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United States China Politics

White House Considers Restricting Chinese Researchers Over Espionage Fears (nytimes.com) 179

An anonymous reader shares a report: It sounds like something out of a science fiction movie: In April, China is said to have tested an invisibility cloak that would allow ordinary fighter jets to suddenly vanish from radar screens. This advancement, which could prove to be a critical intelligence breakthrough, is one that American officials fear China may have gained in part from a Chinese researcher who roused suspicions while working on a similar technology at a Duke University laboratory in 2008. The researcher, who was investigated by the F.B.I. but never charged with a crime, ultimately returned to China, became a billionaire and opened a thriving research institute that worked on some projects related to those he studied at Duke.

The Trump administration, concerned about China's growing technological prowess, is considering strict measures to block Chinese citizens from performing sensitive research at American universities and research institutes over fears they may be acquiring intellectual secrets, according to people familiar with the deliberations. The White House is discussing whether to limit the access of Chinese citizens to the United States, including restricting certain types of visas available to them and greatly expanding rules pertaining to Chinese researchers who work on projects with military or intelligence value at American companies and universities. The exact types of projects that would be subject to restrictions are unclear, but the measures could clamp down on collaboration in advanced materials, software and other technologies at the heart of Beijing's plan to dominate cutting-edge technologies like advanced microchips, artificial intelligence and electric cars, known as Made in China 2025.

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White House Considers Restricting Chinese Researchers Over Espionage Fears

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  • And since information is further restricted, ensuring that none may benefit except those who would abuse it's exclusivity
  • by drakaan ( 688386 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2018 @02:22PM (#56537096) Homepage Journal
    What does that even mean? Knowledge isn't something that you can keep people from having. That's like saying "mathematical secrets".
    • I'm guessing they meant intellectual property secrets
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2018 @02:54PM (#56537288)

        when talking about that kind of IP its more accurate to use "imaginary" than "intellectual" because it isn't property. Up until recent times there was no notion of pretending that a thought or idea could be "owned" and others restricted from accessing it.

        Property is not just something you can have, it is something that you can be deprived of -- which is why societies around the world have formulated laws preventing others from doing so unjustly (e.g., payment or other mutually agreed condition). You can't deprive someone of knowledge or information (though you can try, witness Disney's continued extension of copyright terms) and so it can't be property. But the legal fiction was created in any case.

        Which has resulted in increasingly silly situations because it fundamentally does not make sense.

        This "news" is about the evil Chinese researcher increasing his store of knowledge, openly and similarly enriching those he worked with who then took the knowledge and allegedly leveraged it into a commercial product.

        Sorry, but this is a familiar story. Just remove "evil Chinese" and you are describing numerous US startups. Those, however, were incorporated in the US so they didn't "commit espionage" or "steal knowledge" and instead are "successful entrepreneurs". Put another way, its one thing to have knowledge and something else entirely to apply it, engineer it into a product, move into production and market it. Just ask Tesla: they have not only the knowledge, but they also have application, engineering and marketing down -- but even with all of that they seem to be having problems with the "production" component.

        This is just advertising for the building trade war with China. Part of any war is demonizing the other side.

    • by mi ( 197448 )

      What does that even mean?

      Here are some examples, in no particular order:

      How far are the Americans from fielding a fighter-mountable laser-weapon?
      The answer will affect, whether China can continue to use its current air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles, or whether they can be destroyed by the aircraft's laser guns and ought to be replaced/hardened in a hurry.
      What encryption algorithms can NSA crack today, and how long a key must one use to afford a one hour — or one week — delay?
      Much of the ba
      • Ballistic missiles? Who's going to launch them? Presumably, any defenses in place would shoot at any rocket aimed at the US, no matter whether they're confirmed ICBMs or not. In any case, launching ICBMs at the US, and having them hit before the US reacts, is suicide. The US spends what it has to to maintain credible devastating second-strike capability.

        • by mi ( 197448 )

          For better or worse, that readiness to devastate the attacker has never been tested. Worse, the very concept is being chipped away by movies and other art, which mocks it, and glorifies dissenters, leakers, and outright traitors, who either refuse to follow orders, or subtly sabotage them out of concern for collateral damage.

          If/when push comes to shove one day, some officers may decide to not push the button. Something like this for example: "Our firing back now will not protect those already doomed to die

      • by drakaan ( 688386 )

        Ok, I see what you're getting at.

