HomeCampusChinese scientists leaving the U.S. as many feel unwelcomed

Chinese scientists leaving the U.S. as many feel unwelcomed

The number of Chinese scientists leaving the United States has increased at a rapid pace for more than a decade, new research has found.

The study by PNAS, a peer-reviewed journal of the National Academy of Sciences, found what it called “widespread fear among scientists of Chinese descent in the United States arising from conducting routine research and academic activities.”

A breakdown of that study by Chemistry World revealed nearly 20,000 Chinese scientists who began their careers in the United States have left for other countries, including China.

The number of departures increased from 900 in 2010 to 2621 in 2021. The rate of researchers leaving increased by 75% since 2018, the year then-President Trump launched the China Initiative, an initiative intended to root out economic espionage from China but resulted in a number of false prosecutions, ruined lives and the vast majority of cases being dropped.

The Brennan Center says out of more than 2,000 investigations under the China Initiative, only 77 resulted in criminal charges over three years.

Graphic shows 35% of 1304 Chinese scientists surveyed say they feel unwelcomed in the United States and 72% do not feel safe
PNAS graphic

35% of 1304 Chinese scientists surveyed say they feel unwelcomed in the United States and 72% do not feel safe. 42% admit to being fearful of conducting research.

Yet 88% say they intend to contribute to US science and tech leadership.

‘These findings reveal that the widespread fear of conducting routine research and academic activities among scientists of Chinese descent, and the significant risks of losing talent culminated in hesitancy to remain in the US and contributing to federal sponsored research in science and technology,’ says study co-author Xihong Lin, to Chemistry World. “Addressing the fears of scientists of Chinese origin and making the academic environment welcoming and attractive for all will help retain and attract scientific talent and strengthen the US leadership in science and technology in the long run.”

The Biden Administration ended Trump’s China Initiative in February of 2022, three years after it began.

A number of high profile prosecution ended up being dropped or ending in acquittals including Anming Hu of the University of Tennessee and Gang Chen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Civil rights groups blasted the China Initiative accusing it of resulting in racial profiling

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