Strider Technologies has published a comprehensive review of China’s efforts to acquire American technology to advance China’s own interests. The Los Alamos Club review of how the People’s Republic of China recruited top scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory to advance its military programs is a deep dive into how China’s efforts have focused on nuclear secrets.
FSO is a must read
The most important point, from this author’s point of view, is that the report should be required reading for every FSO and those with access to classified information in the defense or intelligence community, as it details what on the surface looks like a benign Chinese effort. In reality, however, China has a systematic, well-organized effort focused on acquiring American ingenuity and know-how, allowing China to save on research and development costs and advance its own research efforts ahead of adversaries or potential adversaries.
Ever since the Chinese Academy of Sciences established China’s “863 Program” (March 1986), China has had a systematic program to acquire interesting advanced technologies and has used a nationwide approach to obtain desired information. The programs range from completely secret, where sources are officially enlisted by the Ministry of State Security or the People’s Liberation Army to provide desired technology (See attack on General Electric by MSS and conviction of MSS officer for economic espionage) to the creation of one- from commercial arrangements between individuals, who possess the know-how, and Chinese organizations, the most frequently used vehicle with members of academia.
In addition, the long-held notion that China only targets members of the Chinese diaspora should be discarded. Although Strider’s report lists 162 Chinese scientists who worked at Los Alamos and returned to the PRC to support a number of Chinese domestic research and development programs, including many who participated in China’s Thousand Talents Program. China’s efforts are not limited to ethnic Chinese or Chinese nationals (see more information below).
China targets those with access to information of interest to China. China then decides who is the target.
You cannot refuse. However, you should be prepared if you have the opportunity to respond to an unsolicited approach asking you to share your knowledge with China.
Not necessarily espionage
The FBI has often considered China’s attempts to acquire American technology to be tantamount to espionage. Indeed, over the years, FBI Director Christopher Wray has repeatedly mentioned that China’s theft of intellectual property is the number one counterintelligence threat facing the US today. However, and as any counterintelligence operation will attest, it is much more difficult to prove espionage to conviction than to be aware of espionage or illegal acquisition of information and to neutralize the effort.
In the Thousand Talents program, as the report and our previous publications have pointed out, many (but not all) participants were actually cheated when they received research funding, and those who did not file a declaration with a US funding agency (such as the Department of Energy), that they also had dealings with Chinese entities, often violated regulations by their sins of omission.
The FBI’s massive approach to their “China Initiative” has led many to accuse the organization of xenophobia, as noted in a letter sent to Attorney General Garland in September 2021 signed by 177 Stanford University professors, which states: “The China Initiative has deviated significantly from its stated mission : it harms the research and technological competitiveness of the United States and fuels prejudice, which in turn raises concerns about racial profiling.”
Not only nuclear technologies
Readers should be warned when reading this report that China’s talent acquisition strategy, which Clearance Jobs has written about many times, is not limited to the Department of Energy and the Los Alamos National Laboratory nuclear program. Indeed, the Thousand Talents program targets other elements of the US government and academia, including other organizations within the DOE, the National Institutes of Health, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Harvard, Ohio State, Emory, Duke, Stanford and many other subjects.
Strider’s call to action
We asked Strider co-founder and CEO Greg Levesque why we focused on Los Alamos, and he shared, “We focused on Los Alamos because it is the crown jewel of America’s laboratory system and is critical to our national security. The tactics used by foreign governments to obtain information and our technologies have evolved over decades, and our counterintelligence efforts must adapt accordingly. The report’s findings raise the question: If this is happening at Los Alamos, what is happening at other labs?
The bottom line, as detailed in this report and in Levesque’s commentary, is that China is stripping the United States of its intellectual property. In the final report, Strider notes, “government-funded laboratories, research institutions, and private enterprises could do more to identify potential risks of counterintelligence and intellectual property theft by individuals whose talent the PRC seeks to exploit in its race for science and technology. dominance Moreover, it is an urgent national security imperative for like-minded countries to work together to protect their innovation hubs and compete with China in attracting, retaining and protecting top talent.”
For more information on the Thousand Talents program and China’s efforts to acquire intellectual property:
September 2021 – Is China’s Ministry of Justice Initiative Really Uncovering Espionage Cases?
January 2021 – NASA scientist pleads guilty, exposing more spying by China’s Thousand Talents program
July 2020 – A Chinese scholar of the Thousand Talents Program was arrested on the run
May 2020 – China’s 1,000 Talents program continues to harvest US knowledge
February 2019 – FBI Director: China is using American higher education against the US