WASHINGTON – Members of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party have implored the White House not to renew a US-China science and technology cooperation agreement that they say Beijing has put to nefarious use.
“We are concerned that the [People’s Republic of China] has previously leveraged the [Science and Technology Agreement] to advance its military objectives and will continue to do so,” the committee members wrote in a Tuesday letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “Reports suggest that research partnerships organized under the STA could have developed technologies that would later be used against the United States.”
The letter’s signatories – including House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY) – suggest it’s no coincidence that five years before Beijing sent a spy balloon through US airspace, American scientists helped China debut similar technology for meteorological research as part of the agreement.
“In 2018, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) organized a project with China’s Meteorological Administration – under the STA – to launch instrumented balloons to study the atmosphere,” the letter read.
“As you know, a few years later, the PRC used similar balloon technology to surveil US military sites on US territory – a clear violation of our sovereignty.”
Set to expire on Aug. 27, the STA encourages cooperation between the US and China – two of the world’s foremost leaders in technological development.
It was first signed in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter, launching government-to-government collaborative research efforts in fields from physics and chemistry to earth sciences and industrial technology.
Subsequent US administrations extended the agreement, but committee chairman Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) told The Post Tuesday it’s time to let the “outdated” pact expire due to the current strife between Washington and Beijing.
“For years, thanks to its strategy of military-civil fusion, the Chinese Communist Party has abused the openness of the American scientific community to steal American research and co-opt it for its own malign purposes, including to surveil the Chinese public and strengthen its military-industrial complex,” he said.
“Extending the Science and Technology Agreement between the US and China would only further jeopardize our research and intellectual property.”
Though collaboration under the agreement is not intended to support military development, the letter’s signatories said China regularly “exploit[s] civilian research partnerships for military purposes to the greatest extent possible.”
“The PRC uses academic researchers, industrial espionage, forced technology transfers and other tactics to gain an edge in critical technologies, which in turn fuels the People’s Liberation Army modernization,” the note read.
The US is currently working with China on projects under the agreement even as relations with Beijing grow increasingly frayed, the committee said, pointing to “very concerning” reports on collaboration in “sensitive agricultural technologies.”
“The US Department of Agriculture has over a dozen active research projects with PRC entities,” the letter said.
“Those projects include technologies with clear dual-use applications, such as developing techniques for analyzing satellite and drone imagery for irrigation management.”
The Blinken letter came less than a week after the committee sent a separate letter to US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo asking what they know about Beijing using US technology to spy on Americans from a surveillance facility in Cuba.
That letter also cited concerns over Beijing’s push to incorporate the private sector into its defense industrial base as China aims to displace the US as global superpower.
That fusion has led the committee to suspect Chinese companies tapped by Beijing to support its surveillance efforts may have purchased and used American products in their technologies.
“By leveraging innovation in the private sector, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) gains access to capabilities more quickly than if it relied on the state-owned defense conglomerates alone,” the committee wrote to Haines and Raimondo.
In the Tuesday letter, the committee said that “military-civil fusion” approach suggests China will “continue to look for opportunities to exploit partnerships organized under the STA to advance its military objectives to the greatest extent possible and, in some cases, to attempt to undermine American sovereignty.”
“The United States must stop fueling its own destruction,” the Blinken letter stated. “Letting the STA expire is a good first step.”
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