The role of the state in genomic innovation in relation to global life science competition is central to understanding the moral economy of bioethics. This article asks how in China the adoption of research regulation is balanced with global competition in genomics. I argue that “competitive adaptation” plays an important role. The concept refers to a mode of innovation that reworks bioethics in a way that avoids a loss of competitiveness. In contrast with neoliberal views that claim a correlation between the devolution of state responsibilities and an increase in individual choice and responsibilization, I maintain that political strategies, older notions of scientific progress, and nation-state ideologies continue to play major roles, too. In the assessment of China's collaborative research capacity, China's political, academic, and social institutional history is largely ignored, and the ability of society to adapt to first-world standards and bioethical institutions to function without major investment is uncritically assumed. Missing in this analytical field is a discussion of the strategic adoption of bioethics, the meaning it acquires in science collaboration, and its relation to both international scientists and local populations. The case study of the Taizhou biobank serves to exemplify competitive adaptation occurring where the application of alien standards is imposed.

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