U.S. official defends science-technology exchanges with China

President Barack Obama’s top science official said U.S.-China science cooperation benefits the United States, rejecting moves to curb the exchanges by lawmakers who say it

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) gets direction from White House science adviser John Holdren during an event to look at the stars with local middle school students and astronomers from across the country on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington, October 7, 2009. Credit: Reuters/Jim Young

strengthens China’s military.

John Holdren, director of the Office of Science and Technology, told a House of Representatives Foreign Affairs subcommittee that 30 years of science and technology collaboration with China had brought gains in physics, public health, pest and pollution control, and nuclear safety.

“Certainly the Obama administration is concerned about the theft of U.S. intellectual property that continues to be widespread in China,” he told the Foreign Affairs Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

“We are aware of and concerned about the danger of loss of sensitive commercial and military technology in the course of cooperation with China,” added Holdren.

Republican lawmaker Frank Wolf, chairman of the House subcommittee that funds science and space exploration, included a provision in the 2011 budget resolution expressly blocking using U.S. federal government funds to support science and space exchanges with China.

“I have been very troubled by this administration’s apparent eagerness to work with China on its space program and willingness to share other sensitive technologies,” Wolf told the panel.

“The United States has no business cooperating with the People’s Liberation Army to help develop its space program,”

Wolf accused Holdren of flouting that measure when he visits to China for meetings this year. Holdren pointed to a Department of Justice ruling in September that his offices activities with China fell under the president’s constitutional authority to conduct foreign policy.

Holdren told the panel that cutting off science and technology cooperation with China in an era of globalized science would not help Washington deal with problems posed by Beijing.

“Quite the opposite, we believe U.S.-China science and technology cooperation in forms that benefit both countries strengthens our hand in the effort to get China to change the aspects of its conduct that we oppose,” he said in prepared remarks for the subcommittee.

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