UNIVERSITIES AND THE in- terchange of scholars and students in international collaborations have long played an important role in
knitting a fabric of human relation-
ships and shared understanding. This
fabric is fraying rapidly.
In recent Communications’ editorials
(January and September 2019), I called
out rising political tensions and conflict that challenge international open
collaboration in the university. My objective was to inspire the computing
community to come together and address these rising challenges.
In the past six months, the situation has worsened with accelerating economic decoupling betwixt
China and the U.S., increasing political conflict, and the persistent
reality that China’s political system
is not evolving toward openness or
democracy. Instead, China’s growing economic and military strength
appears to embolden assertion of
international power and internal
crackdowns.a,b,c,d Analysts increasingly opine that China lacks the internal
civil stability essential to be a good
global economic partner. The U.S.
has moved to restrict technology flow
and investment from allies to China.
Directly, a growing strategic consensus
believes competition between U.S. and
a I. Ali. Pentagon says China missile test in South
China Sea ‘disturbing.’ Reuters, July 2, 2019.
b C. Buckley and C. Horton. Xi Jinping warns
Taiwan that unification is the goal and force is
an option. New York Times, Jan. 1, 2019.
c L. Beachum. Uighurs and their supporters
decry Chinese ‘concentration camps,’ ‘
genocide’ after Xinjiang documents leaked.
Washington Post, Nov. 17, 2019.
d J. Griffiths, R. Wright, B. Westcott and H. Regan. Protesters try to escape Hong Kong university after violent night. CNN, Nov. 18, 2019.
China is shaping the world into two
Internets, separated by a new “Berlin
wall.”e These two models for the Internet differ in control (government
control vs. open), companies (Baidu/
Tencent/Alibaba vs. Google/Facebook/
Amazon), and increasingly on their
What Are the Implications?
U.S. government actions to restrict
technology flow (export control) are
reducing the ability of universities to
collaborate with some foreign corporations and organizations. Programs
instituted to combat intellectual property theft create new reporting requirements. Funded research by corporations on the “entity list” is prohibited,
causing Huawei to disband its U.S.
research organization.g Collectively,
these actions have a chilling impact on
collaboration and create rising anxi-
ety. China’s government-rhetoric and
action against its own citizens in Xinji-
ang and Hong Kong reminds the world
the government maintains power by
force within China and through intim-
idation campaigns abroad. The result-
ing tensions produce covert and overt
suppression of open communication
e T.J. Friedman. The world-shaking news that
you’re missing: The U.S.-China divide isn’t just
about trade. New York Times, Nov. 26, 2019.
f J. Bernstein. The American Internet sucks.
The alternative Is China. Buzzfeed News,
Nov. 17, 2019.
g Huawei’s U.S. research arm slashes more
than 70% of workforce. The Straits Times, July
h I. Kwai. What Chinese students abroad really
think about Hong Kong’s protests. New York
Times, Sept. 17, 2019.
i Hong Kong protests: Sheffield university
students clash. BBC News, Oct. 2, 2019.
j M. Melia. Tensions over Hong Kong unrest
flare on US college campuses. AP, Oct. 2, 2019.
There is surprising growth of Internet application bubbles that feed Chinese students abroad a steady stream
of censored facts and spin from behind
the “Great Firewall”; see, for example,
How Can We Protect Collaboration?
In a peacefully integrated and global-ized world, nationality need not be
apparent. In a world with national
military and “no rules” economic
competition, nationality takes on
critical importance in technologies of
direct military and economic importance—such as many dimensions of
computing (AI, cybersecurity, HPC).
In such a world, we must do three
things to protect open collaboration:
1) Community members must be
open and transparent about nationality (citizenship) so others can fulfill
their responsibilities; 2) all must recognize that nationality (citizenship)
confers responsibilities that should
be respected by the community; and
3) communities should talk about sensitive areas and design policies/struc-tures that are inclusive where possible, but draw clearly defined and
understood boundaries where necessary. If we do not address these problems, solutions will be imposed upon
us. Without these steps, the risk is
that distrust will grow, undermining
the relationships and trust that make
open collaboration so fruitful.
k H. Zhang. The ‘post-truth’ publication where
Chinese students in America get their news.
New Yorker, Aug. 19, 2019.
Andrew A. Chien, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
From 2005–2010, Andrew Chien led Intel’s international
academic research and education engagements as well as
its network of Open Collaborative Research Laboratories.
He created two thriving industry-university collaborative
research centers at UCSD and the University of Chicago.
Cracks in Open Collaboration
DOI: 10.1145/3374766 Andrew A. Chien