Relationships with China Will Be a Focus of the New US Congress
AUTM Advocacy and Alliances Coordinator
Once a new majority takes over either the House or Senate, the first thing that happens is that new leadership lays out a totally different agenda for the next two years. In 2023, one Congressional agenda item that could have implications for AUTM Members involves China.
Republicans now hold a narrow majority in the House, and with that control comes control of the issues that will be focused on by the various congressional committees for the 118th Congress. One of the leading areas of focus will be our relationships with China—not only as a potential military adversary, but also with regard to the economic bonds that tie the two nations.
Many are critical of how the United States has—or, as is alleged, has not—protected our nation’s sensitive research and data from exploitation by other nations including China. A recent story in the national news focused on allegations that American battery technologies found their way into Chinese hands, much to the chagrin of Congress and the Department of Energy (DOE). There have been other such examples. Even the FBI is responding to allegations about Chinese faculty at US universities who they believe may be working for China and its companies, not just as researchers for their institution.
To wit, the House is creating a special House Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party. The name of the committee tells you all you need to know. We can expect many hearings focused on Chinese-American interactions involving companies, universities and other organizations.
Clearly no one in this country wants high-security American technologies to flow to China or any other nation that might use that technology against us, either militarily or economically. Yet we have a strong economic bond with China, our third-largest trading partner in the world. China can be an important market for American products, and Chinese organizations also can be valuable partners for bringing innovations and ideas to market.
One potential area of concern has been the Bayh-Dole requirement that products created through federally funded research be manufactured here in America unless it can be shown there is no ready-made capability here. Rumors swirl that the Biden Administration may make changes to how Bayh-Dole is interpreted to toughen that standard. AUTM and other organizations are working together to monitor the situation and to show that short-sighted changes may cause more harm than good.
All of this is to say that the focus on the Chinese-American relationship will surely intensify in the coming months. Universities in the U.S. have numerous Chinese students, faculty and collaborations. We can expect those relationships to be explored by Congress, and the pressure will be on agencies like DOE to show that America is not leaking research data, technology, patent rights or other proprietary ideas to the control of a huge economic competitor.