        If you think it's possible to keep countries from determining other countries' offensive or defensive capabilities, stop encryption from being cracked ever-more-quickly, prevent new biological agents from popping up naturally or being bred, etc, then I would counter that history tends to indicate otherwise. Can espionage speed up progress that a competing nation makes? Sure, but it's not a requirement.

        Intelligence, science, technology, and math aren't some hoardable commod

        • by mi ( 197448 )

          Can espionage speed up progress that a competing nation makes? Sure, but it's not a requirement.

          It is a requirement. If the adversary is evolving faster than you, then your only hope to avoid falling further and further behind is to steal his results every once in a while.

          And we are evolving faster than China. To even match our speed they need to become a free-market Capitalist country — and they are moving in the opposite direction [theguardian.com] at present.

          Also, you need to know, what the adversary is developing.

          • by drakaan ( 688386 )

            So, your counterargument is basically "no, I disagree, here are examples where countries used espionage".

            Again, I understand what you're trying to say, and I'm disagreeing and saying that with or without espionage, China will catch up with us technologically. They have money, lots of people, and plenty of natural resources. Sure, we could deprive them of those, but it would require war, which I doubt we want to attempt.

            Maybe the USSR couldn't replicate Pepsi, but they weren't exactly providing great incen

            • by mi ( 197448 )

              So, your counterargument is basically "no, I disagree, here are examples where countries used espionage".

              Nope. My argument is, here is where the espionage was essential, where the country would not have had a piece of technology without the espionage either at all, or only decades later.

              TL;DR

              • by drakaan ( 688386 )

                So...no, but yes? You qualified that "nope" with a statement that given a sufficient expenditure of time the country would possibly have had said piece of technology? That's what I have been saying (along with saying that adding time and resources continues to increase the chance of gaining said knowledge up until it's acquired).

                There are numerous examples of technological innovations happening independently across time and geographical location. Sometimes they are nearly simultaneous and sometimes not.

    • by whit3 ( 318913 )
      Yes, the 'secret' thing is being abused here. That example, for instance, was of an individual who, a decade after being in country A, has a connection in country B with a military project.

      Basic research is the foundation for a lot of enterprise, and technology offshoots always have a broad foundation. No one can ever prevent knowledge from spreading, it's just impractical to control, even if one technology branch is military.

      The research behind a piece of tech, military or otherwise, derives from l

  • If any research like that occurs at universities at all, it's out in the open. The national security value-added of slapping an ITAR restriction on a piece of equipment or on a research topic is questionable if you're generating publications on it or letting people access it with only a warning not to let foreign nationals handle it while securing it with nothing more than a locked cabinet. And the kicker is there's nothing that stops the Chinese from going to school in another western country without such
    • Lolwut? Far, far less important stuff than cloaking technology is classified and not printed. I don't think you know what the fuck you're talking about.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    JIN YANG! He also stole the new Internet. I expect that to be in production anytime soon too.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2018 @02:25PM (#56537126)

    When I worked on research at the university, often paid for by DoD, the best researchers were often Chinese nationals. This was true for both professors and students. On one had, the DoD benefited from their hard work. On the other hand, I expected that the same research paid for by the US government was being sent right back to China.

    The reality is, China is 1/3 of the world. That means 1/3 of the world's best research and most advanced weapons will be Chinese. If you want to see a model for the future of the world, look at China. The US is becoming more of a police state while China becomes more capitalist. As we move closer together, expect a globalist corporate police state to look after our well being on planet earth.

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      The US is becoming more of a police state while China becomes more capitalist.

      Those are not mutually exclusive. China is both, just like Singapore. As long as you focus on business, they leave you alone. As soon as you touch politics, POOF!

      China is 1/3 of the world. That means 1/3 of the world's best research and most advanced weapons will be Chinese. If you want to see a model for the future of the world, look at China.

      So we need lots of people to compete? Let's take down our walls and make China pay for i

    • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2018 @02:48PM (#56537258)

      China has 10x the population as the US, its area is roughly the same size and has nearly the same access to similar resources. In theory China should be able to be the #1 Economy in the world, but it isn't. While the US isn't perfect, China has a lot of policies and rules that are extremely oppressive, many rights that we take for granted, even if we are in some oppressed minority, is not there in China. These things slow down the economy, and make it difficult for them to truly reach their potential.

      Also the US is more apt to have its problem on its sleeves, the violence, and political bickering, and people disagreeing with our leaders is very public. In China the state run media, covers it up.

      As American Citizens we need to be vigilant to rules and abuses that threaten our rights. Understanding that having these rights will make America less safe, but will allow for continued growth.

