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He cited a history of Chinese efforts to steal U.S. technology

Mr. Holdren and NASA chief Charles Bolden Jr. defended the administration’s record, saying the benefits of technological and scientific collaboration with China outweighed the risks.

“We have guarded our nation’s secrets,” Mr. Bolden said.

Cooperation with China is “clearly in the U.S. interest,” argued the ranking member of the subcommittee, Rep. Russ Carnahan, Missouri Democrat.

At such a “critical time for the nation’s space exploration plans,” Mr. Bolden added, “having the flexibility to enter into these partnerships [with other countries, including China] has been key” to U.S. leadership in space.

Bipartisan support for cooperation with China “has spanned many administrations,” he said.

“I believe that some level of cooperation with China … can be … in the best interests of both nations,” he said.

Such cooperation also “strengthens our hand in getting China to change those aspects of its conduct that we oppose,” said Mr. Holdren, citing human rights and economic issues.

He said the Innovation Dialogue with Beijing - one of the initiatives under fire - had helped “roll back aspects of Chinese innovation policy that discriminated against American businesses.”

“American businesses are very grateful,” Mr. Holdren said.

He added that cooperation on disease and other biological reporting issues had “enhanced our capability to deal with infectious diseases” and invasive pests originating in China.