The Biden administration wants a short-term extension to a science and technology agreement with China; however, U.S. lawmakers say Beijing would exploit it for a security and military advantage. The Science and Technology Agreement, signed in 1979, is the focus of the administration wanting to undertake negotiations to amend and strengthen the terms. The STA was the first accord between the two countries after they normalized diplomatic relations. It has been renewed roughly every five years and was due to lapse this past weekend.
A lapse in the pact would have impacted government collaboration in vital areas such as climate change and public health, and inhibit academic cooperation between the world’s two leading economies.
This is walking a tightrope, according to many. Deborah Seligsohn, for example, an expert in US-China relations at Villanova University in Pennsylvania and a former U.S. State Department official says scientific cooperation between the two governments could become “deeply problematic” without the agreement. “If it were to go away, not only would it impede government-to-government cooperation, but it would also put other science cooperation at risk,” said Seligsohn, a former environment, science, technology and health counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
But, renewing the agreement faced resistance from lawmakers who argue that collaboration on technologies in sensitive fields could advance China’s military modernization. In June, 10 Republican members of Congress sent a letter urging Secretary of State Antony Blinken not to renew it.
They claimed that evidence suggests that China “will continue to look for opportunities to exploit partnerships organized under the STA to advance its military objectives to the greatest extent possible and, in some cases, to attempt to undermine American sovereignty,” they wrote in the letter, whose signers included Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, the chair of the House Republican Conference, and Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., the chair of the Select Committee on China.