Technology war can spur talent flow from US to China

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2019/7/14 19:53:40

Chinese telecom giant Huawei is planning extensive layoffs at its US operations, the Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend. But don't worry - Chinese-American researchers are welcome to come to China and work for domestic technology companies.

Chinese-American scientists are increasingly being caught up in the US crackdown on Chinese-origin researchers wrongly accused of theft of US intellectual property, becoming collateral damage as a result of turbulent relations between Beijing and Washington. Scientists of Asian descent have made tremendous contributions to US scientific progress, but now more Chinese-American scientists think they are being treated as second-class citizens. 

It's the best time for China to attract those scientists to work in China. The US government is unlikely to end a reported crackdown on Chinese researchers immediately. This will buy time for China to take urgent steps to attract top-ranking talent employed by US technology companies and academic institutions.

One option for China is to draft a list of top-ranking Chinese-born scientists who it deems valuable and crucial for the nation's rise in the scientific world. The advantage of socialism with Chinese characteristics is that China can concentrate resources on some scientific research teams led by scientists on the list if they come to work in China. The country's total spending on research and development (R&D) rose 11.6 percent last year to 1.97 trillion yuan ($286 billion), according to the National Bureau of Statistics. China is fully capable of offering better support for those scientists' research projects.

The central and local governments in China, state-owned enterprises, universities and technology companies need to make plans to provide Chinese-American scientists with as much support as possible to lure them to China amid a technology contest with the US.

Chinese technology companies including Huawei have invested heavily in staff development. Huawei's reported layoffs are expected to affect experts at its US-based R&D subsidiary, leading to an unequivocal brain drain for the company itself. But Huawei's sustained development still requires a huge number of mathematicians, physicists, engineers and other experts. Huawei's investment migration is likely to result in a flow of talent from the US to China. Beijing can support that effort, which can minimize Huawei's losses amid a technology war with the US.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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