At the height of the U.S.-China trade war, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation began to comprehensively investigate China’s Thousand Talents Program in order to prevent the release of advanced technology.
China’s Thousand Talents Program was established in 2008 with the stated aim being to bring top-notch professionals from all parts of the world to work in China, contributing to the growth and success of the Chinese society. But as the FBI conducted their investigation, colleges and universities in China began to comprehensively delete any details and information about the program along with data on related personnel.
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Thousand Talents Program going underground
Since its implementation in December 2008, the Thousand Talents Program has recruited 8,000 overseas experts. In June of this year, U.S. defense and intelligence officials made it clear at the hearing of the House of Representatives Military Committee that the Chinese government was aiming to transfer American technology, intellectual property, and knowledge to the mainland by attracting overseas talents.
On October 4, a letter from the “Thousand Talents Youth Program Review Working Group” was posted on the Internet. The content shows that units were cautioned that in order to “do well” with the safety and security of overseas talents, there should be no use of e-mail when notifying the interviewees. Instead, communication shoud take place by telephone or fax. The date on the letter was September 29.
A screenshot from the notice on WeChat showed that the Ministry of Education issued an urgent notice requesting all colleges and universities to delete all information about the Thousand Talents Program on the website to ensure the total disappearance of the program.
Recruiting younger talent
Ms. Lin, a young scholar engaged in biotechnology research in the United States, told Radio Free Asia that the Thousand Talents Program promoted by China is divided into two categories: “National Thousand Talents Program” and “Youth Thousand Talents Program”. The former is for bringing in scientists with higher achievements from overseas, and the latter is mainly for young scientists with great potential.
Ms. Lin pointed out that in order to recruit these talents, universities or research institutions across China have offered high salaries. For example, some universities in Guangdong or Xiamen, in addition to the annual salary of US$72,000, also offer another US$400,000 to US$700,000 research start-up funds to young scholars selected for the Youth Thousand Talents Program. According to her, many Chinese scholars overseas cannot resist this temptation.
Miss Lin said: “After the first round of judging, which decides whether you will enter the interview phase, there is a special team allocated to conduct an interview in the second round. If you pass, you will return to China directly as a “thousand-young-talent,” directly as a professor, and as a Ph.D. supervisor. The average annual salary of a professor is over US$30,000.”
According to an announcement previously posted on the official website, the recommendations for the Thousand Talents Program and for a new “Ten Thousand Talents Program” in 2018 were issued in May, and review work was to be arranged in August and September. The proposed candidate list was to be submitted to the national overseas office before the end of October, so it seems that China’s use of these programs to gain American technology, IPs, and knowledge is still in full swing.
Translated by Yi Ming