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Monday, March 18, 2024

Western scientists should continue to cooperate with Chinese scientists

China has become a science powerhouse and it achieved this goal, in part, by sending its young scientitsts abroad to train in universities in Canada, Australia, United States, and Europe. Many of these countries have signed scientific cooperation agreements with China but some of those agreements are in danger of lapsing as China is increasingly seen as an untrustworthy enemy.

An editorial in the Feb. 26, 2024 issue of Nature explains "Why it would be a dangerous folly to end US–China science pact." It's a plea not to let ideology get in the way of scientific cooperation and it quotes a conclusion from Germany's recent decision.

Germany’s handling of its research relations with China could offer lessons. Last month, the German Academic Exchange Service published some sensible recommendations that balance the risks of such collaborations with the benefits.

The document acknowledges the benefits that have come from closer ties, while advocating what it calls a “realpolitik approach” to future links — one based on practical objectives, rather than ideology. Ultimately, it says that universities should be the ones to decide what is mutually beneficial in this regard, while taking the necessary precautions to protect against possible harm.

It's very difficult to convince the general public that cooperation is better than isolation when all the rhetoric is about China stealing secrets and spying on the western nations. But it's important to recognize that this is a two-way street and with China beginning to lead the world in many areas of science we have as much to gain as to lose. Our spies need access to China!

Here in Canada there's a big kerfluffle about some Chinese scientitsts who stole "secret" information from a level 4 microbiology lab in Winnipeg. What's ironic about that issue is that China is probably far ahead of Canada in most of the research that goes on in that lab.

I agree with the sentiment expresssed at the end of the Nature editorial. We live in a world where lots of other countries, including our allies, are spying and meddling in our internal affairs. We pretend that we aren't doing the same thing. We don't do ourselves any favors by highlighting every event of foreign interference and blaming the current government for not stopping it. What we need to do is to hope that our governments are handling the issues outside of the glare of "transparency" and that we are getting as good as we give.

Risk management

There are, of course, always risks when researchers from different political systems collaborate. And it shouldn’t surprise anyone that big powers spy on each other, says Holdren. But, as with most applications of science in public affairs, from nanotechnology to nuclear energy, the answer to handling risks is to assess them, manage them and mitigate them—always using rigorously tested scientific knowledge.

After 45 years of scientific cooperation, the United States and China risk veering off course. It would be a dangerous folly to bring an end to research cooperation that has such potential to help meet the many challenges faced by China, the United States and the world. In 1979, scientists broke the ice at a time of great tension. As tensions rise once again, researchers could be the foot in the door that keeps communications open.

1 comment :

Robert Byers said...

if someone steals from you when ypu allowed them in then throw them out and don't let them in. We Canadians have and will do fine without them.
I don't see china as a science powerhouse but as a third world ntion. relative to population and state investment they don't accomplish much and thus why stealing patents is a nitable agenda.
its not Ideology. That was the old left wing attempt back in the soviet union days to deny the evil empire of the Soviers. CHINA is a dictaorship enslaving her people . This matters. One should be wary of dictatorships. tHey are open to tiny numbers of forceful people and don't represent the more likely more reasonable ideas of the common people. China must play by the laws of patents as we all. they only learned science from us and must wait for us to share as we see fit.
I see no problem with science exchange unless state secrets.
Actually I see often a great deal of creationist literature in chinsease script. i don't think its for the english speaking chinease settlements in Asia. maybe Chins will right get a healthy sceptism of evolutionism but also get creationist convictions. Don't rob though just ask.