Thursday, April 13, 2023

Are Chinese Scholars Being Cut Off From US Think Tanks

Think Tank Watch has learned that a number of US think tanks are increasingly cautious about hiring Chinese citizens amid growing US-China competition and fears of potential spying.

The fear and caution is more publicly known in the world of academia, which has seen a US-China bifurcation in talent and knowledge.

Here is more from The Economist:

In 2018 some 20,000 Chinese were granted research visas. In 2022 fewer than 4,000 were.

With their access dwindling, foreign scholars have come to rely more on online databases. But these are increasingly unreliable. An online portal called China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) contains some 95% of Chinese academic articles as well as a host of other documents. On April 1st CNKI suspended foreign access to some of its databases.

Other online resources relied on by scholars are shrinking, too. China Judgments Online, a database of legal cases, opened in 2013. At the time it was an unprecedented window onto how justice works in China. In the past two years millions of cases have vanished from its archive.

Faced with these challenges, some China watchers are returning to methods of the cold-war era. A research institute called the Centre for Strategic Translation was set up in America last year by the American Governance Foundation, an NGO. Its stated aim is to help scholars and others by translating and explaining official Chinese documents.


A number of other efforts are being made to "understand" each other.

In 2022, for example, the think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) established Interpret: China, a site meant to help scholars and policymakers better understand China through translation and analysis of primary source material.  It was started with the support of the Ford Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Interpret: China is co-directed by Jude Blanchette, CSIS Freeman Chair in China Studies, and Seth Jones, Senior Vice President and Director of the CSIS International Security Program, supported by Lily McElwee, Fellow with the Freeman Chair in China Studies. Alexandra Chopenko oversees program management. 

Meanwhile, a new FP piece notes that a breakdown in US-China university exchanges is threatening understanding and collaborative research.

In 2019, the FBI urged universities to monitor some Chinese students and scholars in the US.