New Op-ed: The NBA and China’s ‘Thousand Talents Plan’
The NBA and China’s ‘Thousand Talents Plan’
Like the NBA, universities are letting their immediate economic interests cloud their thinking. Unlike the NBA, they are being paid to train the spies who are stealing our crown jewels. Even worse, the U.S. government is providing the funding.
Forget about the NBA. If you want to find a bought-and-paid-for willing accomplice to the Chinese Communist Party, just look at our universities.
Take Columbia University, please.
The university canceled a panel discussion with pro-democracy activists from Hong Kong, China, Tibet, and Xinjiang after a Beijing-backed student group announced it would protest. Following widespread criticism, Columbia administrators claim they canceled the event because it was wasn’t booked through “official channels.”
A Hong Kong student at Boston’s Emerson College received death threats from pro-Beijing students from mainland China after she protested on campus in support of the pro-democracy movement.
She asked school administrators to make a public statement condemning the threats against her. They refused.
The president of Emerson College said the university, “needed to have ‘global competency’ or risk the kind of firestorm that enveloped the National Basketball Association,” the New York Times reports.
“Given the sizable mainland Chinese populations at American universities . . . the question of how schools should address the issue has been anything but simple,” the Times notes drily. “College officials face the challenging task of supporting free expression without alienating the largest demographic of international students on American campuses.”
In other words, we wouldn’t want to offend over 360,000 mainland Chinese students at American universities paying full tuition. Standing up for those antique American values of democracy and free speech could get in the way of business, not to mention our “global competency.”
“Thousand Talents” Trouble
But protests by pro-CCP students are only the tip of the iceberg of the China problem on campus.
”China devotes significant resources at a national level to infiltrate our universities and our labs,” Air Force Major General Thomas E. Murphy warns. ”And they are doing it for a reason. They’ve even coined the phrase . . . ‘Picking flowers in the U.S. to make honey in China,’ which I would say perfectly illustrates their deliberate plan to steal R&D, know-how, and technology to advance their military capability. They are not even hiding it.”
Beijing’s “Thousand Talents Plan” is openly recruiting scientists at American universities. These scientists are researching critical technology and they are being funded by the U.S. government, reports the Senate Homeland Security investigations subcommittee.
The researchers recruited by China’s Communist Party to advance its “Made In China 2025” industrial policy are contractually obliged to obey Chinese law, keep their connection with Beijing secret, recruit other spies, and sign over the intellectual property rights of their research to the Chinese government.
This September, the FBI arrested a Chinese citizen in New York. Zhongshan Liu is charged with fraudulently obtaining J-1 research scholar visas for people whose actual purpose was not research but recruiting university scientists for industrial espionage.
National Labs at Risk
Chinese Communist Party penetration of our universities and labs is widespread.
A Chinese scientist who spent 15 years at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) pleaded guilty to stealing more than $1 billion in trade secrets involving next-generation lithium battery technology. A post-doctoral researcher stole 30,000 electronic files from a national research lab. A contract employee filed for a U.S. patent overlapping with research funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
The Energy Department owns 17 national labs, heirs to the research effort at Los Alamos, New Mexico that developed the atomic bomb in World War II. The labs now conduct a wide range of research, from nuclear weapons to materials science and supercomputing. While the government owns the labs, universities operate and manage many of their projects.
More than 35,000 foreign nationals are conducting research in Energy’s National Labs—and about 10,000 of them are from China.
The South China Morning Post reported on the significance of their contributions to Beijing in a story headlined “America’s hidden role in Chinese weapons research.”
One scientist who returned to China from Los Alamos was Professor Chen Shiyi, the Post reports. He played a key role in the development of China’s hypersonic glide vehicle. This weapon can travel at 10 times the speed of sound and deliver a nuclear warhead more quickly than any existing anti-missile system can react to it.
And Chen is far from alone. No one knows the number of scientists who have conducted research at these labs and then returned home. But there are so many they call themselves “the Los Alamos club” in China, and Chen has recruited them for a research university dubbed “China’s Stanford.”
Even more shocking—if that’s possible—is the fact that the national labs did not prohibit scientists from being involved in China’s Talent Plan until this year.
“Rob, Replicate, Replace”
Trade negotiators are working to hammer out a much-ballyhooed “phase one” deal that will address intellectual property protections for American companies operating in China. But Beijing continues its wholesale heist right under our noses.
The FBI calls China’s economic espionage “the most severe counterintelligence threat” facing the United States today.
“The playbook is simple—rob, replicate and replace. Rob the American company of its intellectual property. Replicate the technology. And replace the American company in the Chinese market and one day in the global market,” says Assistant Attorney General John Demers.
Chinese spies now make up about 90 percent of perpetrators in U.S. espionage cases, and more than 80 percent of all economic espionage charges brought by federal prosecutors since 2012 implicated China.
The Senate report and the FBI criticize universities and labs for being slow to respond to the threat.
Like the National Basketball Association, universities are letting their immediate economic interests cloud their thinking. Unlike the NBA, they are being paid to train the spies who are stealing our crown jewels.
Even worse, the U.S. government is providing the funding.
President Trump has delivered the wake-up call. Washington and Wall Street need to recognize what Main Street has understood all along: the Chinese Communist Party poses a clear and present danger to the United States, morally, socially, economically, and militarily.
-Curtis Ellis is Senior Policy Director for America First Policies.