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Why China is winning the weapons race America is driving away its talent

'The combination of physics and politics could render the surface of the earth uninhabitable.' Yu Haiyang/VCG via Getty Images

'The combination of physics and politics could render the surface of the earth uninhabitable.' Yu Haiyang/VCG via Getty Images


May 20, 2024   9 mins

In 1949, Chinese-born scientist Qian Xuesen (1911-2009) drew a diagram on a blackboard at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) that would change the course of military history. It showed the path of a projectile rising elliptically up into the atmosphere before gliding down and cruising along the outline of the globe.

His vision was fated to become reality. More than 70 years later, in October 2021, Western media outlets reported that the Chinese military had conducted two top-secret tests on a new kind of hypersonic weapon. Its flight closely resembled Qian’s sketch: an object was fired into near-Earth orbit, which then descended further before releasing a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) travelling at more than five times the speed of sound.

China denies this event had anything to do with the military. But Western experts believe it was a successful test of a fractional orbital bombardment system (FOBS) weapon with an HGV element — in other words, a rapid and stealthy means of delivering nuclear or conventional ballistic payloads. Such a weapon could alter America’s nuclear “calculus”, creating the possibility of a nuclear attack hitting the US before it has time to react.

When the US tried to test a similar weapon in October 2021, it failed. And since then, at least one more successful Chinese test has taken place. The knowledge that the Chinese military is most probably ahead on hypersonic weapon delivery technology has ignited debate in Washington defence circles.

It didn’t have to be this way. Qian came to America as a “Boxer Scholar”, on a scholarship granted to Chinese students to make amends for America’s invasion and looting of China during the Boxer Rebellion. His career as a top defence scientist began in the service of the United States. He served as one of the leading aeronautics experts in the American military during the Second World War and went on to become a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a co-founder of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He was described by his friend and supervisor, the Hungarian-American aerospace engineer Theodore von Kármán, as an “undisputed genius”.

But in 1950, Qian’s adopted home turned against him. A paranoid fog settled over America and Mao Zedong’s Communists, once supported in their fight against the fascist Japanese invader, came to be seen as ideological enemies. In the summer of 1950, Qian was visited by the FBI. Despite the fact he was married to the daughter of a prominent Chinese Nationalist, he was accused of socialising with American Communists. His classified security clearance was revoked, which forbade him from working on some of his most ambitious projects.

Qian felt suffocated “under a cloud of suspicion”. He told his senior colleagues and the FBI that “the only gentlemanly thing left to do is to depart”. His friends in the military and at Caltech begged him to stay and fought to get his clearance reinstated. But after tentatively delaying his departure to China, he was arrested. His luggage was seized for containing boxes marked “secret”. Yet his allies continued to praise his talents and loyalty; J. Robert Oppenheimer even tried to tempt him to Princeton to work on computing alongside the celebrated “Man from the Future”, John von Neumann.

Later that year, the American immigration service announced its intention to deport Qian, though the plan was foiled by the State Department, which was wary of sending military experts to the Chinese Communists. In the end, Qian was condemned to a half-life in America: he and his wife lived under constant surveillance, and although he was able to continue working, his activities were strictly curtailed.

For a man of such talent, who had been devoted to America and felt torn about leaving, this intellectual ostracism proved unbearable. In 1955, Qian smuggled a note to the Chinese Communist Party, pleading for their help to get him out of America. Later that year, President Eisenhower authorised Qian’s release as part of a high-stakes prisoner swap with China in Geneva. In return, America brought home a dozen or so pilots captured during the Korean War. Zhou Enlai, a towering figure in 20th-century Chinese politics, remarked: “We had won back Qian Xuesen. That alone made the talks worthwhile.”

America would come to regret hounding him out. On his return in September 1955, Qian instantly became one of China’s most influential military scientists. Within a year he had helped to establish the National Defence Ministry’s 5th Institute, of which he served as founding director. As the Chinese government now puts it, this “marked the beginning of China’s aerospace industry and missile development”. The 5th Institute has since morphed into China Aerospace Science & Technology Corporation, the main contractor for China’s space programme.

When Qian set up the Institute, China barely had the technology to build a decent car, let alone satellites and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The supply chain for basic materials, including rubber, aluminium and stainless steel, was poorly developed, and the techniques for conjuring advanced parts from them were unknown.

One of the first things Qian did was join a delegation to the USSR to ask for military assistance. Joseph Stalin coughed up around 10,000 volumes of technical guidance, 100 advisors and a dozen or so missiles for the Chinese to copy. But the circumstances of China’s research programmes remained primitive. In the first few years of the Institute’s life, thousands of scientists worked for Qian using the most basic tools and under challenging conditions. Many toiled shirtless in a vast hangar with no windows or air conditioning, operating mechanical calculators by hand. According to Iris Chang, author of the exquisite 1995 account of Qian’s work, The Thread of the Silkworm, the first rocket tested by the 5th Institute was filled with fuel using a bike pump.

“The first rocket tested by the 5th Institute was filled with fuel using a bike pump.”

In 1960, the Soviets withdrew their support. But under Qian’s leadership, China made extraordinary progress in developing its armoury. In 1966, China became the first country to test “a nuclear warhead mounted on a ballistic missile flying over populated areas”. It was incredibly risky, but it worked. An atomic bomb was delivered from Jiuquan in Gansu to its target in the Xinjiang desert atop a Dongfeng-2 missile developed by Qian’s 5th Institute.

