Republican lawmakers urge US to cancel science deal with China

By Michael Martina

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican lawmakers on Tuesday urged the U.S. State Department not to renew a decades-old U.S.-China agreement on science cooperation, arguing that Beijing would seek to use it to help its military.

The agreement, signed when Beijing and Washington established diplomatic ties in 1979 and renewed roughly every five years since, has resulted in cooperation in areas ranging from atmospheric and agricultural sciences to basic research in physics and chemistry.

But concerns about China’s growing military prowess and the theft of American scientific and commercial achievements have raised questions about whether the science and technology agreement (STA) which was due to expire on August 27 should continue.

In a letter sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Chairman of the US House of Representatives Select Committee on China Mike Gallagher and nine other Republican Representatives said the deal should be scrapped.

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

“The PRC (People’s Republic of China) uses academic researchers, industrial espionage, forced technology transfers and other tactics to gain advantage over critical technologies, which in turn fuels the modernization of the People’s Liberation Army,” the lawmakers wrote.

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

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

Chinese officials hope to extend the deal and have said publicly that they approached the United States last year to discuss renewal, but that Washington has conducted a review of the deal.

Earlier this month, the State Department declined to comment on “internal deliberations on negotiations.”

Proponents of renewing the deal say that without it, the United States would lose valuable insight into China’s technical advances. Still, many analysts say the deal needs to be fundamentally reworked to protect U.S. innovation at a time of heightened strategic competition with China.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Don Durfee and Jamie Freed)

Leave a Comment