U.S.-China Tensions May Sink Key Science and Technology Pact STA
For over 40 years, the United States and China have maintained a landmark agreement on cooperation in science and technology known as the Science and Technology Agreement (STA). However, this pact is now on the verge of lapsing, and tensions between the two countries are to blame. American lawmakers have raised concerns that the joint efforts under the agreement could give Beijing a security and military advantage. As the agreement’s expiration deadline approaches, supporters argue that not renewing it would not only jeopardize vital collaboration in areas like climate change and public health but also hinder academic cooperation between the world’s two leading economies.
Background of the STA
The Science and Technology Agreement (STA) was signed in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter and Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. It marked the first accord between the United States and China following the normalization of diplomatic relations. The agreement has been renewed approximately every five years since then, with its most recent renewal in 2018. As a comprehensive agreement, the STA provides the framework for science and technology collaboration between the governments of the two countries. It is also considered the enabling document for all other science cooperation between the United States and China, including collaboration with academic and research institutions.
Opposition to Renewal
Resistance to renewing the STA has emerged among U.S. lawmakers who argue that collaboration with China on sensitive technologies could advance its military modernization efforts. In a letter sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, 10 Republican members of Congress expressed concerns that China could exploit partnerships established under the STA to undermine American sovereignty. They believe that allowing the agreement to expire would be a crucial step in preventing the United States from fueling its own destruction.
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., also objected to the agreement’s renewal in a separate letter to Blinken. He cited China’s human rights violations, lack of transparency during the Covid-19 pandemic, and disregard for intellectual property rights as reasons why cooperation with such a nation is untenable.
The Balancing Act
The Biden administration finds itself in a challenging position as it deals with China. It aims to protect U.S. national security without jeopardizing the overall relationship between the two countries. President Joe Biden has already taken measures to restrict China’s access to advanced semiconductor chips and imposed investment restrictions on high-tech industries in China. At the same time, the administration has sought to ease tensions on trade, human rights, and Taiwan by engaging in senior-level talks and expressing a desire for increased people-to-people exchanges and science and technology cooperation.
Chinese officials have indicated their desire to renew the STA, viewing it as a small but concrete step toward improving bilateral relations. China’s ambassador to the United States, Xie Feng, stated at the Aspen Security Forum that U.S.-China cooperation in science and technology has been mutually beneficial and should continue. The Chinese Foreign Ministry further emphasized that China opposes the politicization and weaponization of scientific and technological issues and the establishment of obstacles to normal exchanges in the scientific and technological community.
– Chinese researchers have published a significant proportion of the world’s most cited scientific papers since 2019, surpassing other countries in this regard.
– The STA’s expiration may signal to Chinese officials that the United States is not interested in maintaining cooperative relationships in science and technology, potentially impacting other areas of collaboration.
The possible lapse of the U.S.-China Science and Technology Agreement (STA) could have wide-ranging implications. It would not only hinder government-to-government collaboration on critical issues like climate change and public health but also impede academic cooperation between the two countries. While concerns about China’s military advancement through technology collaboration are valid, completely severing ties may not be the most effective approach. Striking a delicate balance that safeguards national security while promoting mutually beneficial cooperation is crucial.
The expiration of the U.S.-China Science and Technology Agreement (STA) highlights the mounting tensions between the two countries. Opposition from American lawmakers, rooted in concerns about China’s military intentions, has cast doubt on the renewal of the agreement. However, the potential consequences of allowing the STA to lapse are significant. It would not only curtail vital cooperation in key areas but could also send a signal to Chinese officials that the United States is withdrawing from collaborative efforts in science and technology. Striking a balance between protecting national security and maintaining valuable scientific partnerships is essential in moving forward.