      • Low natural resources per capita isn't exactly an advantage. Also whites have a huge lead on China in creating nice societies ... they are getting massively brain drained by US, Canada and Australia.

      • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2018 @03:56PM (#56537714)

        China has 10x the population as the US

        China has 4x the population of the US.

        In theory China should be able to be the #1 Economy in the world, but it isn't.

        China's economy is the world's biggest by PPP, which is the most sensible measurement of national production.

        If you measure by exchange rates instead, then on current trends, China will surpass the US within ten years.

        China has a lot of policies and rules that are extremely oppressive

        They do indeed. But an American citizen is FOUR TIMES more likely to be arrested and imprisoned by their government.

        • They do indeed. But an American citizen is FOUR TIMES more likely to be arrested and imprisoned by their government.

          Really? Where are you getting that number from?

          If it's from a simplistic comparison of prisoners per capita, then just give your head a shake and aplogize. The fact that there are more people in prison has no bearing on your likelihood of being imprisoned, unless all other relevant factors (like sentence length and execution rates) are identical.

        • China's economy is the world's biggest by PPP, which is the most sensible measurement of national production.

          This is also nowhere near right. The US is 11th on the list, China is 79th.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        In fact if you look at china it is neither has backward as you would think economically : the ruling elite there long understood that some part of capitalism made sense. The sole reason China is not #1, is because they started late at the game, at a moment most IP and technological advance was in the west and the US. Just look after 2nd world war. But in the last decade, they rose up sharply. If they continue that way they will be #1 sooner or later. And by that point, they will have far more phd and resear
      • by TheSync ( 5291 )

        China has 10x the population as the US, its area is roughly the same size and has nearly the same access to similar resources. In theory China should be able to be the #1 Economy in the world, but it isn't.

        China started doing better once Mao died. Starving tens of millions of people to death for communist political reasons and outlawing private business was not good for growth.

        Now given current growth rates, Chinaâ(TM)s economy will be larger than Americaâ(TM)s before 2030.

        China is already the wo

    • Counterexample. I worked with a team of Chinese nationals who were storage engineers. If they were just idiots that'd be one thing, but they were idiots and *dicks*. I had to fire the whole subcontractor. They seemed to have an especially hard time working with Indians. I was constantly breaking up arguments and spats. It got old and that was it for those folks. I remember one complaining to me about all his expenses in the US like I gave a fuck. Fortunately, it was the same day I finished the paperwork to
  • No way he could have gotten a security clearance to work on a project that uses something as classified as stealth technology. It makes complete sense to restrict doing research in the US on technologies that are similarly sensitive.
    • by Ayano ( 4882157 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2018 @02:29PM (#56537156)
      Then perhaps companies should keep their research internal to employees rather than outsource to open universities. If you want the best research, you ought to hire the brightest rather than getting it 'on the cheap' from PHD students barely making ends meet.
      • by PPH ( 736903 )

        Then perhaps companies should keep their research internal to employees rather than outsource to open universities.

        All the company direct employees want to move into management. As such, they become pretty useless when it's time to get actual work out of them. So, send it out to universities or consultants.

        rather than getting it 'on the cheap'

        Some time ago, one of the regulars on Usenet electronics design board was discussing a consulting job he did for Boeing. It involved the development of a Spice model for a relatively simple electrical component. Good job, well documented. But it was something that an EE intern could have done in-house. I have an idea

      • by ttsai ( 135075 )

        Then perhaps companies should keep their research internal to employees rather than outsource to open universities. If you want the best research, you ought to hire the brightest rather than getting it 'on the cheap' from PHD students barely making ends meet.

        It's not just universities. From the article, "According to Defense Department statistics, nearly a quarter of all foreign efforts to obtain sensitive or classified information in 2014 were routed through academic institutions." I.e., most of the attempts were not targeted at universities. The big question is how a restriction on Chinese nationals in American industrial research and development would impact progress in those organizations.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I'm not going to argue with academic research being inexpensive, but you are out of touch with research if you think they aren't hiring (indirectly) the brightest. What you are experiencing is cognitive dissonance: you are being told (and appear to have accepted as fact) that the Chinese are not bright, only barely able to copy the scraps they can steal from us. That is not, however, the case.

