The West grows wary of Chinese research

As the West and China’s geopolitical relations grow tenser than our shoulder muscles at the height of a newsletter draft, academic relations are also under strain. 

What happened: The US and China agreed to a six-month extension on a critical symbolic agreement to cooperate on science and technology research. Many researchers feel the agreement will continue to be crucial for developing scientific and medical breakthroughs. Meanwhile, several US lawmakers want it to expire as they believe it puts US intellectual property at risk.

Why it matters: Canada and China’s research relations are also cooling off. This year, the feds said they will restrict funding grants to researchers affiliated with foreign governments that threaten Canadian security. They will also ban some foreign institutions deemed at “higher risk” of knowledge theft. Both moves have been viewed as directly aimed at China. 

  • Pretty much every Canadian university works with Chinese researchers, with said research touching basically all topics, from pharmacology to quantum computing.

  • China is Canada’s second-largest academic partner, but collaborative output between the two nations has fallen by 13% since its peak in 2020. 
  • Since 2005, researchers from 50 Canadian universities have collaborated with China’s National University of Defence Technology, which is affiliated with the Chinese military. 

Bottom line: Canada must walk a fine line between protecting its intellectual property and delivering high-quality research. Its outsized success on the global scientific stage is thanks in large part to international collaboration, while analysis estimates the ban on some foreign institutions could result in over $100 million lost in research funding from those partners annually.—QH