05/12/2022 – The US must raise its guard over China’s talent recruitment strategy

Posted on May 12, 2022



On April 29, China’s Politburo held a meeting to review the country’s national talent strategy under the 14th Five-Year Plan and discuss the economic situation. This offers us a glimpse into the course China has chartered to compete against the United States during Xi Jinping’s third term after the 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to be held this autumn.

Although the CCP began to implement its talent-building strategy in 2002, it is Xi who has branded it a “core pillar” for China to achieve global economic dominance. Last December, Qiushi, the CCP’s leading official theoretical journal, published a speech Xi delivered at the CCP’s Central Talent Work Conference in September 2021. In the speech, Xi laid out a strategy to make China a global talent and innovation hub, with a three-part timeline: by 2025, gather a large pool of strategic talent in key technology sectors, including first-class leaders and innovative teams in science and technology; by 2030, complete the formation of a system that can attract world-class talent and pioneers in critical and emerging technologies; and by 2035, gain a comparative advantage in international talent recruitment and become the world’s leading talent center.

The CCP believes that once the correct political line is set, China’s horde of ever-obedient cadres will be the determining factor for its success. Xi, a staunch follower of Mao Zedong’s communist politics, believes that China’s ability to ultimately “win” against the U.S. depends on whether it can overtake the United States’s lead in science and technology — which, in turn, boils down to winning the competition for talent. Xi recognizes that today’s society is marked by “changes unseen in a century” and that these unprecedented changes have given China the opportunity to rise swiftly as a dominant world power. He has brought the single-party state close to fulfilling its centenary goal of achieving the “Chinese dream of national rejuvenation” — a euphemism for China-centric dominance — if it can finish this last mile of “gather[ing] the brightest minds under heaven to serve China.”

For the free world, the grave danger of Xi’s talent strategy is that China aims to reshape the global talent recruitment and retention landscape to achieve its ultimate goal of world dominance. Beijing uses the so-called “whole national system,” meaning pooling together China’s state power and resources, to implement the strategy. If China succeeds, talent recruited from the U.S. and other Western countries will provide not only a sustained technology transfer but also disruptive innovations that will enable China to surpass the U.S. economically, technologically and militarily.

The U.S. government must recognize that China’s talent recruitment ambitions are not merely aimed at strengthening the totalitarian state’s economy and workforce; they also constitute an aggressive effort to replace America’s global leadership. The Biden administration should formulate a more effective talent strategy, including adopting a more targeted immigration policy that appeals to the world’s best and brightest minds. Only then can the U.S. halt and reverse the ongoing brain drain and stop China from becoming a magnet that attracts and retains the world’s top talent.

Lianchao Han is vice president of Citizen Power Initiatives for China. After the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, he was one of the founders of the Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars. He worked in the U.S. Senate for 12 years as a legislative counsel and policy director for three senators.

Jianli Yang, a former political prisoner of China and a Tiananmen Massacre survivor, is founder and president of Citizen Power Initiatives for China and the author of “For Us, The Living: A Journey to Shine the Light on Truth.”

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