257. Memorandum From the President’s Adviser for Science and Technology (Press) to President Carter1


  • Technological Relationships with China

You asked that I report to you periodically on progress in scientific and technological relationships with China.

Progress to Date:

Activities which you approved in October2 have developed at a steady pace:

—In offshore oil exploration, the Chinese have accepted my proposal and recently leased seismic survey ships from several major American oil firms. Leasing arrangements provide for full on-site control by US technicians, thereby easing export control problems.3

—In space technology, Bob Frosch recently led a delegation to China for a second round of negotiations on Chinese purchase of a US broadcasting and communications system and a Landsat ground station.

—The Department of Energy has initiated a program for cooperation in high energy physics that includes US assistance in design, testing, and fabrication of China’s proposed synchrotron.

—Education and training programs are somewhat behind schedule. The approximately 140 mid-level scientists and engineers now at American universities suffer from English language deficiencies. The Chinese will not reach the initial target of 700 students here by the fall. Our students and scholars in Beijing have adequate access to sites and materials.4

—We have concluded agreements in other areas: metrology; measurement and standards; industrial management; data control and retrieval; fishery science; atmospheric science; and health and medicine. The US Geological Survey is discussing with the PRC protocols for cooperation in earth sciences and earthquake research.

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Plans for Next Six Months:

As you have approved, the Vice President will seek to reach during his visit a long-term agreement for cooperation in developing China’s vast hydroelectric power resources. This is an historic undertaking with a symbolic and practical significance many times greater than the Aswan Dam.5

Beyond this, in the second half of 1979 we plan to continue the process of establishing formal relationships between USG agencies and their Chinese counterparts under the broad Agreement for US–China S&T Cooperation.6 We ask your approval of the following plans, which have been developed by the Policy Review Committee (China S&T):

—An agreement on environmental science cooperation will be pursued during a China visit this fall by Doug Costle. Areas of work would include air and water quality, environmental impact of major projects and activities, solid waste management, environmental health, and toxic substances control.

—The Department of Transportation will develop proposals for joint programs in vessel traffic management, hazardous materials shipment problems, marine safety, air traffic control, urban transportation systems, railroad transport, and other areas.

—The National Science Foundation will seek to develop programs in basic science cooperation. Areas of special interest for programs include R&D management and science policy, astronomy, botany, natural products chemistry, and paleontology.

—The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the General Services Administration will develop proposals for cooperative activities in building design, construction management and technology, and building materials and components.

—The Department of the Interior and the Smithsonian will develop proposals in their respective areas for discussion with the Chinese in early 1980.

All of the individual projects will be carefully reviewed for legal, budgetary, export control, and foreign policy impact in accordance with your previous directive on US–China S&T relations (PD/NSC–43).7

In addition, I have agreed with Vice Premier Fang Yi that we schedule the first meeting of the US–China Joint Commission on Scientific and Technological Cooperation for early next year in Beijing. Fang [Page 908] Yi and I co-chair this mixed Commission, which oversees all activities under the Agreement.


That you approve the above plan. All agencies concur.8

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 9, China (PRC): 8–9/79. Confidential.
  2. See Document 144.
  3. Carter made a checkmark in the margin next to this and the following two paragraphs.
  4. Carter wrote a question mark in the margin next to this paragraph.
  5. Carter made a checkmark in the margin next to this paragraph.
  6. See Document 210.
  7. See Document 150.
  8. Carter checked the Approve option and wrote, “Frank—ok. Try to obtain maximum quid pro quo. J.”