Thousand Talents Plan
Date: 2020 08 07
Fully releasable (ATIP)? Yes
Branch / Agency: CSIS
Issue: The Globe and Mail published an article on the People’s Republic of China’s Thousand Talents Plan (or Program) which also highlights the national security concerns raised by CSIS and its engagement program to sensitize Canadian researchers to the threat.
- Espionage and Foreign Interference are significant threats to Canada’s national security and strategic interests.
- Canada’s research institutions are world leaders in various sectors that are of interest to foreign states and threat actors use various means to acquire sensitive Canadian technology and expertise.
- CSIS is aware that foreign talent recruitment programs are used to advance the economic and strategic objectives of hostile states at the expense of Canada’s national interests, which may result in lost jobs and expertise, a loss in Canadian government-funded research, and a diminished competitive global advantage.
- These threats are especially heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic. I can assure Canadians that our security agencies are working very hard to protect Canadian research and academic institutions by ensuring they understand the threat and that those at risk have the necessary tools to protect themselves.
On August 6, 2020, The Globe and Mail published an article about the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) Thousand Talents Plan (TTP) entitled “CSIS warns about China’s efforts to recruit Canadian scientists.”
Citing CSIS, the article presents the TTP as a recruitment tool launched by the PRC to attract leading scientists based outside the PRC with the aim of benefitting the PRC’s economy and military. It says CSIS views the TTP as a tool to reward scientists for giving up information or as a way of coercing them to do so. Among incentives offered to scientists, the article mentions high salaries, research funds, laboratory space and preferential treatment including medical care.
The authors quote from numerous Canadian recruits of the TTP. Their fields of expertise range from quantum computing and artificial intelligence to vaccines and chemistry. Those interviewed believe that the TTP is mutually beneficial to Canada and the PRC, and deny the security concerns raised regarding this program. One Canadian researcher, however, noted that he is aware of other PRC programs that seek technology transfers. Interviewed scientists stated that they understand the boundaries and are careful to protect Canadian-developed technology and by extension, keep Canada secure.
The article also highlights that participants of the TTP and other talent recruitment programs—of the PRC and other countries—are currently under investigation by United States (US) authorities. The article states that the FBI is doing considerable outreach work with universities and private companies, while the US National Institutes of Health, a science-funding agency, is investigating scientist conduct, leading to dozens of scientists resigning or being fired for failing to disclose financial ties to a foreign talent program.
Of note, the authors of the article contacted CSIS with a series of questions pertaining to TTP. CSIS provided an overview of the threat posed by foreign talent recruitment programs and CSIS’ outreach program to sensitize Canadian scientific and academic institutions to this threat, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prepared by: N/A
Approved by: [Redacted], Assistant Director Policy and Strategic Partnerships, [Redacted]
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