Republican lawmakers have accused the Obama administration of abetting China's space program through its allowance of "dangerous" technology export deals, Agence France-Presse reported on Friday (see GSN, March 10).
Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) at a Capitol Hill hearing last week charged that an illegal "overreach" by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy was causing a looming national security danger in the form of Chinese advancements in outer space.
"China has aggressively sought our technologies through legal and illegal methods for decades," said Rohrabacher, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
Representative Frank Wolf (R-Va.) said at the hearing he was "very troubled with this administration's apparent eagerness to work with China on its space program and willingness to share other sensitive technologies."
The United States' former wide advantage in space capabilities over China is now reduced following alarmingly quick improvements by Beijing's space program, according to Wolf (Michael Mathes, Agence France-Presse/Google News, Nov. 3).
Last week, a Chinese Long March 27 carrier missile was able to successfully place the unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft into orbit. Two days afterward, the robotic spacecraft connected with the Tiangong-1 module, completing China's first ever space docking, the Xinhua News Agency reported (Xinhua News Agency, Nov. 7).
In October, the Government Accountability Office concluded the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy had breached a mandate that blocks the office and NASA from utilizing government monies to fund direct engagements with China, AFP reported.
OSTP head John Holdren told the House subcommittee he had been notified by the Justice Department that his office's initiatives were covered by the White House's executive prerogative to carry out foreign policy and thus superseded the congressional requirement on the permitted uses of federal funds.
"I certainly don't dispute technology transfer to China that we did not wish and do not welcome," Holdren said in a reference to suspected leaks by private companies conducting commerce with China.
But he backed the scientific collaboration pursued over multiple U.S. administrations, contending it aided in getting "China to change the aspects of its conduct that we oppose," including human rights violations.
Wolf disagreed strongly: "Our engagement with China has not only empowered the government, failed to change their political system and undermined our economic security, it has fueled China's military apparatus" (Mathes, Agence France-Presse).