Three months later, the two nations decided to pick up their conversation, and today, global warming is one of China’s top priorities for international scientific collaboration.

Beijing suspended negotiations with Washington after Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August, which had a negative impact on efforts to combat climate change. Three months later, the two nations decided to pick up their conversation, and today, global warming is one of China’s top priorities for international scientific collaboration.

In order to better understand global issues like climate change, energy security, biosecurity, and space utilisation, Xi Jinping has called for expanding and deepening Sino-foreign joint scientific research.

He added that increasing basic research is essential to making China a leader in science and technology, and that open sharing and international cooperation are more crucial than ever for a global effort to address shared development challenges.

To do this, China should make plans to establish or join international science and technology organisations, as well as to support universities, research centres, and scientific organisations in their efforts to collaborate with other nations.

Zeng Zhenzhong, an associate professor in the school of environmental science and engineering at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, said climate change is a common challenge that requires scientific collaboration between the United States and China.

He said the US has advanced technologies and experience in satellite remote sensing, earth system simulation, and data sharing, while China has its own unique strengths in environmental governance and control, and the development and utilisation of new energy. Zeng joined SUST in 2019 after three years of postdoctoral research at Princeton University in the US.

Zeng said there had been restrictions on exchanges and interference encountered when applying for joint research projects, but many projects, especially on global environmental governance, remained unaffected. China’s biggest research partner has been the US, with other top collaborators including Britain, Australia, and Canada.

Geopolitical tensions between the US and China have grown in recent years, including acrimony over the search for the origins of the coronavirus behind the Covid-19 pandemic and the tech war. Xi’s speech did not single out any countries as targets for scientific collaboration.

Data provided by Elsevier showed that China and the US are the largest bilateral research collaborators globally, with each producing around 20% of the world’s scholarly output between 2017 and 2021. The number of China-US co-publications peaked at 65,400 in 2020, but declined the next year and last year, when it was around 62,000.

Anders Karlsson, vice-president of global strategic networks (Asia-Pacific) at Elsevier, said the slight decrease does not support a full decoupling between the two nations, as both are global research titans and each other’s largest collaborators.

The two countries have been working together in fields including health and medicine, climate change, space exploration, artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as battery technologies. The US and China have directed nearly US$30 million to science institutions in mainland China and Hong Kong for research collaborations between 2015 and 2021.

As more nations get a stronger science base, there is an interest in deepening and broadening scientific collaboration to solve global challenges such as disease outbreaks, climate change, and global health. This includes fundamental research at CERN and other infrastructure collaborations.

Science diplomacy is seen as a means to support collaborations of common interests to achieve the common good, but it can also be used to restrict collaborations if they go against national interests.

To promote trust in scientific collaboration, funding agencies and universities are developing guidelines for responsible internationalisation. Co-funded programmes like those between the US and Chinese CDCs are a tool to keep doors open.

Bradley Jolliff, director of the McDonnell Centre for the Space Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, has been working with Chinese scientists for nearly two decades. He said geopolitical tensions and the pandemic have made travelling between the two countries difficult, so they are careful to never use Nasa funds and not use Nasa funds for any research expenses.

They also participate in multinational collaborations, not bilateral ones, and the study of the moon and Mars is international. China was the third country to retrieve lunar samples and discover new lunar minerals, and only the US and China have rovers operating on Mars.

Jolliff is an international scientist who works with members from the European Space Agency, Australia, Britain, Canada, Japan, India, and other countries. He believes that in areas of technology, cooperation in science is easier than in technology, and that Nasa and the China National Space Administration should come up with a cooperative agreement to share mission-related data.

John Lee, director of the East-West Futures consultancy, expects China to keep research partnerships open in Europe and Russia and step up science and technology cooperation. He noted that academic collaborations with Chinese researchers are increasingly subject to regulatory scrutiny and pressure from law enforcement investigations and politicians.

A preprint study released in November found AI researchers from the US and China increasingly avoided citing each other’s work and kept apart at international conferences. China’s problem is that advanced research and development and science activity are still concentrated in the US and its security allies, while India is also leaning towards the US.

Russia is the only major science and technology player where politics works for collaboration with China, but this depends on how much US allies and EU countries are willing to continue science and technology engagement.

Lee said the current political climates in the US and China were too hostile for science diplomacy to have any impact on the bilateral relationship. Song Haijun, a professor of palaeontology and geobiology at the China University of Geosciences, said scientists from both countries brought different research techniques and specializations to a field that served as a lens in the study of global warming.

Song said his team’s collaborations with peers from Britain, France, and the US have remained unaffected by political and economic tensions. China is rich in fossil materials, which can be shared for scientific research purposes. Looking into the past sheds light on why and how climate change events happened and how they affected ecosystems, helping climate scientists make better predictions. International scientific seminars and conferences are great opportunities to exchange ideas and promote understanding.