China’s army has sponsored more than 2,500 military scientists and engineers to study abroad since 2007, according to a new report on Chinese military collaborations with foreign universities published by an Australian think tank titled "Picking Flowers, Making Honey."
The report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institutes says that visiting scientists from the People’s Liberation Army work in high-tech fields such as quantum physics, signal processing, cryptography, navigation technology and autonomous vehicles. Some travel abroad to complete their entire doctorates overseas, while others travel for shorter stints as visiting scholars. Many come from Chinese military academies.
The report finds that the number of peer-reviewed publications coauthored by PLA and overseas scholars has increased steadily since 2008. The top destination for Chinese military scientists going abroad appears to be the United States, followed by the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Germany.
While it seems that the majority of visiting PLA scholars are open about their military affiliations, the report identifies two dozen cases of scientists traveling under cover.
The report includes recommendations for both universities and governments and argues that current policies do not adequately address issues raised by collaborations with the PLA.
“While foreign universities’ ties with the PLA have grown, it isn’t clear that universities have developed an understanding of the PLA and how their collaboration with it differs from familiar forms of scientific collaboration,” says the report, which was authored by Alex Joske. “To date, there’s been no significant public discussion on why universities should be directly contributing to the technology of a non-allied military. Importantly, there’s also little evidence that universities are making any meaningful distinction between collaboration with the Chinese military and the rest of their collaboration with China.”