The output increased due to China’s Thousand Talents Plan

The Sloping-Doors Moment in History: China’s Future in the Changing Face of Russia and the European Nuclear Superpowers

But Mr. Fleming’s warning is another reminder of the speed at which the Western allies have come to view themselves as in direct competition, and sometimes in conflict, with both of the world’s other major nuclear superpowers. Of the two, he clearly regards Russia as the more manageable.

Until recent years, most European nations have been muted in their public critiques of Beijing and its ambitions, because trade with China became critical to growth, especially for Germany. Britain even permitted Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant that the United States fears could pose a security threat, to provide some 5G equipment to Britain’s communications network — under some strict conditions — until sanctions imposed on the company by the United States made that impossible.

Mr. Fleming’s warnings about the strategies behind China’s investment in new technologies, and its effort to create “client economies and governments,” sound much like speeches given by his American counterparts for the past five or more years. He spoke just before the start of the Communist Party congress in Beijing which is expected to name Xi Jinping as the country’s top leader.

Mr. Fleming said that in the case of China, this could be “the sliding-doors moment in history,” in which the United States and its allies may soon discover that they are too far behind in a series of critical technologies to maintain a military or technological edge over Beijing.

The move to develop digital currency that could be used to track transactions could allow China to escape international sanctions being applied to the Putin regime in Russia, he said. He said that was one example of how China was “learning the lessons” from the war in Ukraine, presumably to apply them if it decided to move against Taiwan and prompted further efforts by the U.S. and its allies to isolate it economically.

Chinese spies have been caught by the US government stealing trade secrets. Many people think that the federal government can harm national security by demonizing scientists who collaborate with China and discouraging US scientists who excel in scientific research. A desire by scientists to return to China is related to fears of racial profiling, according to a survey published this week.

A legal expert on the China Initiative and the head of Queens College at the City University of New York say Chen’s win shows that speaking up in a diverse democracy is effective. “Sherry Chen has always been innocent. Now she has been vindicated. Ultimately, her vindication is our vindication,” he says. Chen got some free legal advice.

The settlement sends a clear message that discrimination is not okay, and the government will be held to account, said an attorney with Chen’s legal team.

Anming Hu, a nanotechnology researcher at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, who was indicted for hiding ties with China in 2020 and put under house arrest for more than a year before being acquitted, is also trying to get his research back on track. He has spent the past year rebuilding his lab, but has had trouble securing any funding. He has two graduate students for his team, but he won’t take students from China because it’s too risky.

Eventually, the DoJ dropped the criminal charges because of weaknesses in its case. Still, Chen was fired from her job in 2016. She brought a complaint of discrimination to the Department of Commerce, which houses the National Weather Service. A judge found that she was a victim of gross injustice as a result of her dismissal. In 2019, Chen filed a civil lawsuit against the DoJ for wrongful prosecution and to seek compensation. And in November 2021, Chen filed a complaint against the DoC for unlawfully investigating and arresting her.

The DoC will meet with Chen to hear her views on the agency’s wrongdoing and anti discrimination reforms. Chen will receive a letter from the DoC acknowledging her accomplishments as a hydrologist.

Chen said the Commerce Department is being held responsible. Nature requested a comment from the DoC.

Hu is challenging the US government in a different way. Biden nominated Casey Arrowood, the lead prosecutor in Hu’s case, to the post of US attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee. Hu wants to block the nomination because he does not think that Arrowood will be trusted to apply the law in a fair and just way.

Is China using Science to Influence International Politics? Dr. Xi Jinping and the COVID-19 pandemic in India, South Africa, and elsewhere

He says that this is the first step towards true accountability. He says that the apologies mean a lot to those who have been impacted.

Science is being used as leverage in international politics. That can’t become a barrier for countries to work together on some pressing goals, such as climate change.

Cooperation on space, nuclear energy and meteorology was also on the agenda during the landmark visit by China’s president, Xi Jinping, to Saudi Arabia in early December. And, just this week, the Fifteenth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity (COP15) concluded in Montreal, Canada, with an agreement on a new blueprint to halt and eventually reverse the decline of species and the degradation of ecosystems.

But the COVID-19 pandemic continued to provide textbook examples of nations working in their own interests. The governments of a relatively small number of wealthy countries purchased vaccines from pharmaceutical companies in Europe and the United States. Nature played a small part in opposing an international campaign urging the sharing of vaccines, therapies and intellectual property. If they had listened to the words of Tedros, more people in low- and lower-middle-income countries could have been immunized more quickly.

By contrast, many non-Western nations have not been isolating Russia. We reported in April that China, India, and South Africa are continuing their research cooperation with Russia. Russia is a member of the Alliance of International Science Organizations, which is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. China has invested more than US$900 billion since 2013 in this initiative, which aims to build infrastructure in other countries, many of them along the route of the original Silk Road towards the West.

