Australian academics working for the CCP on the side…?

Some Australian researchers visiting China turned out to be effectively Chinese researchers funded by Australians.

What does it mean to be an Australian citizen paid by Australian taxpayers if it’s “OK” to take $150,000 extra from the CCP, plus benefits for the wife and kids, and in some cases also keep that a secret from the Uni in Australia that they work for? How about having a cloned research project in China studying the same high tech topics and producing patents owned by the Chinese government? The “Thousand Talents Plan” has been described by FBI director Christopher Wray as “economic espionage”.  It includes military technology, drone automation, AI, biotech, and many high tech areas. To put a fine point on it, some of these researchers are signing up to agreements to obey Chinese laws, and which require them to ask permission from the CCP before they disclose these arrangements to their Australian employers.

We might be tempted to call this all sort of names, but this sort of activity is apparently legal. It’s just a loophole being exploited.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s new report: Hunting the phoenix: The Chinese Communist Party’s search for technology and talent.

Remember Peter Ridd can be sacked for being uncollegial, but it appears that academics who may undermine national interests and give away intellectual property are acting within the law. Where were the Vice Chancellors? What were they thinking: Employment contracts stop Australian professors from speaking freely in Australia, but allow them to serve the CCP at our expense?

Looks like one civilization is fast asleep at the wheel.

Some things matter:

China exploits Australia’s lax laws to sign up researchers for secretive program

Sharri Markson, and Kylar Louisikian, The Australian

The Chinese government is ­actively recruiting leading Australian scientists for a secretive research program that offers lucrative salaries and perks but requires their inventions to be patented in China and obliges them to abide by Chinese law.

The Australian’s investigation has exposed that universities do not know: how many Thousand Talents Plan recipients are in their employ; if their academics are lodging patents in China; and whether their academics are being paid second salaries by affiliated Chinese universities.

Thank goodness for The Australian newspaper which has a large feature story today. Where was Our ABC?

Andrew Hastie M.P. has called for an “urgent” inquiry into the Thousand Talents Plan.

The Australian’s summary:

  • Under “Thousand Talents Plan” contracts, scientists legally sign away the rights to their intellectual property to China.
  • A standard clause in the contracts states China: “owns the copyrights of the works, inventions, patents and other intellectual properties produced by Party B (the academic) during the Contract period.”
  • Many contracts order the scientist to observe Chinese legal system, stating the academic: “shall observe relevant laws and regulations of the People’s Republic of China and shall not interfere in China’s internal affairs.”
  • Australian academics are also warned about religious practices, with contracts often stating: “Party B shall respect China’s religious policies, and shall not conduct any religious activities incompatible with his/her status as a foreign expert.”
  • They are offered a lucrative second salary, upwards of $150,000 a year, with generous research funding.
  • Other perks include travel, tuition for their children and housing subsidies.
  • Some academics are given an entire new laboratory in a Chinese university and team of research staff to work for them.
  • They then have a “clone” team in China – often unbeknownst to their Australian employer.
  • The academic often makes numerous trips to China to conduct research.
  • The aim of the program is to ‘own’ the research conducted and paid for by western universities.


It works out pretty well for interested researchers:

Professor Yu specialises in drone automation and artificial intelligence, and has been working on an area of intense interest to the Chinese government: aerial warfare and co-ordinating thousands of unmanned aerial vehicles to co-operate in the air.

Chinese-language reports state he is part of Chinese government recruitment programs including the Qianjiang Scholar of Zhejiang Provincial Talents program and the Taishan Scholars Project, Shandong Province.

Despite being on full-time pay at Curtin [in Western Australia], where he receives a 60 per cent loading on a professor’s salary and his research institute has been funded to the tune of $4m, The Australian understands he has spent most of the year in China.

After The Australian contacted him and Curtin University, Professor Yu’s Hangzhou Dianzi profile became unavailable for public view. Curtin declined to answer specific questions about him, despite issuing a press release with great fanfare when it appointed him to the role of Optus Chair of Artificial Intelligence in May last year. …

Some in the US woke up to this late last year:

Jenny Leonard, Bloomberg, Dec 2019

Officials are concerned about spying and intellectual-property theft.