As one protĂ©gĂ© put it, Qian was always “10 years ahead of time”. But once America realised his value, it was too late. Within a year of the Dongfeng-2 missile test, two American authors published The China Cloud: America’s Tragic Blunder and China’s Rise to Nuclear Power, in which they blamed China’s advances on the hysteria of McCarthyism, arguing that “without the intentional aid of United States authorities, China’s nuclear weapons and the rockets to carry them would not have been built until the late Seventies”. They also suggested that, had Qian been treated well, he might have stayed and become a leading figure in the American space programme.

This lesson mustn’t be lost on today’s cold warriors. Qian’s story — that of a brilliant and loyal scientist hounded out of America — is not unique. For all the talk of “China stealing US tech”, there is increasingly a risk that brilliant Chinese American scientists will be driven into the CCP’s arms. With science and technology more important than ever in the contest between the great powers, the US risks repeating old mistakes.

Consider the China Initiative, launched by the Trump administration in November 2018. Its stated goal was to stop the Chinese from stealing American technology and intellectual property. But it was ill-defined from the start: referring to both Chinese hacking of leading companies and to the only tangentially related charge of “Chinese propaganda disseminated on our campuses”. When it was shut down in 2022, officials noted that it was nothing more than a “grouping” of cases “under the China Initiative rubric”. “[This] helped give rise to a harmful perception that the department applies a lower standard to investigate and prosecute criminal conduct related to that country or that we in some way view people with racial, ethnic or familial ties to China differently.”

This wasn’t aided by the fact that the Initiative appeared to lack a competent, sensitive and indeed honest approach. In one case, the FBI admitted to falsifying evidence. In another, the prosecutors admitted to misunderstanding the funding disclosure rules a Chinese-origin scientists was alleged to have broken, and dropped the case. Most of the cases involved scientists, including white Americans, failing to disclose links to China in applications for American funding.

The Initiative left a deep impression on Chinese talent in America, and helped create an atmosphere of hostility that would have been familiar to Qian. One study suggests that significant portions of Chinese-descent American scientists feel unwelcome, unsafe and fearful of conducting research or applying for grants. The American scientific community is not happy about this: articles in science magazines and a growing body of evidence point to the damage it has done to America’s ability to attract and retain precious Chinese scientific talent.

It’s not just Republicans scaring off scholars. The liberal establishment’s insistence on affirmative action for black and Hispanic students has long resulted in discrimination against Asian Americans, who tend to outperform other ethnic groups academically. At Harvard, an internal study estimated that if admissions were based on academic performance alone, the proportion of Asian Americans would double to 43%. It’s a similar story at other Ivy League universities.  Some Chinese scientists considering raising a family in America look upon this discrimination and despair.

“There is much at stake in the battle for great minds.”

Is it any surprise then that America is losing Chinese talent? Now, more than ever, brilliant young Chinese scientists who have studied in the US seem to end up going back home. According to one report on Tsinghua University, by many accounts China’s finest, the number of graduates going to the US to continue their studies has plummeted — while the numbers going to Singapore and the UK have risen and remained stable respectively. One study focusing on leading researchers in the field of artificial intelligence concludes that America still receives a net benefit from the Chinese brain drain — but much less so than a few years ago.

Meanwhile, China has gone to great lengths to grow its pool of top scientists. A focus on investment into education, on sponsoring study abroad, on promoting Chinese traditions that encourage intensive schooling, and on providing grants, materiel, sponsorship and prestige to mature scientists via the “Thousand Talents” programme and others like it have paid off. According to one report, analysing the top 10% most highly cited research publications from the past five years in 44 key technology areas, China’s institutions and their scientists are leading the world in 37 of 44 key technology areas such as batteries, synthetic biology, 6G, quantum sensing, and drone swarms. By 2050, according to one estimate, the highly-able STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) workforce in China could be 10 times larger than in the US and comparable with or larger than the rest of the world combined.

In this context, America’s efforts to limit Chinese companies’ access to high-tech chips have proved futile. Last October, the launch of a new Huawei phone shocked Washington because it contained a chip of a quality that US sanctions were supposed to have rendered unattainable. Starved of American chips, Huawei has had to innovate or perish. It has innovated.

What Washington failed to realise is that Chinese technology theft is no longer the only problem. IP heists have been crucial to China’s rise. But now, the greatest “threat” comes not from copycats but innovators. Washington, however, continues to respond in a way that might have been effective 20 years ago — but may have undesired consequences today. The paradigm of “China stealing our technology” is not a full reflection of the reality; Chinese scientists, working in China and elsewhere, are already among the world’s finest.

All is not lost. Plenty of Chinese scientists still wish to escape Xi Jinping’s oppressive regime and its spiralling nationalism. As the tale of Qian Xuesen shows, there is much at stake in the battle for great minds. For one thing, we should all fear the prospect of great technological might in the hands of a tyrant. Even Nikita Khrushchev wrote of his horror at Chairman Mao making light of nuclear holocaust at a 1957 meeting of Communist leaders in Moscow: “We may lose more than 300 million people. So what? War is war. The years will pass, and we’ll get to work producing more babies than ever before.”

The madness of Mao touched Qian’s life too. These were the days of China’s blossoming missile programme, but also of an evangelical Communist-religious fervour and the Great Leap Forward. By some accounts, Qian took part in Mao’s campaign against flies, rats, sparrows and mosquitos, and was spotted kneeling in an alley near the Institute of Mechanics in Beijing, smashing fly larvae with a spade or screaming and waving a bamboo cane around in order to scare away sparrows. In 1958, he published a series of sermon-like articles in the People’s Daily extolling Maoist themes: “For our scientists — the leaders of the scientific ranks — their responsibility is great. They must be able to mobilise the masses and rely on the masses. But if they are to be able to do this, they must not only resolve to be red, they have to really be red, red all the way through.”

