The United States is in the midst of a contentious trade war with China, which has spilled over to global science. The U.S. federal government has expressed increasing concern about the “China threat” with rising accusations about intellectual theft and espionage coming from China. Over the past year especially, U.S. scientific communites and organizations have been subject to numerous federal proposals and enactments to curb U.S.-China research collaboration.
During August 2018, university academic and medical leaders were warned about “classified security threats” coming from “inside” and appealed to partner with the FBI to identify possible espionage. Under pressure from Congress and in cooperation with the FBI, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the United States’ largest research funder, urged over 10,000 research institutions to report any international funding and not to share NIH grant application information to those outside the United States. These policies imply heightened sensitivity and distrust of international ties, justifying the call for disclosures. Most of the scientists known to have been investigated or dismissed have been of Chinese descent.