When officials at the Texas A&M University System sought to determine how much Chinese government funding its faculty members were receiving, they were astounded at the results—more than 100 were involved with a Chinese talent-recruitment program, even though only five had disclosed their participation.
A plant pathologist at the Texas system, where the median annual salary for such scientists employed by the state is around $130,000, told officials that the researcher had been offered $250,000 in compensation and more than $1 million in seed money to start a lab in China through one of the talent programs. The researcher ultimately rejected the offer, according to the Texas system’s chief research security officer, Kevin Gamache, who led the recent 18-month review that has garnered praise from U.S. officials.
The arrest of a leading Harvard University scientist this week for allegedly concealing more than $2 million in Chinese backing underscored how serious Beijing is about attracting top talent.
Such funding is just the tip of the iceberg, by China’s own account. A decade ago the Chinese government pledged to spend what would amount to more than $2 trillion today to reverse a longstanding brain drain to the developed world in a quest to dominate the technologies of the future.
All of the targeted researchers in the Texas A&M system are working in fields identified by Beijing as priorities for scientific advancement, said Mr. Gamache. “We don’t see the same offers for English majors.”