Qian’s writings would become even more disturbing: one article claimed that since the only hard limit on the agricultural productivity of a field is the availability of energy via sunlight, China could boost its food production twentyfold at least. In the eyes of some of his peers, this served as inspiration and justification for Mao’s plan to merge peasant collectives into huge bureaucratic farming units. This programme — combined with an insane initiative to force everyone, Qian and his colleagues included, into operating steel furnaces — led to a famine that killed tens of millions of people.

For a brilliant man to engage in such nonsense is baffling. For a man leading a WMD programme to engage in such nonsense is terrifying. As Qian’s would-be colleague John von Neumann put it: “The combination of physics and politics could render the surface of the earth uninhabitable.” In the era of Chairman Xi, Donald Trump and Taiwan, these are words worth remembering.

***

The views expressed here are personal, not those of UKCT.


Sam Dunning is a writer and researcher who serves as director of UK-China Transparency, a volunteer-run charity that promotes education about ties between the UK and China.

 

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Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
1 month ago

We in the US have found fully staffed satellite offices of PRC police forces operating in NYC. We’ve found young adults with ties to the PRC using student visas to engage in corporate and military espionage, and we’ve seen brazen instances of academics, activists, and “nonprofit” advocacy groups engage in very suspicious activities.
The Chinese government’s behavior during and after COVID, which their labs almost certainly created, was abysmal. Their manipulation of the World Health Organization, their blatant dishonesty about dangerous research at Wuhan’s virology labs,, and their totalitarian response towards their own citizens was inexcusable, as is their treatment of Uighurs, and their treatment of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Tibet.
Yes, of course we should encourage talented foreigners to come and work in the US. Of course affirmative action is despicable, and clearly discriminatory towards Asians and whites both. Of course there were some excesses during the Cold War decades ago.
It’s also true that the governments of China and Russia both have been in general hostile to the West, to free market capitalism, to constitutional democracy, and to the United States.
We need to be far more clear eyed about intelligence and military threats that arise in a post-global world. Particularly from nations that are largely opposed to our way of life.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 month ago

I agree with this but we should not conflate everybody who is Chinese with a fanatical adherent of the CCP. The US is not currently fighting very cleverly on this front (or, you might say, almost any other).

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Interesting how this comes out on the same day I read that the numbers of Chinese nationals walking across the open US/Mexico border is a surprisingly high number.
Given the WW3 rhetoric the west has managed to stoke up in Moscow and Peking, perhaps the Chinese are already invading?
The West is ruled by morons, and it isn’t going to end well if it isn’t stopped VERY soon. I mean, how can anyone accept a US President being excused of charges re classified documents, while his opponent is prosecuted ALL because said US President is admitted to be senile. WW3 without a vote thanks to Western Moronic leaders?

Perhaps we are ruled by alien lizard people, they certainly don’t appear to be intelligent humans.

John Galt Was Correct
John Galt Was Correct
1 month ago

I’m not entirely sure that the US is blameless when it comes to covid or funding research in those same labs in Wuhan.

P Branagan
P Branagan
1 month ago

Mr Vanburner, anyone with even the most basic moral compass could but oppose your way of life – which is, at heart, psychopathic and racist.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
1 month ago
Reply to  P Branagan

You must be a scientific genius, able to point your moral compass towards magnetic south by utilising some hitherto unknown force of nature.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 month ago

The Chinese government’s behavior during and after COVID, which their labs almost certainly created, was abysmal. 
As abysmal as the behavior of our govt, which funded the gain of function research into the virus and which vehemently attacked anyone who suggested that the Wuhan lab was the source of the outbreak.
China is not opposed to our way of life; its economy is dependent on it. Neither is Russia. Parts of the Islamic world are a different story though it’s hard to tell from all the people who sound much like the clerics with their ‘death to America’ chants.

G M
G M
1 month ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

“China is not opposed to our way of life”

China is definitely opposed to our way of life.

Goodbye freedom, democracy and free speech if Chinas takes over or has too much influence.

A D Kent
A D Kent
1 month ago

It is the West’s ‘free market capitalism’ that has handed the Chinese the advantage though. How do you on-shore all this now without a massive Government led programme to do so? (IMHO it’s way too late for that now – the PRC’s advantage is so massive it’ll take generations).

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Nonsense.
The PRC has no advantage.

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
1 month ago
Reply to  A D Kent

It is true that one of our senior health officials, along with a large cadre of scientists, academics, and others, helped China’s labs create COVID (probably). However, this really just demonstrates how thoroughly the PRC has compromised some of our institutions.
It is also true that many Chinese dislike their own government, and that many prefer their lives here. Chinese Americans are perfectly capable of being loyal Americans, and we do rely on skilled immigrants in our economy. (As a former actuary, many of my teammates were Han Chinese. They also found China authoritarian, dreary, and built on brainwashing, and prefer life here.)
Our trade policies were a bit naive, as well. To give away one’s industrial base is tantamount to giving up one’s military, and this of course should be seen as a caveat to be included before trade negotiations begin.
Rapid and effective re-shoring and on-shoring is already underway. For some sectors, it will be time consuming and costly, but well worth the effort.

philip kern
philip kern
1 month ago

The US can’t make a tv. Can they still make a semiconductor?

