As US hunts down Chinese spies, university scientists warn of backlash

This fear comes as China has started to experience a reverse brain drain. Over the past decade, a growing number of Chinese scientists have been drawn to the country with the promise of sufficient funding, impressive titles and national pride. More recently, scientists returning to China cited a hostile environment in the United States as a factor.

Westlake University, a research university located in the city of Hangzhou in eastern China, has recruited an impressive roster of talent, many of whom have previously held faculty positions at top American schools. In August, Westlake announced several new hires, including a full professor from Northwestern University and another from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Shi Yigong, a prominent molecular biologist and president of Westlake University, said his colleagues complained about the atmosphere of suspicion in the United States. “For those who have chosen to quit their jobs in the United States, I sometimes hear stories of a bitter nature,” said Dr. Shi. “I think some of them, not all of them, were honored for what I think was pretty harsh treatment.”

At least one person, however, is determined to stay in the United States: Dr. Hu.

The son of a factory worker, he grew up in a poor village in east China’s Shandong Province, and said his interest in science started at a young age. In elementary school, he put together a simple radio by wiring a speaker with junk and hooking it up to a makeshift antenna that he hung from a tree.

After higher education in China, he left the country in 1997 with his wife and worked in several countries before obtaining a second doctorate. in physics in Canada. Like countless immigrants before him, he moved to the United States in 2013 with the hope of a better life and career.

He has sacrificed too much to give up everything now, he said.

He prefers to stay in the United States to contribute not only to science, his first love, but also to his new passion: promoting justice. “I am not interested in politics and know almost nothing about it,” he said. “But I know targeting Chinese and Asian Americans – that won’t make the United States strong.”

Javier C. Hernández and Amy Chang Dog contributed reports.

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