G7 Draft Statement Hints at China’s Misuse of Research Environment

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
China’s national flag

A draft joint statement for the upcoming Group of Seven Science and Technology Minister’s Meeting in May addresses concerns that some countries are wrongfully exploiting the open-research environment, likely with reference to China, government sources said.

China reportedly has recruited top-level researchers and diverted their research findings for military use.

The draft also references the strengthening of oceanographic observation around the Arctic and Antarctic regions, as well as cooperation in the space domain.

The ministerial meeting is scheduled to be held on May 12-14 in Sendai.

“Open science” — the utilization of information held by universities and research institutions around the world for societal purposes — is being seen as increasingly important. And, though it makes no direct mention of China, the draft says some countries are distorting this research environment and misappropriating findings for economic, geopolitical and military purposes.

In 2008, China launched a national project called “Thousand Talents Plan,” which recruits high-level scientists from abroad, and in 2017, it enacted a national intelligence law that requires Chinese citizens and companies to cooperate with the government’s intelligence activities. Beijing apparently is ramping up its control of information by siphoning off research results and the joint statement is believed to be aimed at curbing such moves.

Regarding the Arctic region, which has been strongly affected by the effects of global warming, the draft statement states that the G7 will support international cooperation in Arctic research, share a variety of data and improve research capabilities. It also includes, for the first time, a policy to strengthen oceanographic observation of polar regions, and expresses an intention to establish a joint-use arctic-research vessel with ice-breaking capabilities and other research equipment.

Against a background in which China and Russia have been increasing their activities in the Arctic Ocean, the draft statement notes that joint research in the region is facing difficulties due to geopolitical tensions.

Concerning the space realm, arrangements are being made to include a policy to strengthen measures against space debris. In light of Russia’s anti-satellite missile test in 2021 and China’s increasing emphasis on space development, the draft aims to underline the determination of the G7 member countries to work together to ensure a safe and stable space environment.

Sanae Takaichi, minister of state for science and technology policy, is scheduled to attend the ministerial meeting.