As the United States hunts down Chinese spies, university scientists warn of a setback

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That fear comes as China begins to experience a reverse brain drain. Over the past decade, numerous Chinese scientists have been drawn back to the country by the promise of numerous funding, impressive titles and national pride. Most recently, scientists returning to China cited a hostile environment in the United States as a factor.

Westlake University, a research university in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, has compiled an impressive list of talented people, including many who once held faculty positions in top American schools. In August, Westlake announced several new hires, including a professor from Northwestern University and another from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Leading molecular biologist and head of Westlake University Shi Yigong said colleagues had complained about the suspicious situation in the United States. “For those who choose to quit their job in the United States, sometimes I hear stories of a bitter nature,” Dr. Shi said. “Some of them, not all of them, I think are isolated for what I think is the most severe treatment.”

However, at least one person is guaranteed to stay in the United States: Dr. Hu.

The son of a factory worker, he grew up in a poor village in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong and said his interest in science began at a young age. In elementary school, he wired a speaker with scrap mineral and rigged a simple radio attached to a makeshift antenna hanging from a tree.

After earning advanced degrees in China, he left the country with his wife in 1997 and worked in several countries before receiving his second Ph.D. In physics in Canada. Like countless immigrants before him, he immigrated to the United States in 2013 with the hope of a better life and career.

He has sacrificed a lot to give it all up now, he said.

He will stay in the United States not only for his first love of science, but also to promote his new passion for justice. “I have no interest in politics and know nothing about it,” he said. “But, targeting Chinese and Asian Americans – I know it will not strengthen the United States.”

Javier c. Hernandez And Amy Chang Sien Contributed report.

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