Thousand Talents Program
The Thousand Talents Plan (TTP) (Chinese: 千人计划; pinyin: Qiān rén jìhuà) or Thousand Talents Program (Chinese: 海外高层次人才引进计划; pinyin: Hǎiwài gāo céngcì réncái yǐnjìn jìhuà) was established in 2008 by the central government of China to recognize and recruit leading international experts in scientific research, innovation, and entrepreneurship; however, the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs called it a threat to U.S. national security, and a program that required its participants to sign legally binding contracts with Chinese institutions, which incentivized the participants to lie on grant applications and steal intellectual property.
The program was further elevated in 2010 to become the top-level award given through China’s National Talent Development Plan, a plan that was conceived jointly by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and the State Council of the People's Republic of China in 2010 to strengthen innovation and international competitiveness within China.
1000 Talent Plan professorship is the highest academic honor awarded by the State Council, analogous to the top-level award given by the Ministry of Education (People's Republic of China). The program includes two mechanisms: resources for permanent recruitment into Chinese academia, and resources for short-term appointments that typically target international experts who have full-time employment at a leading international university or research laboratory.
The program has three categories:
- Innovative 1000 Talents plan (Long term / Short term) - for Chinese scholars below 55 years of age
- Foreign 1000 Talents plan (Long term / Short term) - for foreigners only below 55 years of age
- Young scholar 1000 Talents plan or Overseas Young Talents Project of China- for those below 40 years of age
The program has been praised for recruiting top international talent to China, but also criticized for being ineffective at retaining the talent. An unclassified U.S. National Intelligence Council analysis highlights that the program threatens the U.S.'s economic base by enabling technology transfer to China.
The best Chinese students often go abroad for advanced studies, resulting in many highly educated overseas Chinese (rencai), the vast majority of whom decide to remain abroad after their studies. To reverse this and to build the size and prestige of China's university system, the central government of China recognized a need to attract overseas Chinese and top foreign-born talent from the world's best universities.
The Thousand Talents program primarily targets Chinese citizens who were educated in elite programs overseas and who have been successful as entrepreneurs, professionals, and researchers. The program also recognizes a small number of elite foreign-born experts with skills that are critical to China's international competitiveness in science and innovation. International experts in the latter category are typically winners of major prizes such as the Nobel Prize and the Fields Medal, and are expected first to have made internationally renowned contributions to a field of technological importance to China, and secondly to hold either a tenured position at one of the world's top universities or a senior role in an internationally important research organization.
In 2013, the Junior Thousand Talent Plan was created to attract faculty members under the age of 40 who have performed high impact research at one of the world's top universities. Although these professorships can be affiliated with any university in China, they are awarded disproportionately to individuals affiliated with the most prestigious (C9 League) universities; the few individuals who receive both this and the Changjiang (Yangtze River) Scholar award are typically associated with the C9 League.
Winners include professors from these universities:
- Jinan University China for 2018 includes Prof. Feng Shuaizhang, Prof. Zhang Yaohui and Prof. Liu Tao
- Tianjin University includes Nobel Prize Winner Prof. Fraser Stoddart
- Southern University of Science & Technology includes young talents like Prof. He Jiaqing and Prof. Wu Changfeng
- Beijing Jiaotong University includes Prof. Jin Ho Kwak and Prof. Yukio Tamura
- Nankai University includes Prof. Abdul Ghani Razaqpur
- Shenzhen University includes Prof. Marc Battier
- Wuhan Textile University includes Prof. Alexey Guryev
The program confers the prestigious title of "Thousand Talents Plan Distinguished Professor" (千人计划特聘教授) or "Junior Thousand Talents Plan Professor" upon the selected individuals, and provides benefits including this prestigious title, high pay, and visa privileges. The program is the first ever to enable individuals of extraordinary ability to gain access to Chinese immigration visas. The program provides a one-time bonus of 1 million RMB to select individuals, substantial resources for research and academic exchange, and assistance with housing and transportation costs. Thousand Talents scholars are eligible for high levels of government funding.
In November 2019, the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, held an open hearing on the China's Talent Recruitment Plans, including the TTP, and called the programs a threat to US National Security. The report from the hearing cited TTP contracts as violating U.S. research values, TTP members willfully failing to disclosure their membership to their home institutions, and cited numerous cases against TTP members for theft of intellectual property and fraud. One TTP member stole proprietary defense information on U.S. military jet engines. The reported indicated that "TTP targets U.S.-based researchers and scientists, regardless of ethnicity or citizenship, who focus on or have access to cutting-edge research and technology."
Although the program has successfully attracted top international talent to China, its efficacy in retaining these talented individuals has been questioned, with many of the most talented scientists willing to spend short periods in China but unwilling to abandon their tenured positions at major Western universities. Additionally, some Thousand Talents Plan Professors have reported fraud in the program including misappropriated grant funding, poor accommodations, and violations of research ethics. Individuals who receive either of China's two top academic awards, the Thousand Talents Professorship and the Changjiang (Yangtze River) Scholar award, have become targets for recruitment by China's wealthiest universities so frequently that the Ministry of Education issued notices in both 2013 and 2017 discouraging Chinese universities from recruiting away top talent from one another.
The success of the program in recruiting U.S.-trained scientists back to China has been viewed with concern from the U.S., with a June 2018 report from the National Intelligence Council declaring an underlying motivation of the program to be “to facilitate the legal and illicit transfer of US technology, intellectual property and know-how” to China.
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