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago
Reply to  philip kern

Yes. They still make plenty.
There are many world leading semiconductor design and manufacturing companies – Texas Instruments, Intel, Analog Devices, … it’s a long list.
And yes, the Us can make a TV. It’s really not difficult. Which is why they don’t need to. There’s no comparative advantage to them in doing so.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 month ago

Yes, this author seems to ignore that fact. He also ignores how the CCP can, and has, threatened the families of students who study in the US to recruit these students as agents. This is how the spy game is played. It’s ugly and unpalatable to a free society such as ours, but the only alternative is to let the enemy take the field unopposed.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 month ago

Sounds as if the Americans were right to remove Qian from sensitive works judging by his seemingly fanatical adherence to the CCP doctrines once he managed to get himself back to China.
All these articles that criticise the Americans for pushing back against the Chinese I find rather perplexing. The Chinese have been stealing IP for a long time (as well as using vast government subsidies to undercut western industry) yet when the US (belatedly) creates policy to try and stop it happening suddenly they’re portrayed as being in the wrong?

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 month ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

The reaction is often not so much “wrong” but often completely ineffective and indeed counterproductive, as this case demonstrates.

The conflation of a very large population of Chinese origin population in the world with fanatical adherents of the CCP is a huge geostrategic and indeed ideological error opposed to the very basis of our own supposed values.

Most people are pragmatists and not ideologues. Others do convert, perhaps over time. If one side is courting, and another side harassing you, that might play a big role in your views. (Despite even then being quite the little atheist I used to join in singing the school hymns! I wasn’t forced to). Of course Qian changed his ideological tune after he got back to China, not least because it was very much in his interests to do so.

I had better not have any meals in Chinatown ever again!

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
1 month ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

His behaviour gives one such great faith in ‘Experts’ 😉

A D Kent
A D Kent
1 month ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Sure the Chinese have stolen IP, but it getting them to do all the making plays just as big a role here. That’s were technicians are trained, that’s where engineers make the incremental changes that make these wild ideas feasible and usable. There’s simply no way the West can replicate the Chinese infrastructure now even if there was the politica will to do so.

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Again, yet more nonsense.
Check how quickly the US was able to ramp up military production in WWII. Things like the Liberty ships, to name just one.
I’m not sure you understand quite what an engineer actually is and does and how this is different from a mechanic or technician (some of us are actual engineers and do). The US has the best engineers in the world. That’s why Asian and Middle Eastern engineers (and plenty of Europeans) continue to choose to move there.

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

Countries such as India and China often conflate the definitions of “engineer” with “mechanic” or “technician” as well.
Both countries do produce skilled, professional engineers. But they produce far more mechanics and technicians, and many of their engineers come here as soon as their visas allow.
America has a patent system and a capital market, both relatively well governed, that incentivize innovation. China doesn’t. America is also far from conformist, and rewards measured risk taking.

Andrew Holmes
Andrew Holmes
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

The US’s rapid switch to production of war material in WWII was possible because it had a hugely productive industrial plant that went from civilian to military items. That industrial plant no longer exists. Re-shoring it is much more difficult than switching to military production.

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Holmes

These are all solved and solvable problems.
The one thing we’re sadly not short of in the West these days is difficulty stating and people claiming that things are “too difficult” and “impossible” when we know they are neither. I hear exactly the same sort of nonsense about how we “can’t” build new reservoirs in the UK.

A D Kent
A D Kent
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

Re your Liberty ship example (an excellent British design btw) – back in the 40s the US had shipyards already teaming with skilled workers. Where are they now specifically? How long does one take to train? Have you been monitoring the progress of the Litorral Combat ships & Zumwaldt destroyers? Check these out for just some of the problems the US will face in just the marine aspect of this arms race now.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 month ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

The CCP’s reach is quite long. They have plenty of shills. Further, they’re aided and abetted by globalist holdouts who have managed to stave off populist uprisings just long enough to see geopolitical conflict remove the issue from the table entirely. I don’t know which this author is, but it doesn’t matter really. As Cold War II really sinks in and becomes a political and social fact that everyone accepts, people like this author will find it increasingly difficult to find a platform. What they do at that point I can’t bring myself to care.

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
1 month ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Yes, the line ‘His luggage was seized for containing boxes marked “secret”’ is ignored when making the argument that he was loyal.

Dylan Blackhurst
Dylan Blackhurst
1 month ago

The weapons race goes on as it always does. Whether it’s the US, the Russians or the Chinese there’s always one that thinks they have the edge.
It’s worth remembering that we spent the entire Cold War era terrified of the USSR’s supposed wonder weapons only to find out that a lot of them didn’t exist or weren’t very good in any practical sense.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
1 month ago

Curiously I’ve spent the last 2 or so years reading how the Russian Army had been eliminated in the Ukraine, the Russian economy was on its knees, Western Armour was going to allow the Ukrainian Army to roll over what remained of the Russians and recapture Crimea, and the Ukraine killed 100 Russians for every Ukrainian casualty. That’s a hell of a lot of Russians since I discover the Ukraine needs another 500,000 man Army, and Western tanks either end up in Moscow on show, or get hauled out of the line for a fault that can’t be fixed except by the makers, and Russia has made a few sorties and taken more land in them than the whole of the Ukraine’s summer offensive. I also discover the Russians have possibly 100,000+ of the relative cheap, horrifyingly effective glide bombs that are admitted to be capable of destroying even deep Ukrainian defensive bunkers, and Russia is producing shells at a rate allowing more than 10 – 1 firing ratio in favour of their artillery.
One wonders IF there is anything one reads in the Western MSM that can be trusted any more than the CCP or Putin propagandists churn out.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 month ago

The difference, though, is that the USSR were much weaker in terms of advanced manufacturing technologies and pure economic strength.
In contrast, China actually outstrips the West in manufacturing terms and can match the US in terms of defense spending.

Also, the USSR never has the same kind of direct access to Western technology, you never had Soviet scientists working in US universities and R&D labs on such large numbers.

