China Has Recruited Over 150 Scientists From US National Security Laboratory

Over the last 20 years, China has made a concerted effort to recruit back Chinese scientists who immigrated to the U.S. to work at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

According to a report by Strider Technologies, a technology and intelligence solutions company, China’s “talent programs” were successful in convincing at least 154 Chinese scientists who worked at Los Alamos to return to China. In some cases, the scientists were paid as much as $1 million.

The Strider report details that the scientists who returned to China helped them improve an array of technologies, including hypersonic missiles, quiet submarines, drones, and deep-earth-penetrating warheads.

The report calls China’s efforts to claw back the Chinese scientists a significant threat to U.S. national security, though there is no indication that the incidents described in the report are illegal. In 2020, a former Los Alamos scientist did, however, plead guilty to misrepresenting his role in a Chinese talent recruitment program.

“China is playing a game that we are not prepared for, and we need to really begin to mobilize,” wrote Greg Levesque, lead author of the report.

FBI Director Christopher Wray spoke about the threat posed by the Chinese talent programs during a speech in 2020.

“Through talent recruitment programs like the Thousand Talents, China pays scientists at American universities to secretly bring our knowledge and innovation back to China — including valuable, federally funded research,” said Wray. “To put it bluntly, this means American taxpayers are effectively footing the bill for China’s own technological development.”

The Energy Department, which oversees activities at the lab in Los Alamos, stated that they have been taking a number of steps to address the outflow of Chinese scientists.

“In response to growing research security threats, the Department of Energy has taken significant steps in recent years, including the adoption of rigorous vetting, counterintelligence reviews, and restrictions on participation in foreign talent programs,” the agency said in a statement to the press. “The Department of Energy also implements procedures to ensure compliance with U.S. export licensing requirements, including those governing the release of controlled technology to foreign nationals in the United States.”

Scientists in Los Alamos developed the atomic bomb during World War II, and since then, the lab has continued to be a pillar of U.S. national security through advancements in the fields of science and engineering.