some sources seem to indicate that they do: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2019-12-10/the-u-s-government-s-mistrust-of-chinese-americans

I realize this is a sensitive question. I'm a second-generation Chinese-American deciding whether or not to pursue cryptography. Among other things, I have to consider employment opportunities in the future. I've been told that most cryptographic research happens in 1) academia and 2) labs or government agencies like NSA. If my background is a problem in getting hired to the latter, then my options are pretty limited if I go in this direction.

I'm aware of current political climate in which the USA is decoupling itself from China. For example, denying Chinese graduate students, boycotting of the Winter Olympics, Chinese IP theft concerns etc. Also, considering China is one of the main geopolitical adversaries of 5-eyes.

I am wondering if this sentiment extends to affect a second generation Chinese-American's ability to find employment in these agencies. The situation is further complicated in that it's difficult to find a second generation Chinese-American who does NOT have a family member overseas that is affiliated with the Chinese government in some way. For example, I have a grandfather who served in the air force and I am vaguely aware of an aunt who has also served in the military.

A quick look at faculty websites says that Chinese-Americans are quite highly represented in crypto academia, but I am wondering if the same applies to agencies like the NSA where there is private research being done.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ There's the The Workplace which I believe is more appropriate for this question. $\endgroup$
    – DannyNiu
    Dec 7 '21 at 4:52
  • $\begingroup$ @DannyNiu I disagree. kyary's question is spot on, and shouldn't have been dumped into the Meta bin. Not all crypto is maths. $\endgroup$
    – Paul Uszak
    Dec 7 '21 at 12:38

I've been told that most cryptographic research happens in 1) academia and 2) labs or government agencies like NSA.

Actually, a nontrivial amount of research is done by industry. Certainly, someone like Microsoft Research won't care about your ethnic heritage (actually, US companies [1] are legally obligated not to care).

I don't know the answer to your question "does the NSA have a policy not to hire people with Chinese heritage"; however while I don't know how many cryptographical researchers the NSA employs (and I suspect they don't publish those numbers); I do get the feeling that it is a small fraction of those employed outside the NSA [2] - I would not make that a critical point when deciding what to do with your life.

[1]: I don't want to imply that companies from other countries are allowed to discriminate - I actually don't know the legal situations in the various non-US countries (which probably varies widely by country), hence the caveat.

[2]: I've met literally hundreds of cryptographers from academia and industry; I've met only a handful of cryptographers from the NSA. On the other hand, it's possible that the NSA doesn't send their cryptographers to the conferences I attend...


Not answering the main concern, but providing an alternative view.

If you were to come back to China, seeking a job in the government or an university, then you'll have to undergo "政治审核", which involve several aspects of background check, such as criminal record of the candidate and their family, and most importantly - political profile.

If you instead seek a job in the private sector in China, the regulators would be more than willing to provide all sorts of accomondations for high intellects, especially in industries concerning strategic infrastructures - such as computer operating systems, integrated circuits, artificial intelligence, and modernization of traditional industries.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .