The US’ arrests earlier this week of several Chinese-American scientists on suspicion of espionage have raised concerns over the possible implications for Taiwanese participating in Beijing’s “thousand talents” program.
China has included Taiwanese researchers in the program as part of its 31 incentives announced in February, offering them generous salaries and other financial benefits. If these researchers take trade secrets and advanced research to China, it is a huge blow to Taiwan, both economically and militarily.
Chinese espionage in the US also presents a threat to Taiwan, as those secrets could be used to invade Taiwan and hamper the US’ ability to respond in the event of a cross-strait conflict.
There is also the concern that Taiwanese researchers might lose the trust of their peers, and risk being blacklisted by Washington and losing cooperation opportunities in the US.
International cooperation is beneficial to scientific advancement, but nations lose any competitive advantage garnered from research conducted at their institutions when it is lost to a foreign government.
China “depends on industrial espionage, forced technology transfers, and piracy and counterfeiting of foreign technology as part of a system of innovation mercantilism,” the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission said in a report.
Innovative research is expensive and Chinese companies often seek to avoid this expense, as a lack of protection for intellectual property rights in China makes research costs hard to justify.
In April, it was discovered that China was testing a stealth technology that would hide warplanes from radar systems. The New York Times on April 30 reported that there were suspicions that Beijing obtained the technology through a Chinese researcher who worked on similar technology at Duke University in 2008.
The administration of US President Donald Trump, citing such cases of espionage, has been seeking to ban Chinese researchers from US institutions.
Some politicians, such as US Senator Ted Cruz, have said that urgent action must be taken, as China is infiltrating US universities through its Confucius Institutes, which disguise themselves as centers for language and cultural exchanges, but are used by Beijing for espionage — which one of the institutes has admitted.
It would not be difficult for Chinese intelligence agencies to recruit Chinese students in the US involved in research that is of interest to Beijing, as the students need to regularly return to China to renew their visas.
Taiwanese researchers make even easier targets, as many of them voluntarily go to China to work or study — a situation that Beijing’s incentives might exacerbate.
So how can Taiwan and the US safely allow scientific and academic exchanges, and cooperate with China?
In the case of Chinese scientists in the US, it is imperative to fully understand their motivation for being there, their long-term plans and their ties to Beijing.
Meanwhile, Taiwanese who have had access to sensitive industrial or military technology should not be allowed to have any contact with Chinese officials or travel to China.
In July last year, Nobel Prize-winning chemist Fraser Stoddart criticized Trump’s approach to the issue, saying unfettered access and travel are crucial to scientific advancement.
In an ideal world, he would be correct. Unfortunately, the very freedom of people to meet and share ideas would come under threat if authoritarian governments are allowed to undermine democracies worldwide.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday last week, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City Councilor Hsu Chiao-hsin (徐巧芯) wrote: “The KMT must fall for Taiwan to improve.’ Allow me to ask the question again: Is this really true?” It matters not how many times Hsu asks the question, my answer will always be the same: “Yes, the KMT must be toppled for Taiwan to improve.” In the lengthy Facebook post, titled “What were those born in the 1980s guilty of?” Hsu harked back to the idealistic aspirations of the 2014 Sunflower movement before heaping opprobrium on the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP)
The scuffle between Chinese embassy staffers in Fiji and a Taiwanese diplomat at a Republic of China (ROC) Double Ten National Day celebration has turned into a public relations opportunity for the government, Beijing and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). Although the incident occurred on Oct. 8, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) downplayed it, only for the story to be picked up by the foreign media, forcing the ministry to respond. The public and opposition parties asked why the government had failed to remonstrate more strongly in the first instance. It is still unclear whether the ministry missed a trick
US President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival, former US vice president Joe Biden, are holding their final debate tonight. In their foreign policy debate, China is sure to be a major issue of contention for the two candidates. Here are several questions the moderator should pose to the candidates: For both: In the first televised US presidential debates in 1960, then-Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy and his Republican counterpart, Richard Nixon, were asked whether the US should intervene if communist China attacked Taiwan’s outlying islands of Kinmen and Matsu. Kennedy said no, unless the main island of Taiwan was also attacked.
For most of us, the colorful, otherworldly marinescapes of coral reefs are as remote as the alien landscapes of the moon. We rarely, if ever, experience these underwater wonderlands for ourselves — we are, after all, air-breathing, terrestrial creatures mostly cocooned in cities. It is easy not to notice the perilous state they are in: We have lost 50 percent of coral reefs in the past 20 years and more than 90 percent are expected to die by 2050, a presentation at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in San Diego, California, earlier this year showed. As the oceans heat further and