        There are just as many brilliant Chinese as Americans. More, probably, given they outnumber us so badly. And we get

      • by tomhath ( 637240 )

        Your opposition to using universities for classified research and development is unrelated to controlling access to sensitive information

        It would be foolish to ban professors and grad students at universities from doing research work directly or indirectly on classified projects for the government.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      We have enough burdensome regulations in this country!! Get government out of the way

    • by jythie ( 914043 )
      That is the part that confuses me. Often DoD projects have citizenship requirements for even doing non-classified work, sometimes even work that permits publication. So I am not sure what kind of harsher restrictions they are thinking unless they want to go full 'natural born citizen' or even 'no citizen of chinese descent' route.
      • by tomhath ( 637240 )
        Maybe RTFA:

        The exact types of projects that would be subject to restrictions are unclear, but the measures could clamp down on collaboration in advanced materials, software and other technologies at the heart of Beijing’s plan to dominate cutting-edge technologies like advanced microchips, artificial intelligence and electric cars, known as Made in China 2025.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Should have been done in the 1970's.
      The USA was flooded with "students" totally loyal to the Communist party who took back generations of US creativity.
      The need for a security clearance should have protected decades of US research and science.
      Instead academics and political leaders invited ever more students in to spy on the USA.

      What was the CIA and FBI expecting? That it could create spies out of the students in the USA and have them return to China as CIA spies?
      China only let its best and most
  • at the heart of Beijing's plan to dominate cutting-edge technologies...known as Made in China 2025.

    China having an initiative to have more things "Made in China" is silly in that 90% of everything we flip over already says "Made in China" on the bottom.

    It would be like a Microsoft initiative to "Have Microsoft on Every Business PC!"

    • Re:Made in China (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Actually, I do RTFA ( 1058596 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2018 @02:45PM (#56537248)

      Flip over your iPhone. It says "made in china, designed in cupernico". Their goal is to get rid of the second half. And to have "made in china" on the bottom of most websites (not literally, cause that would turn people off.)

      This is not an "own manufacturing facilities" push. This is an "own the IP" push.

      • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

        Then call it the "Designed in China" initiative, or "Invented in China".

        • I wonder if something got lost in translation. Or if it's trying to build off the success of "Made in China". But the three areas TFS covered were microchips, AI and electronic cars.

          • I wonder if something got lost in translation.

            Nope. The Chinese slogan is "Zhongguo zhizao 2025", which literally means "Manufacture in China 2025".

            They are trying to move up the value chain. Currently they manufacture junk sold at Walmart, and import CPUs and commercial aircraft. Their plan is to make their own high end semiconductors and airliners.

            By 2025, their biggest import from America is likely to be food, especially soybeans and pork.

            • Good luck with that. A Chinese company made some wireless chips years after the big guys did theirs (and walked away) and had plenty to learn from. It took me about a day to show their testing and QA results were garbage and not even close to good enough to meet specs. The Chinese government had at least 30 million into the project. I couldn't tell if they were intentionally testing them incorrectly to show passing results, or if they really were so blind to the issues and just didn't know any better. Chin
        • by Gary ( 9413 )

          Then call it the "Designed in China" initiative...

          So you're advocating for the DICk initiative?

      • Designed in WHO?
        Hopefully not Copernicus.

      • Flip over your iPhone. It says "made in china, designed in cupernico". Their goal is to get rid of the second half. And to have "made in china" on the bottom of most websites (not literally, cause that would turn people off.)

        This is not an "own manufacturing facilities" push. This is an "own the IP" push.

        It should read: "Designed in Cupertino. Parts manufactured in Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. Assembled in China."

    • Re:Made in China (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Pinky's Brain ( 1158667 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2018 @03:14PM (#56537446)

      Made in China, backdoors designed and owned by the USA.

      They want to own both the component manufacturing and own the backdoors.

    • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      It would be like a Microsoft initiative to "Have Microsoft on Every Business PC!"

      Yeah, I'm sure Microsoft has never had a goal like this. (guffaw)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    That will be a big strategic mistake of part of the White House you should be encouraging a brain drain in China (which is one of China biggest weakness) not a brain gain in China, this will backfire spectacularly as China see their most brightest people come home to start companies and research, not to mention Canada, Europe, SK, Japan and other nations will catch them too, at the end of the day things are more than national security you also have to think about economic security and technological securit

    • Great. Let them go elsewhere. Bye! Cya! *waves* They can steal from them instead of us. Sounds excellent. It doesn't matter if they are "brains" if they are using that brain to rip off the country that's nice enough to host them.
  • Long Overdue (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ensign_Expendable ( 1045224 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2018 @02:44PM (#56537238)
    I recommend "Spy Schools: How the CIA, FBI, and Foreign Intelligence Secretly Exploit America's Universities" by Daniel Golden, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. Our friends from China have been taking cutting edge technologies from our colleges back to their country for a very long time. The CIA is in there too, but that's a horse of a different color for U.S. readers, isn't it.
    • Re:Long Overdue (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Actually, I do RTFA ( 1058596 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2018 @03:07PM (#56537386)

      The CIA is in there too, but that's a horse of a different color for U.S. readers, isn't it.

