VIDEO: Portman Highlights Need for Legislation to Address China's Theft of U.S. Research & Intellectual Property

February 20, 2020 | Portman Difference

In a new video, Senator Portman addresses the rampant Chinese theft of U.S. taxpayer-funded research and intellectual property (IP) and how it is being used to fuel the economic and military rise of China. Portman will soon introduce bipartisan legislation to protect American research and IP from global competitors.

Portman, as Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), has led efforts to investigate this issue, releasing a bipartisan report in November 2019 that detailed how American taxpayers have been unwittingly funding the rise of China’s economy and military over the last two decades while federal agencies have done little to stop it. Starting in the late 1990s through its “talent recruitment plans,” China began recruiting U.S.-based scientists and researchers and incentivizing them to transfer U.S. taxpayer-funded IP to China for their own economic and military gain.

During a follow-up hearing on November 18, 2019, Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) John Brown confirmed that the FBI should have taken more rapid and comprehensive action in addressing China’s strategic plan to acquire knowledge and IP from researchers, scientists, and the U.S. private sector through their talent recruitment programs.

A report published in the Wall Street Journal last month detailed the growing issue of U.S. university systems receiving funding from the Chinese government. The article discusses the efforts of PSI to draw attention to this issue surrounding China’s Talent Recruitment Plans and highlights the need for legislation to address this issue. Portman will be introducing legislation in the coming weeks.

A transcript of his remarks is below and the video can be found here.

“I want to talk to you today about China’s long-running effort to steal cutting-edge research and intellectual property from American universities and academic institutes. Recently, the Department of Justice filed a criminal complaint against the Chair of Harvard University’s Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department for lying to U.S. authorities about his ties to the Chinese Government. It was a bombshell indictment that alleges that China paid the professor up to $50,000 a month in salary, $150,000 a year for living expenses and more than $1.5 million to run a shadow research lab in China. In exchange, the professor – who is a U.S. citizen - agreed to share cutting-edge U.S. taxpayer funded research with a Chinese University in Wuhan.  

“Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. For nearly two decades, the Chinese government has used what are called “talent recruitment programs” to strategically and systematically acquire proprietary intellectual property and cutting edge research from U.S. based scientists, experts and research institutions. 

“These talent recruitment programs, most notably their “Thousand Talents Program,” have serious implications for our national security and the integrity of our research enterprise here in the United States. As chair of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, I released a report last fall detailing how the researchers recruited into the Thousand Talents program are often required to steal intellectual property from their host educational institutions in the U.S. and transfer it to entities within China.  

“This stolen IP and research – much of which is funded by U.S. taxpayers – has helped fuel the rise of China’s economy and military. What’s worse, we found out during our investigation that the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies have been generally aware of this problem for years, but - until very recently - did nothing to stop it. 

“We cannot allow U.S. taxpayer funded research to be misappropriated to benefit our rivals. I think that’s something Democrats and Republicans can agree on. That’s why I’m working on bipartisan legislation to crack down on this problem and ensure taxpayer dollars and our world-class research enterprise are protected here in America. While we should continue to attract the best and brightest, continue to have exchange programs with China and other countries, we cannot stand idly by as our research, particularly that funded by American taxpayers, falls into the hands of our global competitors.”