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago

I really don’t know why people assume that the Chinese have more advanced military technology than the US. Smart countries keep their very latest and greatest military technology secret and don’t go round bragging about it. And for very good reasons.
Weak countries on the other hand do go round sounding off about their latest wonder weapons. As Russia did. And now we know just how poor those actually are.
It is not clear that the author has any actual military or technology expertise beyond the ability to recycle press reports.

Michael Layman
Michael Layman
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

You are exactly right by pointing out that the latest military technology is secret and unknown to the general populace. One can assume that the US military far outstrips the Chinese and always will. China and Russia are threats only to the extent to facilitate more defense spending.

Katalin Kish
Katalin Kish
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

Smart countries watch who they share those military secrets / technology with also.

Australia’s bikers brag about their government security clearances on social media, openly self-identify as drug traffickers – under their own full names even on LinkedIn. Australia never had functional law-enforcement. People find this out the hard way, like I did. Australia faked its way into AUKUS, Five Eyes, etc.

Bikers have been wielding government-grade tech since 2009, military-grade tech since at least 2019 as they terrorise crime witnesses in the witnesses’ own homes. My last forced war-crime experience about 16 hours ago in a Melbourne suburb of million $ homes, where I have owned my home since 2001 – in Clare O’Neil’s electorate! O’Neil is Australia’s Minister for Cyber Security & Home Affairs. She ignored my pleas for help in 2015.

I never even dated the stalker ex-coworker aided in his crimes by Victoria Police, our sole law-enforcement entity without duty of care or accountability, while having a monopoly on what is a crime.

I became a crime-tech-demo-dummy, because I tried to report crimes punishable by 10 years in jail as a public servant witness (Business Analyst, Victorian Electoral Commission 2009-2012) to these crimes.

See my ‘contactless extortion’ article for a sample of military-grade tech in Australia’s organised crime arsenals. Remove spaces from the URL:

https:// www. linkedin.com/ pulse/contactless-extortion-australia-katalin-kish-upqyc/

Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
1 month ago

Hitler would have developed a nuclear weapon in about 1942 had he not harboured a pathological hatred for Jews.

Those who don’t learn from the mistakes of history are destined to repeat them.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago

“For a brilliant man to engage in such nonsense is baffling.”

Never underestimate the effect of fear on those unlucky enough to live under totalitarianism. I make this point more for the benefit of westerners than anyone else, seemingly intent as we are upon the destruction of the institutions of liberty that have protected us all this far in modern times.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

I’m skeptical about much of this piece.
First, I doubt the presupposition of the title, that China is winning the weapons race. The author only cites the FOBS/HGV combination. As for HGV, at least, one line is that the U.S. is not actually behind. The LRHW seems to be already in service (?), and the HACM is in the hopper. Also, current Chinese and Russian hypersonics are said to be too inaccurate to constitute “game-chanters.” But I am not an expert. At any rate: this is only one area, the area in which China seems to have perhaps its greatest advantage…which may be no advantage. From this one case, we certainly cannot infer a general Chinese advantage.
Second, it sounds as if Qian might reasonably have been the object of suspicion–going on only on the information provided here.
Third, we now know that the Red Scare was not unjustified. The Venona Decrypts show that the U.S. government was, indeed, rife with communist assets. Maybe McCarthy was paranoid, but he was basically right.
Fourth, I’m skeptical about this paragraph:

Consider the China Initiative, launched by the Trump administration in November 2018. Its stated goal was to stop the Chinese from stealing American technology and intellectual property. But it was ill-defined from the start: referring to both Chinese hacking of leading companies and to the only tangentially related charge of “Chinese propaganda disseminated on our campuses”. When it was shut down in 2022, officials noted that it was nothing more than a “grouping” of cases “under the China Initiative rubric”. “[This] helped give rise to a harmful perception that the department applies a lower standard to investigate and prosecute criminal conduct related to that country or that we in some way view people with racial, ethnic or familial ties to China differently.”

For starters: oh no! Trump! But more to the point: both Chinese hacking and disseminating propaganda on U.S. campuses (e.g. via deceptive “Confucious Institutes” are real problems. I don’t see why grouping them together is a major problem. Also, “applying a lower standard” to investigate someone with “racial, ethnic or family ties” to China is not clearly irrational.
Fifth, there’s:

What Washington failed to realise is that Chinese technology theft is no longer the only problem. IP heists have been crucial to China’s rise. But now, the greatest “threat” comes not from copycats but innovators. Washington, however, continues to respond in a way that might have been effective 20 years ago — but may have undesired consequences today. The paradigm of “China stealing our technology” is not a full reflection of the reality; …

Does the U.S. really think this is the only problem? This “paradigm” may concern only part of the problem–but it is a part (and a big part) of the problem. So it must be addressed.
Sixth, it may be worth considering the case of Su Bin, who stole American stealth secrets and gave them to the Chinese:
The man who stole America’s stealth fighter secrets for China | Sandboxx
And, finally, re: the final sentence: Oh no! Trump!

Point of Information
Point of Information
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

“Also, “applying a lower standard” to investigate someone with “racial, ethnic or family ties” to China is not clearly irrational.”

To apply a lower standard to investigate someone with only racial or ethnic ties to China – but no living family or other close connections therein – is irrational because it relies on the assumption of irrationality in the suspect, ie. that he would favour working with China on the basis of his race/ethnicity without any other ties, and especially if hid family/friends are not in China, not to mention his own political preferences.

To apply a lower standard to investigate someone whose family (or close friends) are in China is, however, rational, because that family (friend) can be threatened and used as leverage, as appears to have happened in some cases.

