U.S. Targeting of Chinese Scientists Fuels Brain Drain

U.S. Targeting of Chinese Scientists Fuels Brain Drain

There has been a consistent and intensifying effort to track, monitor and “catch” Chinese scientists in what could be considered a growing nationalistic-inspired, fear-driven campaign to root out and purge spies. There is some basis for the concern as China declared life sciences as an industry representing national security interests, but has the U.S. purge gone overboard? Afterall, America is a land built on multicultural immigration. Remember 55% of America’s Billion Dollar Startups have immigrant founders.

The Taipei Times reports on a write up by Peter Waldman, Bloomberg on the sweeping response by U.S. agencies across the federal government to identify and purge any Chinese spies. In the process, companies, universities and organizations developing intellectual property are warned to be vigilant when dealing with Chinese business partners, scientists and employees who might be “nontraditional” information collectors.

Growing Troubles

Waldman wrote about the purging of Chinese scientists, even American born ones, from the NIH and other elite institutions.  The China Daily referred to the ongoing investigations and removals as “the new McCarthyism.”  Some publications suggested the round-ups have intensified with the current administration-that they are the result of “Trump inspired paranoia spreading across America.” 

See the link below to read the Taipei Times article for an update on what appears to be a growing concern. A statistic to keep in mind: 55% of America’s billion dollar startups have immigrant founders involved.

We are a land of immigration—always have been and always will be. We live in a period of continuous technological disruption across all major industries, so the United States cannot afford a brain drain.

The Coming Brain Drain?

But that is exactly what some argue may be coming. For example, Vikram J. Singh, who served in senior State Department positions, argues that the new Nationalist politics prevalent in America are leading to a transformative change: in what used to be commonplace for the best and brightest young minds from places like India and China to seek out advanced U.S. educations (and ultimately find permanent employment and residency—to citizenship) could now be a trend building where this talent may seek study opportunity and ultimately employment and entrepreneurial endeavors in places such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and even the European Union.

In fact, Singh points out that from 2016 to 2018, international applications to U.S. universities has declined. Alternatively, Canada experienced an increase of international graduate enrollment by 16.4%. Since 2014, Indian students have sought out Canada, growing the number of applications for graduate school by 350%.

The American Management Association warns us of an alarming “reverse brain drain” and they declare that “America’s technological and scientific preeminence and its economic strength will be in jeopardy.”


The threat of espionage, we believe at TrialSite News, is real. But so could a fear-driven, over-reaction also manifest into undesired consequences. When it comes to threatening the American position of dynamic vitality— a nexus of global entrepreneurial innovation and experimentation—institutions and organizations should implement well-thought-out, rational and balanced security policies that ensure security and vitality. If we sacrifice vitality and dynamism for security, we won’t have either.