Argument: China syndromeThe Chinese Threat to U.S. Research Institutions Is Real

Published 23 December 2019

The Chinese government is pursuing a comprehensive, well-organized, and well-funded strategy to exploit the open and collaborative research environment in the United States to advance their economic and military expansion at our expense. Josh Rogin writes that for too long, U.S. research institutions have been asleep to Beijing’s efforts.

The Chinese government is pursuing a comprehensive, well-organized, and well-funded strategy to exploit the open and collaborative research environment in the United States to advance their economic and military expansion at our expense. Josh Rogin writes in the Washington Post that now, however, U.S. research institutions are finally waking up to Beijing’s efforts to recruit American scientists for China’s benefit.

Rogin writes:

In July, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray testified that the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party have many “so-called talent plans” that are not illegal but are routinely abused to steal intellectual property and take it back to China to advance Beijing’s various strategic and economic plans. The irony is that the U.S. taxpayer is essentially funding China’s economic resurgence, Wray said.

“The Chinese government knows that economic strength and scientific innovation are the keys to global influence and military power, so Beijing aims to acquire our technology — often in the early stages of development — as well as our expertise, to erode our competitive advantage and supplant the United States as a global superpower,” John Brown, the FBI’s assistant director for counterintelligence, testified in November.

Rogin notes that lastWednesday, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute announced the forced resignations of six people – the Center’s chief executive and president; vice president; and four researchers – because the six did not reveal they had been recruited and paid by the Chinese government under its “Thousand Talents” program, a massive effort controlled by the Chinese Communist Party to recruit foreign scientists for its own purposes.

The FBI has been warning U.S. research institutions that Chinese talent-recruitment programs are not only a threat to the integrity of the U.S. research environment but also a real national security concern.

Rogin concludes:

U.S. research institutions have been asleep to Beijing’s efforts for a long time because they think of themselves as practicing “open science” — rather than “strategic science,” as the Chinese government does. Some believe that because the research will eventually be published, the China threat is overblown. But that ignores the huge body of evidence that the Chinese government is using talent programs not for mutually beneficial collaboration but as vehicles to steal non-public research to feed their own national ambitions.

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