Go back

Administration still under fire for collaborations with China

Republican lawmakers continued to attack the Obama administration for scientific collaborations with China during a 3 November hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s oversight and investigations subcommittee.

“I have been very troubled by this administration’s apparent eagerness to work with China on its space programme and willingness to share other sensitive technologies,” stated Rep. Frank Wolf, R-VA, who chairs the House appropriations subcommittee that funds the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and NASA.

The 3 November hearing was convened by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-CA, in response to a legal opinion by the congressional Government Accounting Office in October, which concluded that although language in the fiscal year 2011 appropriations banned OSTP and NASA from funding collaborations and meetings with Chinese officials, OSTP did so anyway.

Rohrbacher called China “the world’s single largest human rights abuser.” He warned that “any effort on our part to reach out to the Chinese Communists, to engage them on matters of technology is, quite frankly, not just naïve … it is dangerous.”

But OSTP’s director, John Holdren, testified that the overall benefits of “properly managed” S&T cooperation with China outweighed the risks. He cited the way the ongoing US-China Dialogue on Innovation Policy had led the Chinese government to roll back aspects of its policies that discriminate against US businesses active in Chinese markets.

In addition, Holdren said cooperation with China in the public health arena had enhanced the US’ capacity to deal with invasive species that originated in China.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden testified that his agency has had “very limited” bilateral cooperation with Chinese entities over the last decade, due to US law and policy.

He said NASA had signed only one agreement with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), for the exchange of data for geodynamics research related to natural hazards prediction, monitoring and response.

He also noted that joint working groups on Earth and space science were established in 2007, and there had been reciprocal visits of NASA and Chinese government officials to facilities.

But in response to the appropriations language in question, Bolden said NASA immediately suspended all activities under NASA’s agreement with CAS, which precludes NASA from directly receiving global navigation satellite system, satellite laser ranging, and very long baseline interferometry data from stations in China.

However, given NASA’s open data policy, Bolden pointed out, the international community—including China—continued to have access to the data that NASA was providing directly to CAS under this agreement.

Bolden stated that NASA had suspended all activities of the NASA-China Earth Science and Space Science Working Groups, and the agency had cancelled all plans for a reciprocal visit to NASA facilities by senior Chinese officials following his delegation’s visit to China in October 2010.

All requests for potential bilateral activities between NASA employees and Chinese entities—whether funded by NASA or other US government agencies—had been denied, and all proposed travel to China by NASA employees or NASA-sponsored contractors that could be interpreted as initiating, pursuing, or implementing bilateral cooperation or other bilateral activities with Chinese entities had been cancelled, Bolden added.