As the threat of COVID-19 and US-China tensions are increasing, this study focused on this intensifying intersection between geopolitics and global science in the midst of a pandemic. This scientometric study compared proportions of international S&E collaborations during and before COVID-19 by countries through the lenses of scientific nationalism and scientific globalism. Social network analyses were also conducted to observe the various ties between countries on S&E COVID-19 publications, with a particular focus on China. While scientific nationalism would assume that the current political rhetoric and protectionist policies would lead to a decrease in international collaboration, our findings showed the reverse. The proportion of international collaborations and extent of multilateralism generally increased. Findings also revealed that despite geopolitical tensions and China’s recently introduced publication evaluation policy, the US and China remain the world’s leading international collaborators, including on S&E COVID-19 research.