U.S. officials say TTP encourages economic espionage and theft of intellectual property, the issue at the heart of President Trump’s trade war with China.

Was any of this a secret?

Hardly. Until last September, China published the names of recruits on an official website. That all ended when a Chinese American engineer (and TTP participant) working for General Electric Co. was arrested for allegedly stealing tech secrets from the company.

That’s a lot of patent applications:

China patent applications, Graph.

Patent applications from China and the US. : Bloomberg


The CCP have been recruiting scientists all over the world:

Ben Packham in The Australian

Chinese Communist Party uses ‘talent stations’ to lure scientists: report

The Chinese Communist Party has at least 57 talent recruitment “stations” in Australia to lure the top scientists to work for Beijing on Xi Jinping’s goal of global dominance in critical technologies, a new report says.

The ASPI report says an estimated 1000 Australian scientists are believed to have been recruited to participate in its overseas talent plans, with many working on technologies that can be harnessed by the Chinese military.

China’s talent program recruiters are paid up to $40,000 for each scientist they recruit, plus annual operating costs, the report by China analyst Alex Joske says.

They are part of a web of more than 600 such stations located in technologically advanced countries.

In the highest profile example of alleged misconduct by a Chinese talent plan scientist, Harvard Professor Charles Lieber, a nanotechnologist with no Chinese heritage, was arrested earlier this year for allegedly failing to disclose a US$50,000 monthly salary from a Chinese university.

Notably, China doesn’t want to adopt many of our climate scientists, I can’t think why. But there are several that are claimed to be involved.

For example, Wenju Cai at CSIRO is named in many Chinese sites as being a part of the Thousand Talents Plan, though the CSIRO says this is not true.  He works at CSIRO in Climate and marine science,  and officially also at the Qingdao National Marine Laboratory in China. That lab has 3,000 researchers and some of them are involved in satellite mounted laser detection of submarines at depths of 500m. Professor Cai admits to being a part of the Aoshan Talent program, a different Chinese program which The Australian tells us can pay up to $200,000 a year with research funds of up to $1m, and includes help for some to buy a house if they sign up for the 6 year plan.  The Australian does not specifically claim any benefits in Professor Cai’s case.

There is also Huijun Zhao, Griffith University, director of the Centre for Clean Environment and Energy, which researches chemical and microbiological approaches to pollution. The Australian only says he receives a daily allowance for expenses when he is in China.

Also Dai Liming University of NSW, a specialist in carbon based, metalfree renewable energy technology.  Professor Andrew McMinn, Uni of Tas, who is a researcher of sea ice ecology and environmental change. His university knew about it.

How about Professor Zhaoyang (Joe) Dong, University of NSW, who is a specialist in power system planning and stability and is director of the UNSW Digital Grid Futures Institute. Professor Dong heads one of Australia’s largest energy research projects — the ARC Hub for Integrated Energy Storage. “As a consultant he also leads the development of the load models for Western Power Corporations daily usage in operations and planning of Western Australia;s transmission network. He further leads the gas and electricity network co-planning for the $12.6m CSIRO Future Grid Project.”

Then there is Professor Guoxiu Wang at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) who denies being a Thousand Talent recruit. He specialises in energy storage and batteries. UTS says that China is loosely referring to him being in the Thousand Talents program and it is merely a mark of respect, not that he is part of the official program. The Australian discovered his name was on 11 patent applications, but Professor Dong says he had no knowledge of 10 of those applications. He has asked for his name to be taken off them.

If there are weaknesses and vulnerabilities in Australian energy grids, China is possibly very well informed of them, and if we did discover an efficient battery we might end up buying them from China and paying for the royalties on their discovery too.

 * * *

Commenters please note: “The Australian is not suggesting the academics have acted inappropriately.” That goes for Jo Nova too, and I ask commenters to refrain from suggesting this behaviour is illegal.  It may be unethical, unAustralian, shortsighted, naive and selfish, but it is not illegal.  More fool us.