      Yes. Also, it should be for most people. The US is, for all it's faults, open and free. China is a totalitarian regime. It's a false equivalence to claim they approach being equal to each other.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by AnthonywC ( 4415891 )
        US is a much more hypocritical country and a greater threat to the rest of the world in terms of starting war, given its terrible records of warmongering. And idiots who keep shouting China is a totalitarian regime is either a troll and/or no idea how China actually operate. Its government is a meritocracy that has election from its party member. It is not really that much different than in US, instead in US you have the illusion that you vote matters, when all you are doing is just choosing one of the t
        • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

          Its government is a meritocracy that has election from its party member

          Please elaborate on how this alleged meritocracy is scored and verified.

          • It's easy. All of those who don't agree that the proposed candidate has merit end up committing suicide with two bullets to the back of the head. The rest are more than happy to verify the merit of the candidate.

        • Its funny that you accuse us of being the war monger.
          Lets see.
          Cold war? More Communist USSR started with their constant invasions of Europe, and Communist China of Asia. Vietnam? That was France and China, who pulled in America.
          Lebanese Civil War? UN pulled us in as peace keepers.
          Invasion of Grenada? Yeah, that would be America. Not really a war
          Invasion of Panama? Yeah, our invasion to get Noriega was ours. OTOH, not much of a war.
          Gulf war? That would be Iraq invading Kuwait and then UN going in to
        • The corrupt Chinese pilfering money from their own people is contributing to the shitty housing in Vancouver. There's many scams for laundering money through us that we're slowly learning about (a lot of fucking real estate people are scum, too). Canada and China have recently agreed to more cooperation to catch these fuckers. China doesn't want their money to leave, we don't want corrupt fuckers with money running our shit and fucking with our economy.
          • The same is true of most major American cities. Especially true of luxury real estate. Apparently, there are whole condo buildings/subdivisions with no one living in them, just to act as an external to China asset if some billionaire needs to flee/be audited in China.

      • Open and Free? Hmmmm.
        Now, we are NOT a totalitarian nation, however, you are sadly mistaken if you think that we are truly open and free.
        We are simply more so than MOST nations.
        • Now, we are NOT a totalitarian nation, however, you are sadly mistaken if you think that we are truly open and free. We are simply more so than MOST nations.

          Which makes us open and free. I mean, "No True Scotsman" if you like, but we both claim to be open and free and are doing a pretty good job.

          There are other societies that are also open and free.

  • Are we sure that the stable genius in the Whitehouse didn't just watch an episode of Silicon Valley and think it was a documentary/news? https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
  • by hackingbear ( 988354 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2018 @04:11PM (#56537808)

    So if the said project is a national secret, why would anyone without clearance joint?

    If it is just regular research, then such an exchange is no different from any scientific exchanges. If it is not bounded by NDA and patents, any researcher can learn and use the knowledge however they want.

    Maybe we should ask why the US failed to materialize that invisible cloak but the Chinese can.

  • Here are some reasons why I am against that:

    1. While it seems that banning Chinese citizens from participating in U.S. based high-tech research should work to restrict Chinese espionage, it would also curtail domestic research by barring brilliant Chinese scientists and engineers from working to their full potential in the U.S. It is trade-off, with no reason a priori to believe that it works to the U.S. advantage.

    2. You do not have to be Chinese to spy [wikipedia.org] on the U.S.

    3. It is an expression of the same misgu

    • Some 5-10% of Chinese that are living in America, are spies. Now, they are not active spies, but in essence, they are looking for technology to take back to the chinese gov and sell to them for millions. Not much difference than some of the Spies/Traitors, like Hansen , and quite probably Trump that sold to the Russians.
      And yes, I HAVE dealt with 2 Chinese spies already.
    • #5. You're not even trying to think. The top spies are going to be super loyal Kool-aid drinkers who grew up with communist propaganda. They'll come to America already despising it. They likely have to act like they love America.
  • Seriously, there are far far too many spies here, with most being Chinese, not Russian.
  • Look, we have had restrictions for a long time. Export controls on technology are not widely known about or enforced. Most importantly, a foreign national within the U.S. learning the information is a regulated export: this is the "deemed export" rule. Making it about China is just noise. It isn't like North Korea or Iran are loved either.

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