China’s Thousand Talents Program Finally Gets the U.S.’s Attention

(Bloomberg Businessweek) -- China’s Thousand Talents Program, an elaborate system which recruit overseas researchers to send their skills home, has the U.S. worried.

What’s the big deal?

U.S. officials say TTP encourages economic espionage and theft of intellectual property, the issue at the heart of President Trump’s trade war with China. They also argue that China’s so-called military-civil fusion strategy—in which the government employs resources, technologies, and people to advance both sectors simultaneously—elevates the threat.

China’s Thousand Talents Program Finally Gets the U.S.’s Attention

Was any of this a secret?

Hardly. Until last September, China published the names of recruits on an official website. That all ended when a Chinese American engineer (and TTP participant) working for General Electric Co. was arrested for allegedly stealing tech secrets from the company.

How vulnerable is the U.S.?

According to public and nonpublic information compiled in a November report issued by the Senate Homeland Security select subcommittee on investigations, very. TTP members stole U.S.-funded Department of Energy research for Chinese institutions. The National Institutes of Health is only now investigating the loss of intellectual property and capital to China; meanwhile, the National Science Foundation has no one dedicated to grant oversight at all. Even the U.S. State Department—which under Mike Pompeo’s leadership has taken a tough stance on China—is behind on flagging Chinese nationals with potential ties to intellectual property theft.

What now?

Beijing may be downplaying it, but TTP is very much a going concern. Still, the takeaway for Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, who chairs the subcommittee that conducted the investigation, is not to exclude China from contributing to scientific innovation. Instead, he said, he hopes this investigation encourages a “productive dialogue.”

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jillian Goodman at

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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