China exploits Australia’s lax laws to sign up researchers for secret program

China exploits Australia’s lax laws to sign up researchers for secret program, by Sharri Markson.

An investigation by The Australian has revealed dozens of leading scientists at major universities across the country have been recruited to a Chinese government program called the Thousand Talents Plan, which FBI director Christopher Wray describes as economic espionage and a national security threat. …

The Australian can publish the names of more than 30 academics who have been recruited to the Thousand Talents Plan or another similar Chinese government recruitment program, or have registered their intellectual property in China.

  • The “Thousand Talents Plan” is a Chinese Government program to recruit top scientists from around the world.
  • Under Xi Jinping’s civil-military fusion, the Thousand Talents Plan helps China achieve technological and innovation advances.
  • Western academics have been recruited through their colleagues, superiors or even via LinkedIn.
  • They are offered a lucrative second-salary, upwards of $150,000 a year, with generous research funding. …There are a suite of other perks including education for their children, housing allowances and jobs for their spouses. …
  • Some academics are given an entire new laboratory in a Chinese university and team of research staff. …
  • They then have a “clone” team in China — often unbeknownst to their Australian employer. …
  • Many are proud of their Thousand Talents link and participate with consent of their universities. Others have not disclosed the link to their universities and do not publicly admit to being part of the program.
  • Some Thousand Talents contracts stipulate they cannot disclose their participation in the Chinese Government program without permission.
  • They continue to work full-time for their Australian university while making frequent trips to China to visit the affiliated Thousand Talents Plan university.
  • They continue to apply for Australian Research Council grants, with no checks about where the research will end up.
  • Their new inventions are patented in China, often secretly.
  • The inventions may be commercialised, with China reaping the economic benefits. …
  • The aim of the program is to ‘own’ the research conducted and paid for by western universities. …

Example:

Curtin University’s Optus Chair of Artificial Intelligence, Brad Yu, who has received large amounts of Australian and US government funding, has been working at China’s Hangzhou Dianzi University.

Dianzi is designated “high-risk” for its level of Chinese military defence research. It has two major defence laboratories, five designated defence research areas and holds secret security credentials, “allowing it to undertake classified weapons and defence technology projects”.

Professor Yu specialises in drone automation and artificial intelligence, and has been working on an area of intense interest to the Chinese government: aerial warfare and co-ordinating thousands of unmanned aerial vehicles to co-operate in the air.

Chinese-language reports state he is part of Chinese government recruitment programs including the Qianjiang Scholar of Zhejiang Provincial Talents program and the Taishan Scholars Project, Shandong Province.

Despite being on full-time pay at Curtin [in Western Australia], where he receives a 60 per cent loading on a professor’s salary and his research institute has been funded to the tune of $4m, The Australian understands he has spent most of the year in China.

After The Australian contacted him and Curtin University, Professor Yu’s Hangzhou Dianzi profile became unavailable for public view. Curtin declined to answer specific questions about him, despite issuing a press release with great fanfare when it appointed him to the role of Optus Chair of Artificial Intelligence in May last year. …

“Professor Yu has spent some time in Western Australia this year, but is currently in China.” …

We were warned, but did nothing:

Chen Yonglin, a Chinese diplomat who defected to Australia sparking diplomatic tensions in 2005, said the Thousand Talents Plan was “totally a theft” and warned that the Australian government and universities should take it more seriously. …

“Australia should halt all high-level science and technology ­collaboration with Communist China.”

hat-tip Stephen Neil