General Store
General Store
1 month ago

We’ll be fine. The Chinese don’t have pronouns or white supremacy

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
1 month ago
Reply to  General Store

They also produce much of what the US/West needs to manufacture if not the all the weapons we design, then much of the delivery/quidance systems for the warheads. 🙂

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago
Reply to  Bill Bailey

Please provide some evidence for that claim.
It seems highly unlikely that Chinese made sub-systems would meet US military specifications and procurement rules. Western defence companies have to pay very close attention to sourcing security, quality, reliability and whether suppliers are approved (speaking from some experience here).
So I’d be very interested to hear your facts here.

William Knorpp
William Knorpp
1 month ago

I’m skeptical about much of this piece.
First, I doubt the presupposition of the title, that China is winning the weapons race. The author only cites the FOBS/HGV combination. As for HGV, at least, one line is that the U.S. is not actually behind. The LRHW seems to be already in service (?), and the HACM is in the hopper. Also, current Chinese and Russian hypersonics are said to be too inaccurate to constitute “game-chanters.” But I am not an expert. At any rate: this is only one area, the area in which China seems to have perhaps its greatest advantage…which may be no advantage. From this one case, we certainly cannot infer a general Chinese advantage.
Second, it sounds as if Qian might reasonably have been the object of suspicion–going on only on the information provided here.
Third, we now know that the Red Scare was not unjustified. The Venona Decrypts show that the U.S. government was, indeed, rife with communist assets. Maybe McCarthy was paranoid, but he was basically right.
Fourth, I’m skeptical about this paragraph:

Consider the China Initiative, launched by the Trump administration in November 2018. Its stated goal was to stop the Chinese from stealing American technology and intellectual property. But it was ill-defined from the start: referring to both Chinese hacking of leading companies and to the only tangentially related charge of “Chinese propaganda disseminated on our campuses”. When it was shut down in 2022, officials noted that it was nothing more than a “grouping” of cases “under the China Initiative rubric”. “[This] helped give rise to a harmful perception that the department applies a lower standard to investigate and prosecute criminal conduct related to that country or that we in some way view people with racial, ethnic or familial ties to China differently.”

For starters: oh no! Trump! But more to the point: both Chinese hacking and disseminating propaganda on U.S. campuses (e.g. via deceptive “Confucious Institutes” are real problems. I don’t see why grouping them together is a major problem. Also, “applying a lower standard” to investigate someone with “racial, ethnic or family ties” to China is not clearly irrational.
Fifth, there’s:

What Washington failed to realise is that Chinese technology theft is no longer the only problem. IP heists have been crucial to China’s rise. But now, the greatest “threat” comes not from copycats but innovators. Washington, however, continues to respond in a way that might have been effective 20 years ago — but may have undesired consequences today. The paradigm of “China stealing our technology” is not a full reflection of the reality; …

Does the U.S. really think this is the only problem? This “paradigm” may concern only part of the problem–but it is a part (and a big part) of the problem. So it must be addressed.
Sixth, it may be worth considering the case of Su Bin, who stole American stealth secrets and gave them to the Chinese:
The man who stole America’s stealth fighter secrets for China | Sandboxx
And, finally, re: the final sentence: Oh no! Trump!

John Croteau
John Croteau
1 month ago

This article is a joke, focusing entirely on one instance of a post-war Communist zealot. Reality is a lot more nuanced. Most modern-day Chinese — especially those best educated — do not drink the CCP Kool-Aid, but have no means to resist. Chinese executives send their wives and kids to school in the U.S. A senior exec in Huawei once told me, “I may not survive, but my family will.” China is set to collapse on itself demographically and economically. Their primary competitive advantage was cheap labor, which is drying up. They are highly dependent on imports for food and energy, yet the rest of the world is weaning itself off Chinese exports for better geopolitical stability. Yes, the CCP military threat is real to the U.S., but for what goal? Do they want our land? Do we want theirs? No. Cold War II will end as the first — a Communist pariah imploding on itself with a top talent diaspora.

Peter Mott
Peter Mott
1 month ago
Reply to  John Croteau

Brad Setser often discusses the issues around Chinese competitiveness for example https://x.com/brad_setser/status/1791827918429008313. It is more complicated than “cheap labour”

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 month ago

It’s kinda cute that the author believes America cares about talent or merit. It doesn’t and it hasn’t for a long time. Even before Jim Crow was rebranded as DEI, it existed under the name of affirmative action. There, too, immutable characteristics became one’s “merit.” Stories of badly-prepared minorities being tossed into academic settings where they were over their heads are infinite. The sad reality is that many of those minorities would have succeeded at State U or some place not named Harvard, Yale, or MIT.
It probably does not help that China has been framed as the nation’s existential threat rather than just another major player on the world stage. The only existential aspect to this is how badly the two nations depend on each other – we need the goods, China needs the market.
No matter what the final line of this piece fantasizes, Xi has no interest in war with us, nor Trump with the Chinese. There are, however, a few armchair warriors in DC who want it, but none can tell you what the aftermath would look like, which is reason enough to discount them.

A D Kent
A D Kent
1 month ago

 The US military-industrial base has been running on fumes for some years now and it’s not just because they’ve not got the right scientists and engineers doing the research – it’s also because they’ve not got enough of them in the senior management and financial positions.

Had they had such people in positions of power – rather than Big-Four consultants and other MBA types, they might not have decided to outsource most of their engineering to East Asia in the 90s, 00s and 10s. They might actually had known that a major part, probably the most important part, of the development of these systems does not take place on drawing boards, CAD systems or in lecture theatres – it takes place in the workshop and on the factory floor.

You can’t now fix this by luring ‘the brightest and best’ – it’s too complex a system for that.

