Answers Krach’s Call for Safeguarding Academic Freedom
“The CCP’s actions pose an immense threat to academic freedom and to human dignity. We seek your assistance to see an improved, open, and transparent environment in which U.S. and Chinese scholars can engage with greater TRUST.” —Under Secretary Krach’s letter to University Presidents, August 20, 2020
The day before Krach’s Purdue Commencement address, he appeared on the “Mornings with Maria” news program and was asked about President Daniel’s statement condemning the harassment of a Purdue Chinese student speaking out on behalf of freedom. The student had been harassed by his fellow Chinese classmates and China’s secret police had threatened his family back in China.
As ProPublica, who had reported the initial story about the Chinese student, observed, “The letter from Purdue University President Mitch Daniels last week was unflinching, unapologetic and unusual.”
“Good on Mitch Daniels”
Krach stated, “Good on Mitch Daniels for standing up against CCP intimidation. It shows great courage by Mitch. He’s one of the few university presidents who will speak out on China’s pervasive efforts to expand their ideological reach and censorship on college campuses.”
In his statement, Daniels denounced all forms of intimidation, which he called “unacceptable and unwelcome on our campus,” warning that any students involved in such intimidation would be subjection to “disciplinary action” and “significant sanction.”
Daniels emphasized that Purdue had hosted international students—including nearly 200 Chinese students this previous fall—for over a century. “But joining the Purdue community requires acceptance of its rules and values, and no value is more central to our institution or to higher education generally than the freedom of inquiry and expression,” Daniels avowed. “Those seeking to deny those rights to others, let alone to collude with foreign governments in repressing them, will need to pursue their education elsewhere.”
Krach’s Ask for Dealing with Immense Threat to Academic Freedom
A year before as Under Secretary of State, Krach sent a letter to all university presidents and boards asking for their assistance in dealing with the immense threat to academic freedom and to human dignity posed by the Chinese Communist Party’s actions.
In the letter, he wrote, “Our concern is with the malign actions of the CCP and specific individuals, not with the Chinese people or many of the Chinese students in the U.S. The good news is that our strongest ally in promoting academic freedom over authoritarianism is your—STUDENTS. College Republicans and Democrats, like national elected officials, are united in the threat posed by the CCP.”
In a letter signed by the student leadership of both the College Republican National Committee and the College Democrats of America, they stated: “The Chinese government’s flagrant attempts to coerce and control discourse at U.S. universities pose an existential threat to academic freedom. It is a moral imperative that we protect that freedom. In the fight against authoritarianism, universities can continue to benefit from the largess of an emboldened authoritarian state, or they can stand on the right side of history. They cannot do both.”
Unaware of Widespread CCP’s Intimidation and Censorship
Krach pointed out that when he was Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Purdue, he had no idea how widespread the CCP’s intimidation and censorship had been at Purdue and on campuses across America. That’s why as Under Secretary of State, he sent a letter to all universities about the real and urgent threat posed by the CCP to academic freedom, issued a forceful defense of human dignity, and called for the protection of university endowments, and safeguarding intellectual property.
Krach also emphasized, “If there is anything I learned as Purdue’s board chair it is that academic freedom and freedom of speech is sacrosanct.” He then praised Mitch Daniels by commenting, “President Daniels is drawing a clear line. The students who made the threats will be subject to disciplinary action and significant sanctions for students who report classmates to any foreign entity for exercising their freedom of speech or belief.”
Krach First Official to Call Out Genocide in Xingjian
Krach was then asked, “Does it tell you that the America is actually waking up to how bad the communist Chinese are, and it’s not confined to their borders, they’re expanding their ideological reach into our country?”
Krach pointed to a passage from his university letter: “Citizens around the world are waking up to the truth about the CCP’s three-prong strategy of concealment, co-option, and coercion. They now realize CCP’s concealment of the virus resulted in the pandemic, its co-option of Hong Kong has eviscerated the freedoms of its citizens, and the coercion in Xinjiang grown into genocide continued in the brutal internment camps of. This is beginning to give the courage to brave leaders around the world to stand up to the CCP’s increasingly bullying behavior. On both sides of the aisle in Washington, it has become one of the most passionately unifying bipartisan issues of our time.”
Krach, as a former CEO of public companies, had already been a catalyst for waking up the business community. A month before his letter to universities, he sent a business advisory letter to CEOs of all US companies warning of using forced labor from Xingjian. Four days later, he put a big exclamation point on it. Krach went on broadcast television on the Fourth of July and became the first executive branch government official to call out the Chinese Communist party’s genocide in Xingjian.
Nobody Should Bend a Knee to the China Bully
When Krach appeared on “The Claman Countdown” news program on his last full day in office, the show’s host, Liz Claman, posed a prescient question: “China has said they’re going to retaliate. You could possibly be on that list eventually, Keith. Do you expect to be sanctioned?” Krach responded, “I think I already am, Liz. That’s a badge I will wear with honor. I am sanctioned not for what I said, but for serving my country and the results we achieved. Why should I react when I can act? I am not going to bend a knee to emperor Xi. And I don’t think anybody should bend a knee to the China bully. All I know is when you confront a bully, he backs down and they really, really back down if you have your friends by your side.”
For decades, the CCP has relied on three main pillars to exert its influence, spread its propaganda, and conduct espionage on American college campuses: Confucius Institutes, Chinese Students and Scholars Associations, and direct financial donations. Through these three pillars, the CCP has covertly exerted influence that has threatened academic freedom and free speech on American campuses. Yet many American universities have been willfully ignoring such threats to avoid jeopardizing their revenue stream from Chinese students and donations. President Daniels showed he would not allow himself, or Purdue University, to be blackmailed or intimidated by the CCP bully.
Krach’s Forever Friend Answers the Call
As the Wall Street Journal observed, “In its bullying confidence, China’s Communist Party is seeking to impose its censorship around the world. Western institutions that do business with China or accept Chinese students will have to decide if they’ll be bullied.” In short, in the words of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, Daniels had courageously “[let] Beijing know its sovereignty doesn’t extend to the Purdue campus.”
As it turned out, the man Krach recruited to serve as Purdue’s President years ago, has proven Krach’s forever friend standing up to the authoritarian bully, and in one highly publicized statement resolutely answered Krach’s call to protect academic freedom.
This article is part of a four article series:
Krach Delivers Powerful Purdue Commencement Address with Proof of Equation: Transformation to the Power of Trust
Krach tells grads, “The world needs more trusted transformational leaders than ever before,” in inspiring commencement address.