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The War over Chinese Talent in the Us with David Zweig

10/23/2023 @ 4:30 pm - 6:00 pm


How to overcome the “brain drain?” In 1999, Meyer et. al. proposed the “Diaspora Option,” where developing states mobilize their overseas nationals for help in development. In the mid-1990s, China’s hope for a “reverse brain drain” of overseas scientists, academics and entrepreneurs stalled. So, in 2001, Jiang Zemin introduced China’s Diaspora Option, labelled, “serving the country” (为国服务) without “returning to the country” (回国服务). Party/State efforts include a wide array of programs to encourage overseas talent to transfer their knowledge to China. Institutions, such as hospitals, universities, research institutes, companies, and high-tech zones, see overseas talent as carriers of new technologies that enhance their domestic and foreign competitiveness. Many Chinese living abroad willingly comply, some to strengthen their former homeland, others from self-interest. In 2018, the Trump Administration declared war on China’s efforts through a McCarthy-like campaign called the “China Initiative.” This presentation documents the campaign, including several relatively unknown cases that highlight the downside of this initiative.


David Zweig (Ph.D., The University of Michigan, 1983) is Professor Emeritus, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Taipei School of Economics and Political Science, National Tsinghua University, Taiwan. He was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard in 1984-85. He lived in Hong Kong from 1996 to 2019 and now resides in New York.

Zweig studied in Beijing in 1974-1976 and did field research in rural China in 1980-1981 and 1986, and in 1991-1997, explored the internationalization of southern Jiangsu Province. Since 1991, he has surveyed and interviewed returned academics, scientists, entrepreneurs, and employees all over China, as well as those who have remained abroad. In 2012, he briefed the designer of the 1000 Talents Plan, Li Yuanchao, about why his program was struggling. He has been an expert witness for the defence in two cases under the “China Initiative.”

He has authored or edited ten books, including Internationalizing China (Cornell University Press). Almost 35,000 students have taken his two online classes with COURSERA on domestic Chinese Politics and on China and the World. He is completing a new book, tentatively called “The War over Chinese Talent in America.”

This event is a hybrid with both in-person attendees and an online audience. It is sponsored by the China and the World Program and co-sponsored by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute.

To register for the online event please:
register here or https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_GN3Cmq3oTYq1eDtc0idHmQ.

If you are attending in-person, please go to ‘INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS BUILDING AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY – 420 W. 118TH ST., NEW YORK, NY 10027 ROOM 918’ 

Contact Information

Daniel Suchenski


4:30 pm - 6:00 pm