There are plenty of targets to blame for enabling this behaviour and allowing this to go on for years.

9.5 out of 10 based on 50 ratings

38 comments to Australian academics working for the CCP on the side…?

  • #

    I have often wondered why the uni affiliated lab I work in once received a delegation from the PLA. My Chinese boss (department head and C.I. for many projects) looked unusually uncomfortable with them.

    But often there’s no secrecy about it. Openly, we invite Chinese ‘students’ to work on cutting edge research projects often with commercial potential and I doubt any agreements pertaining to patents, intellectual property etc are worth a penny. The lure of funding is the bait. I have also visited several factories in Shanghai where I saw obvious copies of specific medical devices being produced.


  • #
    Graeme No.3

    Just declare all Chinese payments as taxable personal income – no deductions allowed.
    A sudden loss of enthusiasm from many academics.


  • #

    China loves seeing ourselves shooting our selves in the foot with all these laws and restrictions,that is decimating our innovation while offering to makes dreams possible that couldn’t be done in the United G whatever countries.


  • #
    Lockdown Loner

    There are two arguments for why this behaviour is allowed; incompetence to identify and stop it, and active enablement by likewise corrupted people in positions of power.

    Personally, I’m done with the theory of bumbling, oafish coincidences of ineptitude by people supposedly smarter than me. Especially where the CCP is concerned.


    • #

      I tend to believe it is our corrupted politicians that have these “business” trips to China…
      You know it is not for the good of your own country.
      Secret trade deals also come to mind that we are not allowed to see their agreements.


    • #

      Look at the long list of bad decisions made by our political leaders, both state and federal of all sorts. Regardless of the reason for all that we as a nation are being lead down into the abyss slowly but surely, and the voters are happy to go along with it. Otherwise, neither major party would be able to form government in their own right. In time more and more voters will wake up to what’s happening but by that time it might be too late.


  • #

    I cannot see the value of Chinese patents outside China or inside. Maybe other countries respect Chinese patents, but it doesn’t work the other way around. You could always try to sue someone in a Chinese court. Giving away the Chinese patents is one thing, but who owns the patents in the US and Europe? That’s the question.

    One way to bring your universities up to speed in subjects is to hire talent from overseas and every country does that. This way allows people to work in two countries. There is also a massive language barrier, which we know from hosting vast numbers of Chinese students. This allows the students and the Australian staff to stay home apart from occasional travel.

    It’s only unethical if the deal is secret and you are paid secretly, defrauding one party. So if the Australian government is paying for the research and China is getting a secret deal subsidized without anyone’s knowledge, that is fr*ud.

    Otherwise, what exactly is the problem? And apart from medical research where Australia is a world leader, what area is being transferred? Our diesel submarines? The Australian space program? Our nuclear power industry? The Australian hydrogen bomb? Or the stump jump plough technology, hidden for a century? Or leading edge aircraft manufacture? I know of very few areas where Australia has world leading research worth stealing. And we have no electronics and they make semiconductors and phones, we don’t. More likely it is a way to bring some of their universities up to Western standards.


    • #

      China has the hydrogen bomb. They sit on the Security council. China landed a craft last year on the far side of the moon. There are the straight Silicon Valley tech giant ripoffs Wichat(Facebook), Alibaba (Amazon), TikTok (Twitter), Didi Chuxing (Uber), Huawei(Apple). And cities like Shanghai are 5G already. The list goes on. And Chinese laptops are banned by the US State department because of known back doors which allow spies in. Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State had an improper Chinese laptop. Of course everyone knew everything.

      The technology they are stealing or just appropriating is US technology. And they have their own exclusive single language, single currency vast domestic market. Uber gave up and sold their business to Didi Chuxing. You just cannot function in China when the government is your competitor. In effect the patents do not matter. The government makes the decisions and that means the Chinese Communist Party.

