China recruited scientists from top US lab to work on its military tech: report

Several former Chinese scientists who worked at the US Los Alamos National Laboratory returned to China to advance the country’s developments in hypersonic missiles, drone technology and submarine programs, all of which now pose a number of global security risks.

A recent report by Washington DC-based security firm Strider Technologies exposes the flaws in open scientific collaboration, detailing how China, a state-sponsored talent program, sends promising scientists to work and train in US national laboratories and recruits leading scientists back from the country to advance its own military programs and plans.

Though Beijing’s agenda for recruiting Chinese talent abroad is a well-known secret, the report is significant because it details the scientists — known at home as the “Los Alamos Club” — and their work in key sectors of the military and civil society dual use includes technologies that have helped Beijing advance in critical areas such as hypersonic, deep-earth penetrating warheads, unmanned autonomous vehicles (UAV), jet engines and submarine noise reduction.

Over a decade ago, Chinese submarines were notorious for being noisy, making them easier to track. A decade later, however, China has made rapid strides in redesigning and reconfiguring submarines, making them stealthier and quieter.

Similar to hypersonic technology, China now claims that its advances in hypersonic weapon technology breach any current-generation missile defense system. China has also made similar advances in ground-penetrating warheads and UAV technology.

Interestingly, the Strider report finds that scientists working in these very fields of technology have returned to work in Chinese research and technology institutions after working in the US

According to the report, between 1987 and 2021, at least 162 scientists who worked at Los Alamos returned to China to support a variety of domestic research and development (R&D) programs. Of those 162 scientists, 15 were permanent employees at Los Alamos, 13 of whom were recruited into Chinese government talent programs.

While working at Los Alamos, these scientists were obligated to Beijing to sponsor visiting scientists and postdocs from China, some even receiving US government funds for sensitive research.

According to the report, at least one of these Chinese-born employees held a US Department of Energy (DOE) “Q Clearance,” which is required to access top-secret, restricted data and national security information.

According to the report, Dr. Chen Shiyi, a world-renowned expert on fluid dynamics and turbulence and a key recruiter of Chinese talent from Los Alamos, where he previously worked in the 1990s, a key figure in the so-called Los Alamos Club, is returning home as President of the Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech ).

dr Chen not only made significant contributions to China’s hypersonic and aerodynamics programs, but also worked with other scientific institutions and the military to develop hypersonic glide vehicles that helped the country bypass the US in hypersonic technology.

dr Chen’s first recruit at SUSTech was Zhao Yusheng, who spent 18 years at Los Alamos during which time he received multiple US government grants totaling up to $19.8 million to conduct sensitive research deep into the earth invading warheads.

Interestingly, the report states that while Zhao was at Los Alamos, Zhao sponsored another postdoctoral researcher from China, who eventually filed a national defense patent for similar technology after returning to the country. The researcher is now affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Engineering Physics (CAEP), China’s leading nuclear weapons research, development and manufacturing facility.

Another member of the Los Alamos Club, according to the report, is Dr. He Guowei, a key figure in China’s effort to develop quieter submarines that will allow them to evade detection. While at Los Alamos in the late 1990’s, Dr. Guowei intensively with Dr. Chen, and after returning to China worked at the Institute of Mechanics (IMCAS) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, where his team developed computer models that help quickly and accurately predict turbulence generated by a submarine.

The report also notes that Dr. Chen 2016 another scientist, Dr. Shan Xiaowen, recruited to work in SUSTech’s Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department. Shan worked at Los Alamos from 1991 to 1998 and worked with Dr. Chen together.

In 2019 dr. Shan Head of SUSTech Intelligent Aviation R&D Center, which focuses on unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technologies. Under Shan’s leadership, the center produced a prototype vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) UAV with civilian and military applications.

While the report’s findings are not new, they do suggest that Beijing’s recruitment drive could be widespread among several US government-funded laboratories, academic research institutions and major innovation hubs.

An exclusive report in the South China Morning Post in 2017 gave similar details of how Chinese scientists working at Los Alamos returned to China to support the country’s weapons program.

The SCMP report says Beijing has stepped up efforts, using financial incentives, appeals to patriotism and promises of better career prospects to attract scientists with experience abroad, particularly in space and defense research. China recruited scientists from top US lab to work on its military tech: report

Fry Electronics Team

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