Global research collaboration in scientific and engineering fields has been critical to advancing the frontiers of knowledge, promoting economic prosper ity, and solving global challenges. The global research enterprise is, by design, largely open and unrestricted. However, new risks and challenges threaten this open collaboration, particularly regarding authoritarian nations like the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Russia. The Russian invasion of Ukraine – with China’s economic and probable military support – and the ever-growing possibility of China attempting to take Taiwan by military force have real implications for allied democracies. As US President Biden stated in the 2022 National Security Strategy, “the PRC is the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order, and increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do so.”
Scientific collaboration with the PRC – even in fundamental research areas – increasingly runs the risk of bolstering China’s military modernization aimed at countering US military deterrence in the Indo Pacific; undermining the economic competitiveness of democratic nations in growing competition with China in critical technology fields; and enabling China’s human rights abuses through the use of mass surveillance and other technical means of oppression of its citizens, especially ethnic minorities. Nation states matter within the global research enterprise, and the intentions of partners and end users matter. Protecting the earlier stages of the innovation eco system is becoming increasingly important as the pace of technology development accelerates; in many areas, timelines are shrinking between fundamental research and the development of commercially viable or weaponizable applications.
An increasing body of work identifying and assessing research collaboration between demo cratic nations and China has raised awareness of the associated national and economic security risks. In a press conference after the June 2022 meeting of G7 nations’ science ministers, Germany’s Education and Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger stated, “We must all be more alert in our engagement with authoritarian states like China…and critically check research links with such countries.”