      And the very nature of the Chinese system where innovation is stifled means you need to import free thinking Westerners, but why invent and protect with patents when it is personal knowledge which can be bought? So unless they are military secrets, it has all happened. So what is the real problem just discovered?

      Then you get the Wuhan Institute of Virology who argue that the plague virus cannot have come from their laboratory because they are just too careful. And ultimately the control of WHO allowed it to spread worldwide long before WHO called it a pandemic, defeating the primary function of WHO. It is this infiltration and defacto control of UN committees which is most worrying.


    • #


      What is the value of Chinese patents?
      The Chinese do not regard patents as having value, but our courts do. So in the situation described, the inventor, the work and the investment are Australian but our court will recognize China as owner.

      Is an act only unethical if secret? A very strange concept.

      Apart from medical research, what else? The list is given in paragraph 1.


  • #

    Clive Hamilton’s books “Silent Invasion” and “Hidden Hand” detail the workings of Red China in Australia and the world overall; it’s pretty clear release of a pandemic virus is not in any plan as they’re more inclined to be throwing money around to buy influence.

    One can assess how effective the CCP program has been by looking at the high level penetration in our political parties over recent years from the Liberal’s Andrew Robb flogging Darwin Harbour and taking a job with Landbridge to Labor’s Sam Dastyari advocating for the CCP policy on the South China Sea and the complete u-turn by Bob Carr not to mention the rogue state Victoria’s One Belt One Road arrangement.


  • #

    Close the loophole.


    • #

      Then we need to “Your Fired” all our politicians. Government is a corrupted business that has too much power over us.


  • #

    You just wonder how stupid our leaders in the west can become but looking at all the evidence it is unfortunately very stupid indeed. The west is destrying itself and countries like china probably look on in disbelief.and distaste at our lack of patriotism and lack of awareness.


  • #
    John F. Hultquist

    I notice one of the articles cited comes from Bloomberg (Jenny Leonard, Dec. 2019).
    Bloomberg’s main guy is rumored to fund attorneys in U.S. state’s attorneys general offices to further his green agenda. Perhaps in other countries also? Not seen that.

    How is the subject of this post much different. Got lots of money – get your own way.

    Governments make the rules. Lots of money can hire smart folks to exploit those rules.
    The English speaking governments seem set on spending money on useless things (Okay, almost useless.): See California’s Train-to-nowhere, or Solyndra. “In February 2020 there was 8,113 MW in offshore wind capacity in the UK, with a further 10,579 MW under construction or proposed to be built by 2025.” (Wiki) Why?

    China takes advantage of these things. Who could have guessed?


    • #

      Interesting comment by John Hultquist about the plans to double the UK wind electricity generating capacity.
      Even with all the current wind farm nominal capacity in the UK, the present output from wind is 1.19 GW.
      Looking back at Gridwatch ( ) over the past weeks the output from wind has either been flat out or next to nothing. The lean periods would have been far too long for batteries to make up the difference.
      Doubling up the nameplate wind generation capacity would still be of little use as the output as of now would still be 2.38 GW, less than 10% of current demand which is 31.43 GW.
      If a worker performed in a similar way they would be getting their P45.
      The weather forecast for tomorrow is for gales with gusts up to 70 mph.
      Will the windmills have to shut down for safety reasons, and if so will they get paid for electricity they could have produced?


  • #

    So where is ASIO in all this?

    Id have thought they would be having kittens….


    • #

      I’m hoping the fact that we haven’t heard a peep from them might be a good sign that they’re quietly gathering intelligence in the background. Then again, they might just be asleep.


    • #
      Lockdown Loner

      That is the $64,0000 question. My concern is that they are ultimately reporting to politicians, and ultimately constrained by them in what actions they might take.


  • #

    If it’s not illegal, Parliament should have a look at the relevant law and do something about it.


  • #
    el gordo

    ‘It may be unethical, unAustralian, shortsighted, naive and selfish …’

    If the Americans or Brits were doing the head hunting it wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. Beijing is adapting to the capitalist free market model, don’t steal intellectual property, better to buy the brains and create novel patents.


    • #

      But if it was North Korea doing it?

