American and Chinese scientists are decoupling, too

Listen to this story.
Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.

Your browser does not support the <audio> element.

THERE ARE lots of ways to measure China’s rise. It is the world’s second-biggest economy, its biggest manufacturer and its biggest creditor. In 2021 it passed another milestone. That year, for the first time, Chinese scientists published more papers than their counterparts in America or the European Union (see chart 1). It is not just the quantity that is improving. The Nature Index, run by the publishers of the journal of the same name, tracks contributions to the world’s best-regarded health and natural-sciences journals. Chinese researchers rank first in the natural sciences, and second overall.

Cause for celebration, no doubt, in Beijing. In Washington, though, the news may have been less welcome. America is increasingly dismayed by China’s rise—and especially its growing scientific and technological prowess. Under Donald Trump, the previous Republican president, and Joe Biden, the current Democratic one, it has imposed tariffs, rules and subsidies designed to hobble China’s high-tech firms while boosting its own. China has retaliated, moving against some big American tech companies. Twenty years ago, politicians endorsed globalisation and free trade. Now “decoupling”, national security and “friend-shoring” are the hot topics.

Conscious uncoupling

Academia is not immune. New rules and chilly politics in both countries are making it harder for researchers to collaborate. In August America agreed on a temporary, six-month extension for a landmark scientific co-operation agreement signed in 1979. Several American politicians want the deal scrapped entirely, claiming in an open letter that, by collaborating with Chinese researchers, America was “fuelling its own destruction.”

image: The Economist

The strains can be seen in the figures. In 2020 the number of papers jointly written by American and Chinese researchers fell for the first time. It fell again the following year, the most recent for which data are available, though it is still rising for some other countries, such as Britain. The number of visas America awards to Chinese students and academics is down as well, to around a third of its peak in 2015 (see chart 2). Scientifically as well as politically, the countries are drawing apart.

The Science and Technology Agreement, as the 1979 pact is called, was the first bilateral treaty signed between America and China after they re-established diplomatic relations. Several landmark studies have come under its umbrella. A long-running project following 285,000 Chinese women, begun in 1983, helped demonstrate that folic acid could prevent spina bifida, a rare birth defect. These days folic acid is added to flour, bread, cereal and other staple foods; pregnant women are encouraged to take more. Co-operation in influenza research helps anticipate which strains of flu are likely to be dominant each year, improving vaccines.

Even superpower rivals can agree that medical research is a good thing. But China’s advances in other areas of science, such as computing, materials science and AI, have made American policymakers uneasy. Critics argue that science in China has benefited from American academic transparency and know-how—but that China has not always returned the favour. Doubters also point to China’s policy of “civil-military fusion”, in which the fruits of civilian research are scrutinised for any useful military applications.

China retorts that America’s worries about national security have led to the unfair targeting of Chinese researchers at American universities. One frequent target of complaint is the Department of Justice’s “China Initiative”, which ran between 2018 and 2022 and was designed to investigate alleged instances of Chinese technological espionage. But cases seem to have been thin on the ground. The initiative investigated at least 150 academics of Chinese origin, but managed to secure only a handful of convictions. Some were for less offences such as grant fraud.

image: The Economist

Some of the investigations have become very public fiascos, as with the case of Gang Chen, a well regarded mechanical engineer of Chinese origin who is now at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr Chen was arrested in 2021. He spent a year on academic leave before all the charges against him were dropped. Other researchers have been sacked by their universities and found themselves on no-fly lists. Academics say the initiative led to an atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust.

China, meanwhile, has national-security concerns of its own, which can likewise impede co-operation. Rules introduced in recent years all but prohibit the export of many different kinds of data. Officials have banned the collection of genomic data by non-Chinese entities, for instance. Foreign social-science researchers are rarely given access to economic and social surveys without a friend in the government. The rules are vague, leaving even researchers keen to work with colleagues overseas unsure what they are allowed to share.

A cooling of ties will make life harder for both sides. Chinese academics will find it harder to get experience in American universities, which still dominate the world rankings in almost every subject. And because China is now a scientific power in its own right, with cutting-edge researchers in several fields, American science will suffer, too.

