The bipartisan US-China Security Review Commission published a Congressional report in July that sparked spirited debate among academics, economists and politicians about how China's scientific and technological advances could adversely affect American national security, jobs and competitiveness. Too bad they missed the point. The commission failed to recognise a golden opportunity in a country that is rapidly transforming its image from brawny workshop to the world to brainy knowledge network. Simply engaging China is not enough. The US must propose marriage. The grand promises of biotechnology, nanotechnology, and information technology can only be realised with co-operation in research and development among countries with a capable science and engineering workforce. China is such an emerging force. Through its open policy, a stabilising legal system, and recent entry to the World Trade Organisation, China is showing itself to be a vibrant, worthy, and capable trade partner. One need only look at the nation's swift decoding of the rice genome, ground-breaking embryonic stem-cell research, and bio-engineering of a virus-resistant tobacco crop to embrace the rapid pace of the Chinese research and development system. Whether the US sees this progress as a threat is the key to how China sees the US. Remaining diplomatically distant will only force China into an ideological corner. Policy-makers must move beyond military posturing and embrace the new, hi-tech China in the same way major multinational companies have. Business is far ahead of government in responding to the imperatives of globalisation, and policymakers should take note. Increasingly, the top Western multinationals such as General Electric, IBM, General Motors, and Ericsson have discovered value and utility in setting up research and development centres in China to tap into its knowledge networks. The notion that companies are selling out the national interest is old-fashioned. Globalising the process of technological discovery and innovation enables countries to leapfrog towards scientific and technological progress, specifically in biotechnology. US policy-makers must re-examine the entire process of technological innovation and approach the idea of discovery in an entirely different way.There is no more national technology. Techno-security in an age of globalisation requires having full access to the world's broad array of science and technology assets. New sources of innovation lie beyond our borders, and the latest hotspot is China. The US must discard its antiquated behaviour towards China and replace it with a progressive, technology-driven form of diplomacy. For example, we should move away from the idea of export controls except in clearly defined areas such as nuclear security, since such strictures seem to have little meaning in today's truly global market. Washington needs to take seriously the bilateral Sino-US relationship when it comes to science and technology, a collaboration that suffers from a tremendous lack of funding on the US side. Therefore, like Europe, the US must invest in and participate in China's technological push and promote commercial exchanges with China, particularly those that offer major inroads into the country's knowledge assets and emerging research and development networks. Ever-increasing numbers of Chinese nationals are accepting faculty positions in the US or attending American universities - more than 300,000 students have received training in the US and Europe since the 1980s. Many work at research and development (R&D) branches of American companies, others return to China where recent laws make it easier to protect intellectual property and to start up a business. Either way, Chinese contributions are becoming inextricably woven into the world's science and technological fabric. The sheer numbers bear out what has always been China's forte - raw people power. If the US continues to adopt bellicose policies with China, treating it as a real or imagined adversary rather than a partner, there will be negative consequences to global technological advance. How US officials treat the Chinese in these pivotal early months of the nation's membership in the WTO will determine the future of such collaborations and, ultimately, the tone of Sino-US interactions in general. It is unfortunate that the congressional report sees too much threat and not enough opportunity. Yes, the growth of China's national economy could signal an enemy on the horizon, but the US should be careful about actions, attitudes and statements that make such an outcome a fait accompli. The US needs a China that is vibrant, entrepreneurial and able to deliver positively to the global research promises on the technological horizon. Despite the existence of a broad-based over-arching science and technology co-operation agreement with Beijing, the fact is that our more than 20 years of bilateral relations with China's science and technology community has been just the icing on the cake. We must now recognise that China's ever-increasing knowledge resources are the actual cake. Forging positive alliances with China can only put the US - indeed the world - in a more prosperous position. Denis Fred Simon is dean of the Lally School of Management and Technology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York State.