According to a recent article, a decades-old science and technology cooperative agreement between the United States and China is set to expire on August 27, 2023. While this may not seem significant at first glance, the potential lapse of this agreement could have consequences for scientific research and technological innovation.
The expiration of the agreement comes after U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher led a warning from the congressional group The US State Department in July 2023 against cooperation with China. They recommended letting the agreement expire, claiming that China has gained a military advantage through its scientific and technological ties with the United States.
The United States has been an active international research collaborator, with China becoming its senior scientific partner since 2011, surpassing the United Kingdom as its most frequent collaborator. Chinese domestic research and development spending is approaching parity with that of the United States, and Chinese science is becoming increasingly creative according to recent studies.
As a policy analyst and public affairs professor, I study international collaboration in science and technology and its implications for public policies. Agreements like this one are important for improving relations between countries. The U.S.-China science and technology agreement has successfully built joint research projects and shared research centers between the two nations.
Most American scientists can work with foreign counterparts without a political agreement, but this is not the case with China. The 1979 agreement became a prerequisite for cooperation between American and Chinese scientists. It was part of a historic opening of relations between both countries after decades of antagonism.
In the early 1970s, President Richard Nixon initiated efforts to normalize relationships with China, which were continued by President Jimmy Carter. At that time, China announced reforms including modernization and global opening in various sectors including science and technology.
Initially symbolic collaborations based on information sharing grew into substantial partnerships over time. Joint projects tackled important issues such as preventing birth defects through folic acid intake during pregnancy or developing renewable energy sources. These collaborations were often initiated by Chinese scientists working in the United States who cooperated with investigators at home.
However, as China’s economy and technological success grew, concerns about intellectual property theft, trade secret violations, and national security vulnerabilities arose. The recent American legislation, such as the CHIPS Act and Science Act, is a response to China’s expansion in these areas.
Some politicians believe that this science and technology agreement threatens US dominance in these fields. As tensions rise between the two countries, both are hesitant to renew the agreement. The United States risks being cut off from valuable technical expertise as China advances.
The ruling, the potential expiration of the science and technology cooperative agreement between the United States and China could have far-reaching consequences for scientific research and technological innovation. It is crucial for both countries to find a way to continue collaboration while addressing concerns about national security and intellectual property protection. Viewing science as a globally shared resource could help craft a truly win-win agreement for both sides.
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