CANBERRA—A new report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) shows how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been using illegal and underhanded methods to obtain research and technology from around the globe in its quest to become the worlds preeminent military power.
Official statistics show China recruited around 60,000 overseas scientists, academics, entrepreneurs and researchers between 2008 and 2016 using more than 200 overseas talent recruitment programs and at least 600 CCP overseas talent-recruitment stations, noted Alex Joske, the author of the ASPI report, Hunting the Phoenix.
The report explains how the CCP under the guise of reversing Chinas brain-drain recruited thousands of overseas scientists, including western academics and entrepreneurs in overseas talent recruitment programs such as the Thousand Talents Plan.
“The CCP views technological development as fundamental to its ambitions. Its goal isnt to achieve parity with other countries, but dominance and primacy,” Joske wrote.
ASPI singled out the United States as having the highest number of CCP talent-recruitment stations—146 of them. Australia and Germany have the second-highest number of CCP talent-recruitment stations, with the two countries having 57 stations each.
The organisations running recruitment stations can receive as much as ¥200,000 (A$40,000) for each person they recruit, and as much as ¥150,000 (A$30,000) a year for general operation costs, the report stated.
Many recruits are given bountiful research funding and even new laboratories in a Chinese university and team of research staff.
Under the terms of the programs contract, the Chinese government owns the copyright of any research, inventions, patents or other intellectual properties produced by the academic for the duration of the agreement.
“The CCP treats talent recruitment as a form of technology transfer,” Joske stated in the report, noting that participants in the programs often collaborate on dual-use technologies with Chinese institutions that are closely linked to the CCP-led military Peoples Liberation Army (PLA).
According to Joske, China views the talent-recruitment schemes like the Thousand Talents Program as the answer to its push to dominate future technologies and revive its military.
“The deepening of military-civil fusion (a CCP policy of leveraging the civilian sector to maximize military power) means that Chinas research institutes and universities are increasingly involved in classified defence research, including the development of nuclear weapons,” the report said.
Clive Hamilton, an author and professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University in Canberra, Australia, noted last year in The Conversation that several G8 universities including the University of New South Wales, University of Technology Sydney, and the Australian National University, have had multiple scholars and joint programs with civil-military organizations.
Of concern to both Joske and Hamilton has been the engagements with Chinese state-owned defence conglomerate China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC) which specializes in developing military electronics, drone swarms and radar system.
A report by the Jamestown Foundation, notes that CETC openly declares that its purpose is “leveraging civilian electronics for the gain of the PLA (Peoples Liberation Army) and a majority of its products and services are destined for state and military customers.”
Currently, the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) has signed a $10 million partnership with the CETC to develop AI, Quantum Computing and Big Data technologies.
Joske also details in his report how one Australian university scientist set up a laboratory and an artificial intelligence (AI) company in China through funding from a CCP talent-recruitment station. The company later supplied surveillance technology to CCP authorities in Xinjiang.