U.S. doubles down on protecting university research from China

Apparently the US is taking action to "prevent sensitive technology from being stolen by the Chinese military". The article doesn't go into many details of what that action is, but it does say:

The NSCAI [National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence] recommendations would require more disclosure on research funding and partnerships at universities. It also proposes creating a database of individuals and entities to flag risks in advance.

How does this plan work? In principle everyone is a security risk, since everyone can defect or seek to immigrate to China. Even if we neglect defections/immigration, unless US universities stop admitting Chinese students or exclude Chinese postdocs/visiting researchers entirely, they could always take their knowledge back with them. Checking the source of resource funding and partnerships doesn't seem effective either - one could always change funding sources or partnerships after the PhD/postdoc etc is over.

  • 2
    Evidence suggests that the US Attorneys are incompetents who do not know how to recognize espionage. wsj.com/articles/… Mar 1, 2021 at 11:13
  • It doesn't basically, US graduate students and professors have such a high percentage of immigrants there's no way to effectively stop it. There are specific projects which foreign students/professors are not allowed to work on but broadly speaking I don't think this is very effective since pretty much all the work translates pretty easily excluding very specific topics. Mar 2, 2021 at 5:00

3 Answers 3


The nominal goal is to keep people from running two labs, using US funding to develop ideas that then get teleported to the china lab for commercialization. The guys indicted so far were all running labs in China they didn't disclose.

Like charles lieber, who seems to have run a china lab.

It also looks like they're going after people for not filing fbars, which is kinda shitty since half the green card holders in the US are probably guilty of that.

Is this a real problem? Probably not. But it sounds good if you aren't an academic. Same way "tough on crime" always works.

  • 5
    What is an "fbar"?
    – nick012000
    Mar 1, 2021 at 23:17
  • Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts Reporting
    – user133933
    Mar 1, 2021 at 23:43
  • Does this mean it's not possible to hold dual affiliations with one institution in the US & the other in China?
    – Allure
    Mar 1, 2021 at 23:47
  • 5
    It's possible. You just can't lie about it. You definitely shouldn't perjure yourself on grant applications.
    – user133933
    Mar 1, 2021 at 23:50

Most American researchers do not plan to avoid research "falling" into Chinese hands. We send our research to China, and everywhere else, for free.

The real problem is that China has internet censorship to keep our research out of China.

  • 2
    Someone raised a Low Quality Post flag on this answer. I plan to give it "Looks OK". However, I need clarification for the last sentence. I am not sure what you mean by "keep our research out of China". Did you mean research about politics?
    – Nobody
    Mar 1, 2021 at 13:40
  • @scaaahu My understanding is that China blocks a lot of non-political things, possibly incidentally. So no. Mar 1, 2021 at 21:07

It seems to aimed at preventing collaborations, not preventing defections.

Looking at the links given by the OP and the other answers, it seems like the primary goal of this is to prevent researchers in the US from collaborating with individuals or institutions associated with the Chinese military (which also happens to run their spy agencies), in order to prevent them from taking defense-related US-funded research and sending it to China.

Obviously, its possible for researchers to defect to China, and its possible that the CCP might start leaning on civilian Chinese nationals who are working abroad, but the current initiative doesn't seem to be focusing on either.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .