CHINA WATCHChina’s Push for Science and Technology Collaboration with BRI Countries

By Opangmeren Jamir

Published 16 June 2023

China is aiming to make science and technology (S&T) cooperation a significant component of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). There are complaints over Chinese approach of sharing data and protection of intellectual property. Maintaining accountability and transparency is vital for progress and can ensure win-win cooperation with member countries of BRI. A key fundamental is to uphold the principle of “open science,” making scientific process more transparent, inclusive and democratic.

China is aiming to make science and technology (S&T) cooperation a significant component of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It has taken a number of steps domestically to increase S&T development and innovation. At the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing in March 2023, the role of ‘science’ in the national agenda was elevated. As a result, the Ministry of Science and Technology was reconstituted and a new permanent body called the Central Science and Technology Commission was established, to oversee China’s S&T efforts.1

Moreover, at the second annual meeting of the Forum on High Quality Development of the BRI in Beijing in February 2023, the Chinese scientific community emphasized robust cooperation in S&T sector to offer solutions to shared issues such as climate change, environmental protection, public health, the digital economy, technology transfer and professional training.2 This Brief evaluates the implementation of S&T component in BRI by the Chinese government, how far it has been successful and also underlines issues of concerns while executing S&T along the BRI.

Guidelines for S&T collaboration
The Chinese government over the years has issued several guidelines to foster cooperation in the field of S&T with BRI countries. The National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Commerce jointly issued a guideline in March 2015 on the ‘Vision and Actions on Jointly Building the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road’.3 These called for increasing cooperation in S&T through joint labs (research centers), international technology transfer centres and maritime cooperation centres, promotion of sci-tech personal exchanges, tackling key sci-tech problems and improving sci-tech innovation capability. The guideline also emphasized expanding cooperation on vocational skill development to help solve youth unemployment in the BRI countries.