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As in the title. The relationship between two countries seems to go towards a colder climate and actual war scenarios are discussed (slightly) more openly.

What are possible implications for academia in the long-term? This includes:

  • Chinese student admission to the US (and their tuition fees)
  • Hiring of Chinese nationals at American universities
  • American college campuses in China (e.g., NYU and Duke)
  • Scientific collaborations between universities in different countries
  • Scientific publishing
  • Conference attendance (in the US and worldwide)

Concretely, (no matter how silly this may sound) I am organizing a conference and I am wary of inviting too many Americans and Chinese into one room.

I know, for comparison, that many Iranians are admitted to live and work in the US, despite the very icy climate between the two countries. But I don't whether Americans travel to Iran to the same extent, and there has never been open warfare. On the other hand, many Western academic systems have reportedly toned down or stopped their scientific collaboration with Russia over the last year (see also, e.g., Nature).

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    I think you need to distinguish strongly between institutions and individuals. Even in case of Russia, official collaborations between institutions have mostly stopped, but individual collaboration, e.g. working on joint papers still continue.
    – mlk
    Mar 15, 2023 at 12:57
  • @mlk, I think the answers will differentiate, appropriately, between individuals and institutions, but I don't see why the asker would need to do this. Mar 15, 2023 at 16:39
  • The question focuses on institutional issues. The closer you zoom in, such as into conferences, the more individual sensitivites will matter.
    – Ambicion
    Mar 15, 2023 at 23:10

2 Answers 2

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Looking back at the physics collaboration between USA and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, I think the last thing you need to worry about is whether scientists from the two countries would get along, should they be find themselves in the same room. The question is rather whether governments will allow them to be in the same room...

What are possible implications for academia in the long-term? This includes:

I don't want to speculate about long-term implications, which may shift a lot depending on political developments. But it's worth noting that we already see several of the things you mention happening to some degree, and it isn't unreasonable to think we might see more of the same in the short- and medium-term.

  • Chinese student admission to the US (and their tuition fees)

The number of Chinese students coming to the US is already decreasing. There are several reasons for this, including the growth of Chinese institutions, but concerns about the US-Chinese relations is also part of it.

  • Hiring of Chinese nationals at American universities

This has definitively been stifled or chilled by visa bureaucracy and fears about unfair prosecution. See for example the damaging China Initiative. Some personal stories are given in this webinar. Although that particular program has ended, it is unclear what will follow and what political winds will prevail.

  • Scientific collaborations between universities in different countries

Depending on the funding source, some would-be collaborations are already impacted. Some colleagues at US DOE National Laboratories have lists of Chinese institutions "with military ties", and aren't supposed to coauthor articles with scientists from those institutions.

  • Conference attendance (in the US and worldwide)

This is again subject to visa issues. It is anecdotal, but recently I've heard several stories of Chinese nationals applying for a visa to attend conferences in the US being granted the visa, but only after the conference had completed. There is some suspicion that this is deliberate. However, assuming it isn't, and that this is just a symptom of long and unpredictable processing times, it would still complicate planning conference attendance.

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    The last three years have, of course, been a bit hard on cross-border travel and collaborations of all kinds.
    – Jon Custer
    Mar 15, 2023 at 14:38
  • @JonCuster Absolutely, probably particularly so with China because of how long they stuck with the zero Covid policy. Hopefully, what dominated the last three years won't be as important going forward, so I focused the answer on other aspects.
    – Anyon
    Mar 15, 2023 at 14:58
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In terms of arguments or fistfights breaking out at your event, I believe personally there is almost nothing to worry about.

That said, barriers to scientific collaboration between US and Chinese scientists have sprung up, sometimes with dramatic outcomes. University's responses to this scenario seem varied, but I can tell you there have been times when my school has solicited detailed information about international collaborations in response to these situations. I believe there may be a reporting requirement on the part of the university to funding institutions (though this feels like it quieted a bit when the US leadership changed).

I think you owe it to your participants to verify that you won't be creating any reportable situations through interactions at your conference. I can't imagine that you'd be creating any, but you should probably just ask whatever department handles your sponsored projects.

I can't speak to the visa issues, but certainly wouldn't be surprised if visas took a long time to get or if some of the applications for visas got turned down.

Thank you, by the way, for working to create opportunities for people to learn about each other and each other's science. I remember a Society for Neuroscience conference in Toronto, which was my first conference where Cubans were allowed to participate, and how exciting it was.

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