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Chinese scientists in U.S. express fears of racial profiling

By Louis Chan, AsAmNews National Correspondent

Fears of racial profiling among Chinese scientists in the U.S. may be inhibiting scientific research and advancement in the country.

A new survey conducted of 1900 scientists of all nationalities and ethnicities across the United States found more than 9 out of 10 hold their counterparts in China in high regard.

Yet the same survey found more than 40% of Chinese scientists working in the United States feel they are racially profiled by the U.S. government.

Just about the same number say they have difficulty getting research dollars compared to just 14% of non-Chinese scientists.

27% of Asian scientists in the U.S. also feel they are racially profiled, according to the survey findings.

“Scientists expressed hesitancy that their interaction with China will be misconstrued,” said Jenny Lee of the University of Arizona College of Higher Education. Lee lead the study conducted in partnership with the Committee of 100, a Chinese American non-profit made up of 100 business and civic leaders.

The study found this perception leads to the limiting of cooperation between the two countries with even Chinese scientists in the U.S. fearful of working with their counterparts in China.

It could also mean that the Chinese scientist in the U.S. are more likely to leave the country with 42% saying the China Initiative will impact their decision on whether or not to stay in the U.S, resulting in a brain drain of talent.

Lee told AsAmNews during a phone interview that she suspects the China Initiative launched under the Trump Administration, but continued during the Biden Administration may be behind the findings.

61% of the scientist surveyed say they wanted to distance themselves from China due to the China Initiative, she pointed out.

“The broader public perception is that China is stealing and coming with malicious intent, but the data shows the US relies on China for its scientific productivity,” Lee said to AsAmNews. “That means US and China collaboration.”

She says scientists in the United States cooperate with scientists in China more than any in the world. The United States also welcomes more international students from China than any other country.

“I am deeply concerned about Chinese and Chinese American students,” said Marc Tessler-Lavigne, President of Stanford University. He said the “prevalence of accusations about individuals of Chinese and Asian descent” could have a “potential chilling effect on scholarship.” He urged the United States to “balance national security concerns with the ability to attract top talent from China.”

1,000 students and scholars from China currently attend Stanford.

Gary Locke, chair of the Committee of 100 and former US Ambassador to China says the suspicions of China create “an us versus them environment of hate.” He called the results “detrimental to all Americans.”

Zhengyu Huang President Committee of 100, said “global exchange is fundamental to continued excellence.”

“Researching while Chinese American” should not cast suspicion, he urged.

Pericles Lewis, President of Global Strategies at Yale University described the fear Chinese and Chinese American scientists feel as a “reasonable set of concerns that collaboration will come under suspicion.”

Biden has so far not given any indication that he will end the China Initiative.

“Before we had anecdotes. Now we have the data to show this is a national problem,” said Lee of the University of Arizona. “This is affecting the broader US scientific community. It’s affecting Chinese scientists who are completely innocent and non-Asians who are cooperating with China. We hope that will persuade the current administration that the China initiative is undermining US goals.

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