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US Urged to Ditch China Science Deal Over Tech Theft Fears

Republican lawmakers argue the Science and Technology Agreement should be allowed to expire as it benefits China’s military

A soldier stands guard ahead of the Third Plenary Session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, China, 10 March 2023. Mark R. Cristino/Pool via REUTERS
Republicans in the US allege China's military exploits the Science and Technology Agreement. Photo: Reuters


The US State Department is being put under pressure to pull the plug on a decades-old US-China agreement on scientific cooperation, with opponents claiming Beijing would exploit it to aid its military.

The deal, signed when Beijing and Washington established diplomatic ties in 1979 and renewed about every five years since, has seen cooperation in areas from atmospheric and agricultural science to basic research in physics and chemistry.

But Republican lawmakers’ concerns about China’s growing military prowess and theft of US scientific and commercial achievements have prompted questions about whether the Science and Technology Agreement (STA), set to expire on August 27, should continue.


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In a letter sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the chair of the US House of Representative’s select committee on China, Mike Gallagher, and nine other Republican representatives, said the deal should be scrapped.

The letter cited concerns about joint work between the US and China’s Meteorological Administration on “instrumented balloons”, as well as more than a dozen US Department of Agriculture projects with Chinese entities that it said include technologies with “clear dual-use applications”, including techniques to analyse satellite and drone imagery for irrigation management.

“The PRC [People’s Republic of China] uses academic researchers, industrial espionage, forced technology transfers, and other tactics to gain an edge in critical technologies, which in turn fuels the People’s Liberation Army modernisation,” the lawmakers wrote.

“The United States must stop fuelling its own destruction. Letting the STA expire is a good first step,” they said.


China Hopes to Renew Deal

China has sought to accelerate efforts to achieve self-reliance in agricultural technology, including in seed development. US authorities have stepped up efforts to counter what they say is industrial espionage by Chinese individuals in the sector.

China’s officials hope to extend the deal, and have said publicly they approached the US last year to discuss renewal, but that Washington has been conducting a review of the agreement.

The State Department earlier this month declined to comment on “internal deliberations on negotiations”.

Proponents of renewing the deal argue that without it, the US would lose valuable insight into China’s technical advances. Nonetheless, many analysts say the agreement must be fundamentally reworked to safeguard US innovation in a time of heightened strategic competition with China.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara


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Sean O'Meara

Sean O'Meara is an Editor at Asia Financial. He has been a newspaper man for more than 30 years, working at local, regional and national titles in the UK as a writer, sub-editor, page designer and print editor. A football, cricket and rugby fan, he has a particular interest in sports finance.


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