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US seeks to extend sci-tech pact with China ahead of Raimondo’s visit, ‘a sign to stabilize ties’

《环球时报》 2023-08-24

China US Photo:VCG

In another positive sign of stabilizing China-US ties ahead of US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo's visit to China, the US is seeking to extend a science and technology agreement that it signed with China decades ago.

The move to seek a short extension of the US-China Science and Technology Agreement (STA) amid mounting pressure from US lawmakers appears to indicate that the Biden administration is pushing to improve its relationship with China, analysts said. It proves that the US does not want to ditch cooperation in all technology- and science-related areas with China, a rivalry that Washington has been raising concerns about.

The US State Department said on Wednesday that it is seeking a six-month extension of the STA, which is due to expire on August 27.

This short-term six-month extension will keep the agreement in force while we seek authority to undertake negotiations to amend and strengthen the terms of the STA. It does not commit the US to a longer-term extension, a US State Department spokesperson said, according to a Reuters report.

The landmark agreement, signed in 1979, has been renewed every five years or so ever since. The current agreement was renewed in 2018. It is seen as a symbol of vibrant government-to-government science and technology collaboration.

Over the past four decades, more than 30 protocols and deals in diverse areas including health, engineering, climate change and environmental protection have been signed, and hundreds of joint programs were conducted under the framework of the agreement, which has served as a solid foundation for bilateral ties in the science and technology sector.

However, some hawks among US lawmakers are seeking to disrupt the bilateral scientific cooperation that has resulted from the  agreement. They have urged the US State Department not to renew it, based on their hyped grounds that it would help China modernize its technology and military power.

The extension of six months is a very well-studied result, Song Guoyou, deputy director of the Center for American Studies, Fudan University told the Global Times on Thursday.

Song called it a smart and pragmatic move for the Biden administration, which faces a dilemma on the STA issue.

The Biden administration does not want to spoil the current positive atmosphere created between China and the US following recent high-level talks, in particular ahead of Raimondo's China visit, Song said, adding that the US hopes to consolidate the stabilizing and improving momentum in relations.

The extension could give the Biden administration some time as it is faced with enormous pressure from Republican lawmakers to scrap the STA, Song noted.

Zhou Rong, a senior researcher at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, agreed, saying that the Biden administration has clearly expressed its intention not to worsen ties with China for the moment.

The US Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security on Monday announced that it will remove 27 Chinese entities from the so-called Unverified List.

On the same day, the US Department of Transportation agreed to add six flights operated by Chinese airlines to the US, effective September 1.

The US has sent a clear signal that it wants to maintain a channel to hold talks with China and develop cooperation in some areas, Zhou told the Global Times on Thursday, while warning that the US strategy in containing China's rise in the technology and military sectors has not changed.

For a renewed version of the STA, I think the US would come up with some restrictions on areas where the US does not want to see China grow stronger, citing so-called national security, Zhou said.

We are clear-eyed to the challenges posed by [China's] national strategies on science and technology, Beijing's actions in this space, and the threat they pose to US national security and intellectual property, and are dedicated to protecting the interests of the American people, the US State Department spokesperson said, according to the Reuters report.

While remaining on guard against the relentless US crackdown on China in the name of national security, it is necessary for the world's two largest economies to seek cooperation where it is possible, observers said.

China will express its position to the US side on economic and trade issues of concern, and at the same time, looks forward to having in-depth discussions with the US on resolving economic and trade differences and promoting pragmatic cooperation, a spokesperson of the Commerce Ministry said on Thursday, ahead of Raimondo's China visit from August 27 to 30.

We have noted some difficulties and challenges in bilateral trade and investment recently, such as a series of unilateral protectionist measures. China will continue to raise relevant economic and trade concerns with the US, and strive to create a fair and stable business environment for enterprises to carry out trade and investment cooperation, the spokesperson said.