Taiwan tackles brain drain to China head on

Government officials are following in the footsteps of the United States and trying to deter high-tech talents from taking their research out of the country

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Model of 'Falcon Heavy' (MOST photo)

Model of 'Falcon Heavy' (MOST photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Taiwan is clamping down on losing high-tech talents and intellectual property to China, following in the footsteps of the United States.

Taiwan officials have become increasingly concerned that scientists at the nation’s institutes of higher learning are defecting to China, according to a recent article in Nature. They are principally being lured by a Beijing initiative called the Thousand Talents Plan.

Established in 2008, the Thousand Talents is a kind of academic honor that recruits talent and technology transfers to China. It typically provides a highfalutin title, visa privileges, and, most importantly, money.

Nature said the Taiwan government is “increasingly monitoring” China’s attempts to attract high-tech talent. “Government agencies in Taiwan will review and strengthen policies to protect sensitive research and important intellectual property from being lost to mainland China.”

This article also quotes a China News Agency (CNA) report last month that revealed seven Taiwan scientists and researchers were being monitored for climbing aboard the Thousand Talents bandwagon. They had all been receiving funding from Taiwan’s Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST).

All university staff are supposed to get permission to take part in major research programs or receive China grants. The Nature report said MOST may try to “recoup the money it contributed,” if the seven scientists and researchers were found to have broken the terms of their agreements.

The U.S. has been investigating researchers for having ties with overseas agencies, or who join the Thousand Talents Plan. “Several universities have moved to dismiss researchers of Chinese ethnicity for allegedly failing to report funding and connections to institutions in China,” the Nature report said.

China’s Thousand Talents is seen by many commentators as a concerted effort to overtake U.S. military and commercial technology superiority. A National Intelligence Council report in 2018 characterized it as an attempt, “To facilitate the legal and illicit transfer of U.S. technology, intellectual property and know-how” to China.