News Analysis: U.S. "talent decoupling" policy self-defeating

2022-December-2 10:30 By: Xinhua

BEIJING, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) -- Over the past years, some China hawks in Washington obsessed with the Cold-War mentality have been provoking confrontation in the field of science and technology through its ideologically-biased "talent decoupling" policy against China.

Experts have been warning that such dangerous moves, having in great measure been hampering bilateral scientific and technological cooperation, will only hurt the United States itself in due course.


According to data by the Asian American Scholar Forum (AASF), more than 1,400 U.S.-trained Chinese scientists dropped their U.S. academic or corporate affiliation for a Chinese one in 2021, a 22 percent jump from the previous year.

According to the Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2022, published by INSEAD in collaboration with Portulans Institute and the Human Capital Leadership Institute in November, China continues to climb up the rankings, standing at 36th this year.

Wang Huiyao, president of the Center for China and Globalization, said that China has witnessed a steady increase in the arrivals of scientists of Chinese descent from abroad, and their return will make more contributions to China's innovation and entrepreneurship, technological breakthroughs and people-to-people diplomacy.

Over 80 percent of all Chinese students have returned to China after finishing their education abroad since 2012, according to China's Ministry of Education.


As a magnet for international talents, the United States is descending into eclipse as a result of its unscrupulous suppression of Chinese scholars.

In an AASF report, Xie Yu, a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and professor of Princeton University, and other scholars from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology surveyed 1,304 U.S.-based scientists of Chinese origin and found that they showed a strong sense of uneasiness and fear in all five psychological indicators.

A total of 35 percent of respondents feel unwelcome in the United States and 72 percent do not feel safe as an academic researcher, while 42 percent are fearful of conducting research. Besides, a remarkable 86 percent perceive that it is harder to recruit top international students now than it was five years ago.

In addition, a shocking 61 percent have thought about leaving the United States.

These repercussions mainly result from the "China Initiative" launched by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2018, which has constantly stigmatized scientists of Chinese descent under the pretext of "national security" and through the distorted lens of racism. Earlier this year, the initiative was finally terminated amid strong criticism and opposition.

"In the past, there have been complaints that while they contributed a large share of the hard work, on the whole they failed to achieve leadership positions or commensurate recognition, reaching a 'bamboo ceiling.' Under the China Initiative, a majority of Chinese-origin American scientists now feel the chilling effect of potential federal investigations and prosecution and have a new reason to be pessimistic about their careers in the United States," the report said.


Cultural and people-to-people exchanges have brought tangible benefits to both peoples. According to the AASF report, 17 percent of all 2020 U.S. doctoral degrees in Science or Engineering were awarded to foreign students from China, and some of them choose to stay in the United States to take up employment. Along with native-born Chinese Americans, Chinese immigrants have become a large and visible demographic group in the field of science and technology in the United States.

Chinese students and researchers can boost U.S. competitiveness in at least three ways: through their contributions to U.S. universities' revenue, to U.S. science and innovation, and to U.S. national security, according to a report on background, policy and impact of the U.S.-China STEM talent "decoupling" published by Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

Unfortunately, Washington's policy, littered with ideological prejudices and the Cold War mentality, has largely hindered people-to-people exchanges between China and the United States, and is thus widely opposed.

Former U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus said that Washington's anti-China rhetoric reminded him of the McCarthy era.

"Scientific progress relies on collaboration, on recruiting the best possible talent to important scientific problems, and on publicizing these findings to the entire world. So setting up science as a competition with talented scientists in other countries and as harboring secrets that are not to be shared widely flies in the face of the core values of the scientific community," H. Holden Thorp, editor-in-chief of Science journals, wrote in an editorial titled The "China Initiative Must End" in February.

American campuses see fewer international students. During the 2020-21 academic year, 329,272 graduate students studied in the United States, down by 12.1 percent from the previous year, while the number of international scholars in the United States (specifically, postdocs and visiting researchers) plummeted by 31 percent, from 123,508 to 85,528, the Nature magazine reported, citing data from the Institute of International Education.

Under the current situation, it is more necessary than ever for China and the United States to strengthen the dialogue and exchanges in the scientific and technological circles, not least between academic communities and civil societies, so that scientific cooperation can get back on track and scientists have their right to choose their cooperation partners, said Liang Zheng, deputy director of China Institute for Science and Technology Policy at Tsinghua University.

Editor: ZAD
More from Guangming Online


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's, makes no representations as to accuracy, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information.