Sciences.
All of these affiliations bother Kauffman. "How can he be allowed access to USAF [and] NASA technology and be a visiting professor at PRC institutions engaged in the weapons trade?" Kauffman asks. "This must violate 'deemed exports' and ITAR [International Traffic in Arms Regulations]."
Kauffman cites a Nov. 17, 2005 e-mail sent to "aero.faculty @umich.edu" concerning an "Export Control Seminar" that was intended, in part, to "share strategies that would help [faculty and staff] avoid the controls when possible (mostly advice on writing a statement of work in proposals that avoids controls)." About that seminar Kauffman said: "This seems to be flat out deception."
Kauffman claims that Shyy was hired to help the university develop a good relationship with China. "I wrote a memo that aerospace engineering is a dual-use technology and we should not be hiring a Chinese to run the department and I got the crap kicked out of me," he told Manufacturing & Technology News. "I said, 'You have a dual-use technology capacity here, why didn't you hire an American?' "
University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman is "complicit" in the strategy to make the University of Michigan a "world university" that has sister campuses in China, says Kauffman. Even the University's College of Literature, Sciences and the Arts has declared that the theme for the 2007 - 2008 academic year be "China in the World." An article in the April 3 university newspaper the "Michigan Daily" wrote in its lead: "Come September, students will race down the Huron River in large boats with handcrafted dragon heads up front."
In her Senate Assembly Annual Address on Oct. 30, 2006, Coleman said "the level of our engagement with China is truly astounding and very exciting....We want to test several hypotheses in our work with China: first, that we can build partnerships that will allow our faculty and students -- and the University as a whole -- to reach their fullest potential in a globalized world. Second, that the lessons of our success as a great public research university can help produce change, not just on one campus, but throughout Chinese higher education. And third, that we can learn much from the ambitious experiment in higher education that is under way in China."
Asked whether he is misinterpreting the university's intentions and that he's making too much of them because he is a disgruntled professor who has lost research funding he obtained and not gotten to teach his preferred courses, Kauffman replies: "I represent the little guy, the native born Americans" who no longer dominate the science and technology communities at major research universities. What makes him unique, he says, is having been born in Waynesboro, Penn., working his way through college in a machine shop and receiving his Ph.D. in aeronautics. His views on the world were formed by his work in the aeronautics field during the Cold War when the Untied States guarded its technology from the Soviet Union, by the time he spent working for the Air Force and his two years living in Moscow.
"What troubles me is that we're treating the Chinese much differently than the way we dealt with the Soviets," he says. "When you look at the Pentagon's 2007 Military Threat report, they don't exactly say they're nice guys."