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.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has over the past few months continued to escalate its hegemonic rhetoric and increase its incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. The US, in turn, has finally realized how its “strategic ambiguity” is increasingly wearing thin. Similarly, any hopes the US had that the PRC would be a responsible stakeholder and economic player have diminished, if not been abandoned. Taiwan, of course, remains as the same de facto independent, democratic nation that the PRC covets. As a result, the US needs to reconsider not only the amount, but also the type of arms
Taking advantage of my Taipei Times editors’ forbearance, I thought I would go with a change of pace by offering a few observations on an interesting nature topic, the many varieties of snakes in Taiwan. I will be drawing on my experiences living in Taiwan five times, from my teenage years in Kaohsiung back in the early sixties, to my last assignment as American Institute in Taiwan Director in 2006-9. Taiwan, with its semitropical climate, is a perfect setting for serpents. Indeed, one might say serpents are an integral part of the island’s ecosystem. Taiwan is warm, humid, with lots of
China constantly seeks out ways to complain about perceived slights and provocations as pretexts for its own aggressive behavior. It is both victimization paranoia and a form of information warfare that keeps the West on the defensive. True to form, China objected even to the innocuous reference to Taiwan at April 16’s summit meeting between US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Neither leader’s prepared remarks even mentioned Taiwan, out of deference to the Japanese side. Biden’s opening statement was modest: “Prime Minister Suga and I affirmed our ironclad support for US-Japanese alliance and for our shared security.
There is no ambiguity when it comes to war. Ambiguity begs for certainty and a lack thereof has historically led to war. History is full of examples: Europe’s and the US’ ambiguity as to how they would respond to Hitler’s growing territorial expansion in Europe was certainly a contributing factor to World War II. In the same vein, US ambiguity toward Japan’s expansionist militarism in the 1930s clearly led to the Pearl Harbor attacks that started the war in Asia in 1941. Ambiguity in a world with leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) will inevitably