With the trade war raging, relations between the United States and China are getting muckier. In a recent development, the FBI has started questioning American graduates who received their master’s degree from China’s Yenching Academy, media reports said Wednesday.

Five Yenching graduates, according to National Public Radio, were approached by FBI agents to collect intelligence information on their program. They were also asked to ascertain whether they were drawn in by Chinese espionage efforts while they were in the Asian nation.

Brian Kim, a second-year law student at Yale Law School, said he received a call from a person who claimed to be an FBI agent. Kim, who also has a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, thought it was some kind of a scam. But he verified the number and met two FBI agents at a coffee shop near Yale’s campus. An agent asked him if anyone in China had tried to recruit him for espionage efforts. Kim was also grilled about who encouraged him to apply for the Yenching program. Kim disclosed that the Princeton fellowship office had recommended him to apply for the program.

However, this isn’t the first time the U.S. is worried about Chinese espionage penetrating America. Over the past couple of months, universities have come under increasing pressure from the FBI, the federal science agencies, the White House and members of Congress to confront broad efforts by foreign actors, in particular China, to steal the fruits of U.S. government-funded research and intellectual property. And this has raised concerns, according to Inside Higher Ed, in academia about racial profiling of Chinese students and scholars and the risk that overreaction to the threat could undercut scientific collaborations and harm science.

FBI Director Christopher Wray, earlier this year at the Council on Foreign Relations Forum, said economic espionage dominates the bureau’s counterintelligence program. Wray said the adversaries' targets are U.S.’ assets, information, ideas, innovation, research and development, and technology.

“And no country poses a broader, more severe intelligence collection threat than China. China has pioneered a societal approach to stealing innovation in any way it can from a wide array of businesses, universities and organizations,” he explained.

Wray stressed the importance of sharing information between universities and the FBI. “We have got to share as much information as we can with you, as quickly as we can, through as many channels as we can. We have also got to create mechanisms for you to share information with us," he said.

Moreover, with the Yenching Academy case, the FBI in a statement said it was part of their job. “The goal of these interviews is to identify potential security risks and to protect U.S. citizens from illegally and perhaps unwittingly supporting foreign government interests.”