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China’s Thousand Talents Plan Goes Low Profile

The Thousand Talents Plan (TTP), once a high-profile Chinese government project to attract overseas talent, is now on total radio silence. Ever since the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) started to pursue the scholars involved in TTP, Chinese authorities have mentioned little of the project in public. It is now even difficult to search relevant information on the Internet.

It was rumored that, as early as late September 2018, the Chinese authorities had ordered the official media to suspend the coverage of TTP. A document circulated on the Internet; the “Thousand Talents Plan Youth Project Review Working Group” authored it. It was affixed with the seal of the National Natural Science Foundation of China, which clearly ordained that “the wording of ‘Thousand Talents Plan’ should not appear in written notifications.”

China’s effort to keep a lid on the project is believed to be a response to the FBI’s probe into the TTP scholars that started in September 2018. The Thousand Talents Plan is a short name for “China’s Overseas High-Level Talent Recruitment Program.” In December 2008, the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) decided to implement the program. In January 2009, the Talent Work Coordination Group, a task force underneath the CCP’s Central Organization Department, formulated the “Opinions on the Implementation of the Overseas High-level Talent Recruitment Program.” Over the next ten years, about 8,000 overseas experts were hired with high pay, most of them ethnic Chinese.

Searching the characters “千人計畫” (Chinese characters for TTP) on Baidu, China’s largest search engine, turns out very few results. If the search is done using simplified Chinese character, nothing can be found. The keyword is unsearchable on China’s social platforms such as Weibo. It is rumored that, since April this year, China’s cyber police has been filtering the keyword for TTP. However, searching with characters “中國海外高層次人才引進計畫” (Chinese characters for “China’s Overseas High-Level Talent Recruit Program”) will give some information. Sometimes one has to combine different words so as to find piecemeal data.

Source: Central News Agency, May 6, 2020