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China’s use of formal science and technology agreements as a tool of diplomacy

Journal Title Science and Public Policy
Published Date August 01, 2023
Research Type


China’s government uses a variety of diplomatic tools to pursue its foreign policy aims including negotiating and signing formal bilateral science and technology agreements (STAs). These agreements have been signed with at least fifty-two countries. We identified agreements with an additional sixty-four countries with science and technology (S&T), among other topics such as education, as subjects for cooperation. The Ministry of Science and Technology reports having signed 115 intergovernmental science and technology agreements (STAs) and established ties with 161 countries and regions, although we were not able to identify all these agreements. The earliest of China’s STAs were signed in the 1950s with communist countries, but, in the late 1970s, China began signing agreements with scientifically-advanced nations, which opened opportunities for S&T cooperation. More recently, China has negotiated and signed scientific and technological cooperation agreements with dozens of middle- and lower-income countries, possibly to establish political goodwill. While building political ties clearly remains an important Chinese objective, access to the latest know-how in S&T has become a critical part of China’s priorities in establishing formal relationships.