Chinese scholars are gathering knowledge from Delft to help the army move forward

Chinese scholars are gathering knowledge from Delft to help the army move forward

Do visiting doctoral students and researchers from Chinese military universities gain knowledge at TU Delft to strengthen the army in their country? These concerns seem entrenched, as Delta University Journal writes in a series of research stories published today.

Politicians have long been interested in cooperating with China in education and research. This regularly leads to parliamentary questions about censorship and influence, for example the role of the Confucius Institutes or the Joint Research Project of Amsterdam Universities and the tech giant Huawei.

War simulation

It is assumed that after today a new list of questions will be presented Research stories From delta. The journal examined the work of doctoral students and visiting researchers from the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT). This top Chinese military academy is led by the People’s Liberation Army, and it will intentionally send doctoral students and scholars to foreign universities to conduct so-called dual-use research, which can be published in both civilian and military terms.

Delta concluded that at least 29 NUDT scientists at TU Delft have been involved in this type of research in recent years. Some examples of topics are: radar technology, quantum computing, satellite navigation and war simulation models.


The question is what happens next with that gained research experience, and who cares about it. Discover Delta A complete overview of all partnerships with China not available at TU Delft. Also, the university is not always aware of the intentions of Chinese doctoral students.

The editorial team reviewed 115 publications that Chinese scholars contributed to Delft and spoke with supervisors and PhD professors. One cannot imagine their research having a military use, while the other is well aware that knowledge gained by PhD students is “flowing” into NUDT. Either way, they are careful.

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Delta came across an interview from 2017 with a PhD student at Delft NUDT who said his “mission” was to empower the military with advanced science and technology. It turns out, another visiting researcher is indirectly linked to a Chinese state-owned company developing facial recognition technology to track Uyghurs. In the Netherlands, a parliamentary majority now believes that China is committing genocide against this Muslim minority.

Delta writes that Chinese doctoral students are attracted to Western universities because they usually bring in their scholarships. TU Delft has official contacts with dozens of Chinese enterprises. According to Delta, this also includes four well-known universities with three other universities named after Seven Sons of National Defense: they have close ties to the military and specialize in subjects such as space and armament.

Done according to the dictates of the conscience

Delta admits in a journalistic way that the debate over China is a delicate one liability. Both naivety and the enemy’s thinking lurk. Moreover, most of the Chinese students and PhD students come to Delft without ulterior motives. The editors do not want the judgment, but they hope to contribute to a “well-thought-out debate”.

Editor-in-chief Saskia Bunger says that due to the same sensitivity, it was decided to publish all four stories at once. “In this way we give the most complete picture. For example, one article deals with the history of cooperation between TU Delft and Chinese institutions. Fifteen years ago, China was perceived very differently. It seemed fair to mention it right away.”

Editors have also visited all kinds of Chinese websites and documents for this series. “We were fortunate that one of the editors spoke the language,” says Bunger. “This way, we learned a lot.”

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Were there really reactions from the Chinese students or staff? Not yet, Bonger says. We’ve also tried to do it with the greatest conscientiousness possible, without putting people in trouble. But if someone wants to talk to us about it, we are of course open to it. “


The Council of Ministers is currently working with universities on various measures in the field of “knowledge security”. And I wrote this week that the outgoing Minister Van Engelshoven wants to inform the House of Representatives about this matter again later this year.

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