The benefits of collaboration are “significant,” and benefit American institutions slightly more than Chinese ones, says Jonathan Adams, who tracks academic information at Clarivate, a data provider. A study published in 2020 by Jenny Lee and John Haupt at the University of Arizona, found that, when papers co-written with Chinese scientists were excluded, the number of American publications in science and engineering fell slightly between 2014 and 2018.

Give me your brainy masses

America’s scientific pre-eminence has been built at least partly on its ability to attract the world’s best. Before the pandemic around 16% of graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics at American universities were Chinese. The grad students of today often become the professors of tomorrow. Like Dr Chen, many Chinese students choose to stay in America after completing their degrees. That is something America’s leaders should be keen to encourage.

Curious about the world? To enjoy our mind-expanding science coverage, sign up to Simply Science, our weekly subscriber-only newsletter.

  • Related Posts

    电报下载安全吗

    电报下载 Telegram 是一款消息应用程序,全球有超过 2 亿用户在使用。它提供快速可靠的消息传递和通话,以及大量文件共享选项。您可以使用它创建最多 200,000 人的群组或向无限受众广播。它还允许您按用户名搜索其他用户并创建桌面应用程序。它是想要快速、轻松和安全地进行通信的企业和个人的理想选择。 尽管 Telegram 喜欢投射出坚不可摧的形象,但它并不像它声称的那样安全。虽然它确实提供了端到端加密,但不良行为者仍有可能渗透到平台并共享可能感染您设备的恶意文件。为避免成为受害者,请确保在打开所有下载的文件之前使用防病毒程序扫描它们。 telegram下载 另一项安全措施是使用 Telegram 的“秘密聊天”功能,该功能使用端到端加密对消息进行加密,并降低未经授权拦截的可能性。此外,使用虚拟专用网络 (VPN) 有助于通过在线屏蔽您的真实 IP 地址和位置来进一步保护您的隐私。这可以防止网络犯罪分子跟踪您的活动并确定您的位置。 电报下载安全吗 该平台还以支持多达 200 名参与者的群组对话而闻名,使其成为团队协作和沟通的理想选择。这使其成为企业主的理想工具,他们可以使用该应用程序与员工和客户沟通,以及管理客户服务和营销活动。此外,该应用程序还有多种工具可帮助您简化沟通并提高生产力,包括消息机器人、视频通话、语音和文本聊天以及文件共享。 此外,该应用程序还提供各种可自定义的贴纸和表情符号以添加到您的对话中。它还具有搜索功能,可通过屏幕右下角的菜单按钮访问。搜索功能允许您查找特定的消息或主题。您还可以查看最新更新并下载新主题以自定义您的聊天。 尽管 Telegram 创始人 Pavel Durov 出生于俄罗斯,但该公司与政府没有任何关系。事实上,由于拒绝与俄罗斯当局共享用户数据,该公司在该国被禁。该应用总部位于迪拜,拥有一支多元化的员工队伍,包括来自 30…

    A scientific discovery could lead to leak-free period products

    BLEEDING THROUGH a tampon or pad never makes for a good time. The risk of leaks is annoying and stressful for all women who bleed, and especially for the 20%…

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    You Missed

    Marvel Studios Has Two Comic-Con Panels This Year, Including One For Deadpool And Wolverine

    • By admin
    • July 16, 2024
    • 0 views
    Marvel Studios Has Two Comic-Con Panels This Year, Including One For Deadpool And Wolverine

    Penalty, Fine, Prison Term: If You Drink and Drive in Pune, Here’s What Will Happen to Your License

    • By admin
    • July 16, 2024
    • 0 views
    Penalty, Fine, Prison Term: If You Drink and Drive in Pune, Here’s What Will Happen to Your License

    Trump assassination attempt: Wall Street CEOs react

    • By admin
    • July 16, 2024
    • 0 views
    Trump assassination attempt: Wall Street CEOs react

    Failed Assassination on Trump Triggers Massive Crypto Gains

    • By admin
    • July 16, 2024
    • 0 views
    Failed Assassination on Trump Triggers Massive Crypto Gains

    Innovation—A New York State of Mind

    • By admin
    • July 16, 2024
    • 0 views
    Innovation—A New York State of Mind

    Stocks making the biggest moves midday: DJT, M, GS, COIN

    • By admin
    • July 16, 2024
    • 1 views
    Stocks making the biggest moves midday: DJT, M, GS, COIN