      Same dog, different fleas….

      Last I loooked, communism is not friendly to western nations.


      • #
        el gordo

        North Korea is an old fashioned communist state ruled by a tyrant, by comparison China is run by a benevolent dictator who holds the mandate of heaven.

        Do not be afraid.


  • #
    M Seward

    Just more evidence that academics can be utter whores just like bankers, public servants, financial ‘advisers’ and a whole range of other privileged and highly paid people.

    I really do not get why the media constantly refers to such people as ‘experts’ when they bring them in to support some narrative. Frankly most of academia is down there with the Catholic Church in terms of trust imo.


  • #
  • #

    A complicated issue this as it operates at so many levels and can’t be simplified as above. For instance,there is a bit of two-ways about this. There are Australian academics who are most definitely benefiting from what they get from Chinese collaborators more than the other way around.


    • #
      el gordo

      The general feeling is that if there was transparency, then it should be kosher.

      China has big plans for the Delta region, reading between the lines they seem keen to organise a brains trust. Knowledge is power and they are prepared to pay good money for the best the world has to offer.


  • #
    Steve of Cornubia

    An FOI request should be submitted to the CSIRO asking for a list of past and current ‘collaborative projects’ with China, along with the details of each – cash payments either way, in-kind contributions, names and roles of staff involved on each side, objectives of the projects, details of how background and project IP is/was handled and what the outcome and impacts of the projects were/are.

    Only a positive, independent audit of these dealings would convince me that this sort of collaboration is in Australia’s interests. However, my expectation is that, even where no devious intent or criminality is involved, the CSIRO doesn’t get value for money out of its dealings with the Chinese research and industrial communities.


  • #
    dinn, rob

    Brazil 36/723= 5% increase/day ave. of last 4 days new cases/active cases
    India 67/640= 10.4$ increase/day ave of last 3 days
    Iran 21/265= 7.9% increase/day ave of last 3 days
    USA 42/2471= 1.7% increase/day ave last 3 days


  • #

    This behaviour is not confined to academics. As an industry consultant, just before the pandemic I was pursued by a Chinese manufacturing company and offered a very lucrative contract. After a visit to China in late 2019, I agreed to terms of a contract to provide consulting services but had not signed it. The pandemic brought all of the negotiations to a halt and I have not had any further contact from the company concerned. My realisation of the significance of my involvement in China for the local industry came when the Chinese Communist government commenced to try to bully our government in Australia. The company clearly stated that it was their ambition to become the largest of their type in the world, and I then realised that my involvement would likely result in the destruction of our Australian industry where I had learned my skills. So although I have not had any further contact from the Chinese company, I have no intention of continuing with the contract should it be offered.


    • #

      We need more people like you. We need to ask, why would China – with it’s record of disrespecting and exploiting poor countries – feel compelled to fund and assist our industry. As they say: In any race, the horse called “Self Interest” is your best bet. At least you know it’ll be trying.


  • #

    The US is taking action on similar activity, according to this SMH story (today):
    ” NASA researcher accused of concealing China ties
    Zhengdong Cheng faces charges of wire fraud, conspiracy and false statements, according to a criminal complaint released by the Justice Department on Monday.

    Dave B


  • #

    The USSR called them ‘Useful idiots’.


    • #

      The phrase “useful idiot” has often been attributed to Vladimir Lenin,[3] but he is not documented as ever having used the phrase.[4] In a 1987 article for The New York Times, American journalist William Safire investigated the origin of the term, noting that a senior reference librarian at the Library of Congress had been unable to find the phrase in Lenin’s works and concluding that in the absence of new evidence, the term could not be attributed to Lenin.[4][5] Similarly, the Oxford English Dictionary in defining “useful idiot” says: “The phrase does not seem to reflect any expression used within the Soviet Union”.[1]


  • #
    Murray Shaw

    Accepting monies for sharing your research work with a foreign government/entity, without disclosure of that activity to your employer, the rightful owner of the results of your work, surely amounts to espionage, and therefore a crime.