The centrality of science and technology to the economic and military power of the state in a competitive world system has transformed the practice of science itself, and the role of the state in the political economy of knowledge production and circulation. The production of new knowledge and its manipulation to desired social ends flourishes when researchers and their novel ideas circulate beyond national borders. It is increasingly in tension with the determination by the state to restrict some knowledge flows across borders in the name of national and economic security. This paper will describe the evolving policies adopted to regulate the transnational flow of sensitive, but unclassified knowledge and know-how by the American government since WWII in its competition for global influence with the Soviet Union and, more recently, with the People’s Republic of China. Attempts to reconcile "scientific internationalism" with the regulation of sensitive knowledge and know-how devised during the late Cold War have become increasingly brittle with China’s rise to prominence as a scientific and technological power in the 21st century. The scope for international scientific collaboration has contracted, and calls for decoupling the western and Chinese research systems are gaining traction along with the fragmentation of the global world order.
John Krige is the Regents and Kranzberg Professor Emeritus in the School of History and Sociology at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. His research focuses on the intersection between the history of science and technology and of US foreign policy since the 1940s. He is the author (with Mario Daniels) of Knowledge Regulation and National Security in Postwar America (University of Chicago Press, 2022) and the editor of Knowledge Flows in a Global Age. A Transnational Approach (University of Chicago Press, 2022), the proceedings of the conference he organized at Caltech as the winner of the 2020 Francis Bacon Award in the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology.