The Biden administration is pursuing a brief extension of the Science and Technology Agreement (STA) with China, a landmark pact dating back to 1979, despite concerns from some U.S. lawmakers that China could exploit it for security and military advantage. The proposed six-month extension aims to facilitate negotiations for amending and strengthening the terms of the agreement. The STA, historically renewed every five years, facilitates collaboration between the U.S. and China on crucial issues such as climate change and public health, as well as academic cooperation.
However, critics argue that technology collaboration in sensitive sectors might contribute to China’s military modernization. In June, a letter from 10 Republican members of Congress urged Secretary of State Antony Blinken not to renew the STA, citing concerns about China’s strategic goals in science and technology. Despite this, supporters emphasize that the agreement has led to positive outcomes, such as reducing the risk of neural tube defects through folic acid supplementation, tackling air pollution, and enhancing global influenza surveillance.
The Biden administration’s approach to China aims to balance safeguarding national security while maintaining a productive relationship. While efforts to reduce tensions have been made, including recent high-level visits, the decision about the STA’s renewal remains complex. Not renewing the agreement could signal a departure from collaboration and risk alienating Chinese scientists and students. As the U.S.-China relationship evolves, the STA’s fate highlights the challenge of balancing cooperation and competition in science and technology on the global stage.
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