The incentives for China’s researchers to publish in international journals ended two years ago. It’s in no one’s interests if China’s researchers become more isolated from their international counterparts (Nature 579, 8; 2020). Sadly, this is starting to happen. The number of papers co-authored between researchers in the US and China decreased for the first time in 20 years. The number of authors who report dual US and China affiliations has dropped.

The era in which powerful countries encouraged open markets to be at a turning point is being played out in both trade and technology. The United States is restricting sales by US companies (and non-US companies that use US technology) to China of the types of microchip that are used in artificial intelligence and supercomputing. It has placed restrictions on US citizens and residents working for Chinese technology companies. It wants countries to work with itself instead of China, which is why it hopes African countries will become an alternative base for technology cooperation. The World Trade Organization, the body that sets rules for international trade, was retaliated against by China last week because they felt that the US move was a violation of free-trade rules.

The world is in a new uncertainty complex with an ongoing war, climate risks, and economic shocks. More countries are likely to raise trade barriers and use technology to protect their economies, as a result of this.

Governments have responsibilities to ensure the integrity of international cooperation, no matter what science-based policymaking is. The presidency of the next climate summit will be handed over to the United Arab Emiratis, who will take responsibility for climate change.

According to the Thousand Talents Plan, China wants to be a global leader in science and technology.

Despite its prestige, government agencies in the United States and elsewhere have regarded the programme with suspicion, because of its potential to increase the flow of technical know-how to China. Donald Trump launched the China Initiative to protect US businesses and laboratories from espionage. And that same year, the Chinese government stopped publicly naming Thousand Talents Plan recipients because of the negative career impact that the association might have.

The effects are most pronounced in fields like biology, medicine and chemistry where large numbers of people are needed to carry out research. The YTT programme was beneficial to young expatriates who had the capability but not the funding to run their own labs for independent research according to the study authors. Policymakers in the United States and the European Union need to address the shortage of funding for early-career researchers in their countries so that scientists there can kick-start independent research careers, too, Wang says.

But they also found that scientists who rejected offers to participate in the programme, and stayed abroad, ranked even higher — in the top 10% for research productivity in the five years before they might have returned. These researchers were also more likely to have published as a last author on papers — which usually denotes seniority — in leading journals. A public policy researcher at Arizona State University believes that it is hard to convince top-notch researchers to leave elite institutions, where they have access to funding and resources.

Returnees were also more likely to be last authors than were those who stayed, suggesting that YTT scholars are better able to forge independent research careers as heads of their own research teams, Wang says.

Access to funding and research staff seems to be the main driver of the productivity gains: once funding and size of research team are taken into account, the effect on publication output disappears. “Research grants really matter a lot,” Wang adds.

She says that the publication output as a metric of value ignores other markers of scientific success such as the ability to cultivate creative thinking and interdisciplinary research, which are harder to measure. She stated that the aim is not to produce machines. Guidelines were issued by China in 2020 to reduce their reliance on publication as a way of evaluating their research performance.

Gang Chen, a mechanical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was arrested under the China Initiative in January 2021, only for the DoJ to drop the charges a year later. He and others who have had their lives upended by the initiative have been speaking out about the damage that it has done.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported on an example of a university taking more active roles in the wake of the initiative. A University of California, San Diego researcher was forced to quit his position after the school accused him of having ties to China. UCSD said he had violated its conflict-of-commitment policy by accepting travel reimbursements from Chinese institutions that he had visited, and had failed to disclose Chinese grants that bore his name. Fu denies any wrongdoing, according to the Tribune.

Universities reject the idea that they are unfairly targeting researchers of Chinese heritage. According to Toby Smith, the vice president for science policy and global affairs at the Association of American Universities in Washington DC, US institutions acknowledge the research contributions of these scientists. Universities are working to ensure that all faculty members are disclosing information properly, he adds.

But he calls on US funding agencies to provide greater clarity for universities on what counts as an offence and what are appropriate and fair sanctions.

Gisela Kusakawa is the executive director of the Asian American Scholar Forum, which is based in New York City. Universities and agencies should provide training for scientists on how to complete disclosure forms, and they must allow scientists the opportunity to revise completed forms to ensure that they are correct, she says.

In the past year, the US government has adopted several policies and positions that have perpetuated the narrative that scientists from China are potential spies, Lee says. In August 2022, the US Congress passed into law the CHIPS and Science Act, which earmarks an extra US$280 billion for research and innovation and includes measures designed to tighten research security. The minimum amount of gifts that US institutions must report is lowered to $50,000 from the previous $250,000.

Chen is afraid to apply for federal research funding because he doesn’t like the way the government has used the forms before. To feel more secure, he has switched from researching nanotechnologies with obvious commercial applications to doing more-fundamental science, exploring the solar evaporation of water. He also rarely answers e-mails from researchers or students in China who write asking questions about his research papers.

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