Had the various CEOs been more interested in producing goods rather than maximising shareholder value, then the current situation may have been avoided. But this is path dependency writ large – there’s no way back from where we are and it’s now terminal. As soon as we realise this and start to play a bit nicer with our official enemies the better for all of us.  

Geoffrey Kolbe
Geoffrey Kolbe
1 month ago

“We’ve arranged a society on science and technology in which nobody understands anything about science and technology, and this combustible mixture of ignorance and power sooner or later is going to blow up in our faces.”
Carl Sagan

G M
G M
1 month ago

This ignores the fact that China uses Chinese academics in the West to steal technology.
China uses pressure on the family of Chinese academics and other workers if they don’t comply with the Chinese government demands e.g. ‘bad’ things will happen to your family and friends in China if you don’t comply.
If Chinese academics and others can be free of this pressure and are not working with or for the Chinese government then they should be welcomed but it must be with an understanding of reality that the Chinese government will use any and all means to put pressure on them to give in to the demands of the Chinese government/Chinese Communist party.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 month ago

The author has presented an awfully one sided picture here. There’s another side to this story. First off, the USA had never had an international intelligence service up to this point, nor participated much in international espionage. The CIA was first formed in 1947, exactly three years before the events in question. The FBI had only been formed in 1908, and was mostly devoted to prosecuting organized crime. It was woefully unsuited to the task of defending American military secrets, hence the creation of the CIA. That the USA was pretty bad at intelligence gathering and international espionage could pretty much be assumed just from inexperience, but there’s more. In point of fact, the Manhattan Project was infiltrated by Soviet agents, which was how the Soviets came up with a bomb so quickly themselves with a much less monumental effort. This was regarded as a colossal failure because of the colossal effort that had been made to conceal the program from the public and the world. In 1950, they still had no idea how that had happened. The authorities at the time had good reason to be suspicious. It was not simply anti-Communist hysteria, or ‘McArthyism’, the easy example of overreaction always trotted out by defenders of socialism. That phenomenon was actually probably more a result of intelligence failures and the resulting fallout in the still young US intelligence community than a cause.

Of course there were going to be mistakes, but was this even one of them? Maybe the FBI was suspicious of this Qian Xuesen because he actually was a Communist true believer. The author concedes that this same man later publicly endorsed the Maoist policies that killed millions. He seems baffled, but then how well does he really know Qian. How well do people really know each other. My experience is people rarely change, they just choose to show the parts of themselves that are helpful and conceal those which are not. Nobody knows who the serial killer is until his deeds come to light. Maybe the FBI’s suspicion was warranted. The author never tells us what they suspected Qian of or why, possibly because it’s still classified. Maybe they had evidence the public didn’t and doesn’t. Who knows. Maybe the colleagues who supported Qian were myopic academic types who only knew the man was a genius and wanted to personally benefit by proximity. Maybe they didn’t give a hoot about his political leanings and maybe one or two of them shared his leanings. Who knows. Maybe the author does but if so, he doesn’t share it with his audience, because he seems to have an agenda, either shilling for the CCP or pining for the loss of the globalized era.
The fact is, both are pointless. Cold War II is on. It’s reached the point that the participants themselves probably can’t stop it. The US certainly can’t and Chairman Xi most certainly won’t. It’s not an exact parallel of the first one. The participants aren’t the same nor do they have similar starting positions as the first, but it’s a period of geopolitical rivalry and irreconcilable, mutually exclusive goals, that cannot be resolved through negotiation, thus must be resolved through some manner of competition and conflict. Once we acknowledge that. It’s basic common sense that you don’t hand a gun to your worst enemy. You don’t kick the ball into your own goal. During the first Cold War, there were Soviet scientists, and Western Scientists. They didn’t share, because they didn’t like each other, and were enemies. The fact is, the CCP does have the ability to compel any Chinese company, citizen, or entity operating within its borders to divulge any intellectual secret or technique. It’s not a secret. It’s codified into their laws. We’re most familiar with IP theft of corporations because it’s been discussed quite a bit, but that’s not the limit of their reach. They can, and have, used the very students this author claims America is driving away in this way, persuading even the unwilling by threatening their families back in China. This is well documented enough the author should know this happens, but he says nothing. He gives an entirely one sided account of how racist nationalist sentiments are causing the US to ‘drive away’ talent. This isn’t just oversight, it’s willful ignorance. In their desperation to save their vision of global utopia, these sorts of people will oppose the reasonable efforts of nations to defend themselves.
Intelligence is hard. Espionage is hard. Keeping secrets is hard. Keeping technological and military secrets is very hard. In an environment of open global trade, it’s basically impossible, which is why that era is coming to an end. News flash to this author and all other globalist holdouts. It’s over. You have lost. The only question is how badly you’re going to look when the history is written a couple generations from now. The conflict has started, and there’s no longer any place for people still debating the reasons for the conflict. History will have its say at some point, but for the people in the conflict, the only question is how to win, and I’m pretty sure letting China continue to steal secrets as easily as they did a decade ago isn’t conducive to winning.

Michael Layman
Michael Layman
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Brilliant response to the article, one all posters should read.

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
30 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Yep.

