Physics Nobel laureate Yang Chen Ning has reclaimed his Chinese citizenship.

Chinese University of Hong Kong

Two top Chinese-American scientists have dropped their U.S. citizenship

BEIJING–Two top Chinese scientists, one a Nobel laureate and the other a winner of a top computer science prize, have renounced their U.S. citizenship to become citizens of China.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) confirmed this week that Yang Chen Ning, 94, who shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1957, and Andrew Yao (Yao Qizhi), 70, the A.M. Turing Award winner in 2000, were recently inducted into the academy’s ranks as domestic academicians rather than foreign. Both men have been affiliated with Tsinghua University here since 2004.

CAS released a statement confirming the news but offered no further explanation as to why the two had given up their U.S. citizenship. Both men were born in China but established their careers in the United States and retained their naturalized U.S. citizenship even after returning to China. Neither Yang nor Yao could be reached for comment.

Andrew Yao, a winner of the A.M. Turing Award for work in computer science, has also given up his U.S. citizenship.

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“They are both internationally renowned scholars,” CAS said in its statement. “Their entry into the academy's faculty will increase the influence of China's scientific circles globally.”

The academy also confirmed that the two are the first international scientists to join its ranks as domestic members after changing their citizenship. According to the U.S. Federal Register, both Yang and Yao formally renounced U.S. citizenship in late 2015. The news came to light only this month when Chinese media reported they had joined CAS as domestic academics.

The development adds another Nobel laureate to China’s ranks. Yang won the 1957 prize in physics with his colleague Tsung-Dao Lee, another China-born U.S. citizen, for their work on parity laws. In 2010, Liu Xiaobo became the first-ever Chinese citizen residing in China to win a Nobel—the Peace Prize. Then in 2015, medical researcher Tu Youyou became the first to win in the sciences. Tu, who helped develop the groundbreaking antimalaria drug artemisinin, was part of a trio of scientists who won the prize in physiology or medicine for their global efforts on communicable diseases.

China has often complained that international science prize selection boards have long favored Chinese winners only when they aren’t citizens. In recent years, as China has increased its spending and focused on science, prestige and recognition have grown ever-more important. The country has invested heavily in programs to lure back top scientific talent from overseas but with mixed results.