Abandoning the US, more scientists go to China

10:24 29.04.2023 •

The Organisation for Economic Co‐operation and Development (OECD) — an intergovernmental organization with 38 member countries — has published new data showing that the United States is losing the race for scientific talent to China and other countries. China’s strategy to recruit scientific researchers to work at China‐affiliated universities is working, CATO Institute informs.

In 2021, the United States lost published research scientists to other countries, while China gained more than 2,408 scientific authors. This was a remarkable turnaround from as recently as 2017 when the United States picked up 4,292 scientists and China picked up just 116.

The OECD credits more Chinese scientists returning to China for the sudden reversal in Chinese and American inflows.

This is a disturbing trend that started before the pandemic. In fact, it appears to coincide with the Trump administration’s “China Initiative” — more accurately titled the anti‐Chinese initiative.

Launched in November 2018, the Department of Justice’s campaign was supposed to combat the overblown threat of intellectual property theft and espionage. In reality, it involved repeatedly intimidating institutions that employed scientists of Chinese heritage and attempting malicious failed prosecutions of scientists who worked with institutions in China.

U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling has even admitted that the initiative that he helped lead “created a climate of fear among researchers” and now says, “You don’t want people to be scared of collaboration.”

If Chinese scientists are afraid to work in the United States, that means that the United States will not benefit from their discoveries as much or as quickly as China will.

Although the Justice Department claims to have shut down its “China Initiative,” my colleagues doubt that Chinese scientists will be free from unjust scrutiny going forward. The U.S. National Institutes of Health is still bragging about having caused the firings of more than 100 scientists and shutting down research by over 150 scientists — over 80 percent of whom identify as ‘Asian’.

The administration continues to maintain contrary to evidence that Chinese industrial espionage — by scientists working in the United States — is a significant threat to the country. Universities and U.S. companies think the far greater threat is losing out on talented Chinese researchers.


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