While at Caltech, Qian had secretly attended meetings with J. Robert Oppenheimer’s brother Frank Oppenheimer, Jack Parsons, and Frank Malina that were organized by the Russian-born Jewish chemist Sidney Weinbaum and called Professional Unit 122 of the Pasadena Communist Party

and

When Qian had returned from China with his new bride in 1947, he had answered “no” on an immigration questionnaire that asked if he ever had been a member of an organization advocating overthrow of the U.S. Government by force. This, together with an American Communist Party document from 1938 with Qian’s name on it, was used to argue that Qian was a national security threat. Prosecutors also cited a cross-examination session where Qian said, “I owe allegiance to the people of mainland China”

(all from Wikipedia’s article on him).
So …. he attended Communist Party meetings, showed up in Communist Party documents, told people point blank he owed his allegiance to Communist China rather than the USA. Oh and after going back to China it turned out he was the perfect communist: he loved Mao Zedong, became a member of the Central Committee, denounced the Tiananmen Square protestors as “evil elements” and attacked Deng Xioping (the leader who started to open up China and make it more capitalist) for his “counter-revolutionary revisionism”.
And yet according to the article the USA had no real reason to suspect him of communist sympathies. It was all just totally inexplicable paranoia.
The cherry on top: when he went to China he was constantly surveilled and had to repeatedly profess loyalty to the communists to survive because the Red Guards were conducting “witch hunts” for foreign counter-revolutionaries. So it’s not like the USA was doing anything China wasn’t.

Tom Condray
Tom Condray
1 month ago

In reality, thanks to China’s One Child Policy, the demographics of China’s population show a rapid decline in working age people such that their total population will drop from 1.4 billion today to 525 million by 2100, AND half of those people seeing the dawn of the 22nd Century will be pensioners.
“The same research team at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences and the Centre for Policy Studies at Australia’s Victoria University have China’s population falling by more than one-half to around 525 million by 2100, a fall about 62 million bigger than previously forecast.
The working-age population is set to fall more sharply to 210 million.”
https://www.vu.edu.au/about-vu/news-events/news/chinas-population-shrinks-again-and-is-set-to-more-than-halve
Demographics, and knowing his people are doomed to shrink their numbers (as of 2014 China’s population is declining) mean Xi’s leadership of China no longer can take the long view on research, and its concomitant search for hegemony in Asia.
Whatever scientific advances China might obtain in the next twenty years will be offset by the imminent decline in real numbers of people conducting such research in China. The World needs to understand, and appreciate, the dangerous metrics China sees in its future, and how their geopolitical actions today, and throughout the next decade, reflect an acknowledgement of that future, bleak though it may be.

Katalin Kish
Katalin Kish
1 month ago

Easy: China doesn’t team up with, doesn’t share military secrets with “friends” that have never been able to control information, weapons &/or rogue police, rogue soldiers.

Victoria Police, Australian Signals Directorate, Defence Australia & other Australian Government insider bikers have been flaunting their risk/cost-free, on-demand access to government/military-grade technology since 2009, including remote weapons’ grade technology since 2019 – at least.

They openly aid crime, terrorise crime witnesses who cannot be tricked, bribed or assaulted in cooperation with criminals in the crime witnesses own homes. Australia has no functional law-enforcement, likely never had.

See my ‘contactless extortion’ article* on LinkedIn – remove spaces from the URL below.

My last forced war-crime experience in a million $ home Melbourne suburb of the electorate of Clare O’Neil, Australia’s Minister for Cyber Security & Home Affairs less than 12 hours ago. I have owned my home since 2001. I never even dated the stalker ex-coworker, I never mixed with criminals.

Australian soldiers are known to commit war-crimes – see BBC articles on Ben Roberts SMITH in Afghanistan. The values/mentality of Australia’s war-criminals evidently haven’t improved on Australian soil. At least the Afghani knew they were at war.

Australia’s largest union is the CFMEU. They are openly associating with organised crime, e.g. the Mongols biker gang.

The CFMEU openly aim for controlling Australia’s Labor Parties, i.e. Australia’s governments everywhere, except for Tasmania currently. I shared an Australian Financial Review article exposing this on my LinkedIn account publicly** – remove spaces from the URL below.

I am so outraged & horrified by Australia’s absurd crime reality, I lost all fear.

What is being done to me without any risk of prosecution – Australia’s police have always been our worst criminals – can be done to anyone, anywhere in industrialised countries, because the Internet is everywhere.

Australia is part of AUKUS, The Five Eyes, etc. Australia’s government insider criminals are free to trade with, act for Iran, Russia, the DPRK, etc., because who is going to stop them?

#ididnotstaysilent

* https:// www. linkedin.com/ pulse/contactless-extortion-australia-katalin-kish-upqyc/
** https:// www. linkedin.com/ feed/update/urn:li:activity:7193796666724868096/

Katalin Kish
Katalin Kish
1 month ago
Reply to  Katalin Kish

Typo correction – in should be into in the below sentence:
“They openly aid crime, terrorise crime witnesses who cannot be tricked, bribed or assaulted into cooperation with criminals in the crime witnesses own homes. Australia has no functional law-enforcement, likely never had.”

Ian_S
Ian_S
1 month ago

Clear all the diversity hires out of STEM, both in the faculties and government agencies. Immediately terminate the employment of DEI activists who try to get in the way of that. If there’s resistance, crush it. These people are making Western society stupid and weak in a world where, as China demonstrates, rivals seek absolute power and domination.

Michael Layman
Michael Layman
1 month ago

I am sure the PRC in 1955 was much more desirable than the U.S. Hah. He succumbed to Mao and potentially was responsible for the deaths of millions. Oh well. The indisputable fact is that China can never be trusted when it comes to our national security. Whether proven or not, we must assume they steal secrets and technology on every level.
So what if Chinese scientists are some of the brightest in the world? The very nature of the PRC will prevent China from surpassing the West. China will never attain superiority militarily. The US could destroy China in a heartbeat, but will never do so due to financial interdependence.
Personally, my opinion is the leak of COVID-19 from a Chinese lab indicates their general level of incompetence despite brilliant minds. Qian was just another example.