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Does China Threaten—Students, Researchers, Scientists—Working or Studying in the U.S. to Bring Back IP or Their Families Are Put in Jeopardy?

On June 17th, U.S. Senator Mark Warner (the Vice-Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee) addressed the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C. on the topic of homeland security and counterterrorism, and said the following in regards to foreign Chinese students in the U.S.:

“If your son or daughter does not come back with intellectual property, you[r], family, will be put in jeopardy.”

I’ve written about China’s Thousand Talents programs and how Chinese nationals are rewarded if they return to China with what they’ve learned and sometimes stolen from the West. I have cited a number of active and adjudicated trade secrets thefts cases in U.S. Courts that allege China’s Thousand Talents program has encouraged many of the defendants to steal.


Here is Senator Warner’s extended reply to the following question:

Q: As you know, in many of our major research universities we have large numbers of international students, particularly China. And they are involved in some of this cutting-edge research that gets transferred.

What do you think should be our perspectives or how should we think about this continued interaction at our very best research universities, and the students go back home?

WARNER: This is a[n] extraordinarily important question. There are 360,000 [foreign] Chinese students studying in America—literally, one out of every three. That’s almost double the second nation, [which] is I think India at about 186,000.

And all those students are paying a hundred cents on the dollar tuition. So in many of these universities, this is a revenue source that the university has become addicted to. Two things that the intelligence community was willing to—has declassified recently. We are currently losing $400-500 billion worth of intellectual property each year.

That sucking sound, to China. That’s an enormous, enormous loss.

…the overwhelming majority of counterintelligence cases in our country right now involve Chinese nationals.

So how we think about this in a way that doesn’t impugn the integrity of all these Chinese students but recognizes the factual basis of what is happening in real-time on our college campuses right now is a hard issue.

Three things have changed in the last five years around Chinese students.

One, I would argue that, you know, five years ago, eight years ago, 10 years ago most Chinese students, same as the Indian students, and the Brazilian students, and the Ethiopian students, they wanted to come here and study. And the vast majority wanted to then stay. 

Three things have changed since then.

One, I would argue that America in 2019 under this administration is not as immigrant friendly.

Second, China’s economy is roaring and is a lot more attractive to go back to.

*But the third factor that is taking place, that is different, is that the Chinese spy services are literally threatening Chinese families to say: If your son or daughter does not come back, and come back with intellectual property, you[r] family, will be put in jeopardy.

So how we sort this through, one of the things most colleges and universities have started to do, is they’ve started to remove some of the Confucius Institutes that are nothing but agents of Chinese services to spy on your Chinese students and hold them accountable.

But I think this is something we’re going to have to keep working on, because if we don’t what I’m afraid of is that you may have some kind of draconian across-the-board cut that may not be good for our universities or the state of our research and, candidly, we don’t want – getting this down—our squabble is with Xi and the Communist Party of China and not the Chinese people, is something we have to be always sensitive to.

Q: Are you saying universities are now aware of this, and they’re acting on it, or?

WARNER: They are—they are—we have had—we have met with presidents and chancellors of virtually every major university in America. And this is much more on their radar screens today than it was 18 months ago.

Attached is the link to Senator Warner’s one-hour talk. (The above excerpt was made at 45:30.)


So, is it a stretch to imagine that China not only encourages these students and scientists and researchers to return with their spoils, but–if they do not–their families will encounter some problems?

I don’t think so.

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Ron Alvarez is an IP investigations and protection consultant and writer in New York City. He is a former NYPD lieutenant where he investigated robbery, narcotics, internal affairs, and fine art theft cases. Ron has since coordinated the private investigation of international fraud and money laundering cases, as well as IP-related investigations and research involving the four pillars of IP: copyright, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets. Ron is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and earned a B.A. in Government and Public Administration from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. He has written a number of articles for various investigative publications, as well as published "The World of Intellectual Property (IP) Protection and Investigations" in November 2021.

2 comments on “Does China Threaten—Students, Researchers, Scientists—Working or Studying in the U.S. to Bring Back IP or Their Families Are Put in Jeopardy?

  1. Pingback: Chinese State-Sponsored Espionage (a.k.a. IP Theft) Survey – IP PI BLOG

  2. Pingback: Chinese State-Sponsored Espionage (a.k.a. IP Theft) Survey – IP PROBE – Blog

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