In response to China’s 31 incentives for Taiwanese, the Ministry of Education is to bar academics with crucial expertise from working in China — especially if their research is related to semiconductor technology, an official told the Chinese-language Liberty Times (sister newspaper of the Taipei Times).
The Yushan Project, which was promulgated earlier this year and aims to improve wages and opportunities for academics, is the government’s primary response to China’s so-called “gift package,” a ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
However, the ministry would also shield the nation’s patents and research through negative measures and itemize sensitive research fields for regulation, with semiconductor research being a top priority, the source said.
Article 3 of the list of 31 incentives stipulates that Taiwanese research organizations, higher education institutions and Taiwanese researchers who work under a Taiwanese-invested enterprise are to be treated equally with Chinese companies.
Taiwanese universities and other research institutions are eligible for the same state subsidies that Chinese institutions receive.
Chinese enterprises that employ Taiwanese in research or business operations are qualified for subsidies via the Chinese National Program on Key Basic Research Project, with the Taiwanese employees eligible for additional grants.
In addition, Taiwanese holders of patents are to be protected by the Chinese government’s intellectual property protection policies after transferring those to China.
Article 14 stipulates that Taiwanese may participate in China’s Thousand Talents Program and Ten Thousand Talent Program.
The article’s inclusion of the first program permits academics and teachers to go to China during long academic breaks to participate in research projects there, while the second program mainly targets retired faculty and people employed in China, the source said.
Article 15 makes Taiwanese eligible for grants from China’s natural sciences, social sciences, arts and culture and outstanding youth foundations, targeting faculty at Taiwanese schools and universities, as well as Taiwanese artists, the source said.
Parts of Article 16 encourage Taiwanese to participate in China’s poetry and classics recitation program — which describes itself as a moral indoctrination program — as well as heritage restoration and preservation, among other cultural programs.
It further stipulates that Taiwanese artists and performers may take part in China’s international activities and events.
This part is intended to attract college faculty in the humanities, non-governmental organizations engaged in cultural activities, and students and teachers from Taiwanese art schools, the source said.
“Our nation’s universities enjoy complete academic freedom, but that freedom is predicated on national security, and the preservation of freedom and democracy,” the source said. “Preserving our talent is no longer an educational issue — it is a matter of national security.”
Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Su Fong-chin (蘇芳慶) said that the nation’s academics would be better served staying in Taiwan.
Policy uncertainty is a major problem in China and it is not clear for how long Beijing would keep the incentives in effect, he said.
In addition, fierce internal competition and vast differences in working conditions between Chinese regions, as well as the overall employment environment there, further complicate academic work in China, he said.
In contrast, Taiwan’s academic environment is improving, institutions that protect the interests of academics and researchers are more complete and the nation’s efforts to develop international academic ties are also proceeding apace, he said.
The Ministry of Science and Technology has taken steps to increase funding for research projects, he said, adding that grants for heading major research projects have been raised from NT$30,000 to NT$60,000 per month, while grants for other projects have been increased to NT$5,000, he said.
The Chinese incentive package is not likely to have a strong pull on established academics, Academia Sinica Institute of Biological Chemistry research fellow Lin Chun-hung (林俊宏) said.
“Many people have put down career roots and have a settled into family life. They would not just pack up and leave all that behind,” he said.
“Research opportunities are pretty good in Taiwan,” he added.
However, the Chinese package could be attractive to young academics, who have recently graduated from doctoral programs or returned from abroad, because academic wages have stagnated in Taiwan, Lin said.
“The quality of research opportunities that Taiwan offers is on par, but the issue of wages is an obstacle to keeping young academics in the nation,” he said. “Dealing with stagnant wages should be the government’s focus, otherwise there is no point in trying to keep talented people in Taiwan or to recruit them internationally.”
Chung Yuan Christian University professor Chao Hsuan-fu (趙軒甫) said employment opportunities are limited in Taiwan’s higher-education field and although there have been efforts to improve pay, such benefits remain out of reach for people working in entry-level academic jobs.
Chao said he knew several research programs that are run by one or two researchers, without assistants or other staff, due to inadequate funding and a lack of available doctoral candidates and post-doctoral researchers.
“The lack of money and staff is a major reason why ranking researchers might look for greener pastures,” he said.
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