Caught in the crossfire: Fears of Chinese American scientists

Yu Xie, Xihong Lin, Ju Lid, Qian He, Junming Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The US global leadership in science and technology has greatly benefitted from immigrants from other countries, most notably from China in the recent decades. However, feeling the pressure of potential federal investigations since the 2018 launch of the China Initiative, scientists of Chinese descent in the United States now face higher incentives to leave the United States and lower incentives to apply for federal grants. Analyzing data pertaining to institutional affiliations of more than 200 million scientific papers, we find a steady increase in the return migration of scientists of Chinese descent from the United States to China. We also conducted a survey of scientists of Chinese descent employed by US universities in tenured or tenure-Track positions (n = 1,304), with results revealing general feelings of fear and anxiety that lead them to consider leaving the United States and/or stop applying for federal grants. If the situation is not corrected, American science will likely suffer the loss of scientific talent to China and other countries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2216248120
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number27
StatePublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • American science
  • China
  • China initiative
  • academic freedom
  • immigrant scientists


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