Science and Technology Caught between the United States and China Conference

By: Steven Pei

Science and Technology Caught between the United States and China Conference

The Committee of 100 (C100) convened nearly 300 leading policy makers, legal experts, educators, business leaders, scientists, and community leaders in Palo Alto, Ca. on September 28, 2019 to address the human impacts of geopolitics. In addition to sixteen community partners, including Civic Leadership USA (CLUSA) and United Chinese Americans (UCA), the conference was also co-sponsored by thirteen professional organizations, including the Society of Chinese Bioscientists in America (SCBA), the Chinese American Hematologist and Oncologist Network (CAHON), and the Chinese Biological Investigators Society (CBIS), who issued the first open letter in the Science Magazine and drew a response from the leadership of National Institute of Health (NIH) on March 22, 2019.

After the opening welcome by Roger Wang, Chair of C100, Ambassador Gary Locke set the tone of the conference: “The U.S. – China relationship is the world’s most consequential bi-lateral relationship. We must be concerned about security concerns and condemn illegal activity, but in recent years there have been many cases of wrongful prosecution. Our pride in our heritage does not mean we are any less loyal or patriotic to America.” He was followed by Professor Susan Shirk, Chair, 21st Century China Center at the School of Global Policy & Strategy, University of California, San Diego, and former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State. She gave the opening keynote: “China and the U.S. wove together a dense fabric of trade, technology, and education – forming a nexus of what became globalization.” “To preserve America’s open society and vibrant research environment, we should double down on American openness, not put limitations on scientific collaboration.” 

Dr. David Ho, Scientific Director of Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, Dr. Thomas Rosenbaum, President of California Institute of Technology, Dr. John Hennessy, Chairman of Alphabet Inc. and moderator Nelson Dong of C100 at the keynote panel.

Dong pointed out that “76% of 1,466 patents issued in 2011 to top 10 U.S. research universities had at least one foreign born inventor.” He also presented data showing the high percentages of American Nobel laureates and prize winners, science and engineering workers and student who were foreign-born. 

Dr. Ho argued, worried that NIH’s crackdown had already gone too far. Ho argued that the known cases are “largely due to sloppiness and a degree of greed” by a few scientists. “A small number of ‘bad apples’ does not connote a systemic problem that requires federal intervention when it could be addressed at the institutional level with policies already in place.”

President Rosenbaum, “The strength of the United States as a scientific, technological and economic power has depended crucially on immigration. Recent demonstrated examples of violations of scientific ethics, coupled with fears for U.S. economic competitiveness and national security, may well lead to governmental restrictions that broadly and severely restrict the flow of people and ideas.”

Chairman Hennessy pointed out that “Immigrants come to this country to make America a better country. There are a number of important American companies with foreign born founders. If you cut that off, you cut off an important part of our nation’s economic vitality.”

Dr. Steven Chu, Nobel Laureate and Former Secretary of Energy, and Congresswoman Judy Chu gave the plenary speeches at lunch. Robert Gee of C100 and Former Assistant Secretary of Energy gave a policy briefing in the afternoon. 

David Stilwell, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs joined by live video conference from the United Nation. 

Congressman Adam Schiff, chair of House Intelligence Committee, also delivered a pre-recorded speech.

It was followed by the “Business and Technology Panel” on the impact on business and the technology industry with Ambassador Craig Allen, President of U.S.-China Business Council and Carl Guardino, President and CEO of Silicon Valley Leadership Board.  The panel was moderated Jerry Yang of C100 and co-founder of Yahoo! Inc.

John Hemann, Chief of the Special Prosecutions Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California and Peter Zeidenberg, former Federal Prosecutor, Department of Justice at the “Law and Justice Panel” on legal perspectives and impact moderated by Brian Sun of C100.

Brian Sun opened the panel with a discussion of Chinese Americans contributions and several U.S. Government initiatives and investigations of espionage cases and false accusations. As a lawyer with Jones Day in Los Angeles, California, he warned the audience that participating in the Thousand Talents Program “puts a target on your back. So don’t be stupid.”  

Zeidenberg talked about the cases of Xiaoxing Xi and Sherry Chen that he represented. It set the stage for “A Personal Perspective” by Professor Xiaoxing Xi. Even though he has shared what he and his family went through many times already, it brought Xi to tears again. Then Conference Chair Charlie Woo of C100 annnounced the good news that the American Physics Society just named Xi the 2020 recipient of Andrei Sakharov Prize “for his steadfast advocacy in support of the U.S. scientific community and open scientific exchange.” 

Woo also gave the closing remarks, “It is our hope to come together and find balanced solutions that protect national security, uphold the civil liberties of all Americans, and continue to foster the welcoming environment for the development of science, technology and research that America has always been known for.”