Observer: US ban on Chinese students, researchers is turning back the clock
By Han Xiaomeng
People's Daily app


The Trump Administration’s recent move to put visa restrictions on certain Chinese students and researchers from entering the US runs counter to its commitment to boosting bilateral cooperation in education and technology between the two major powers in the world, which is detrimental to maintaining normal cultural and people-to-people exchanges between the two sides. The US action is stark political persecution and racial discrimination, seriously violating the rights of Chinese students and scholars in the US.

The expulsion of the so-called “high risk students and researchers” is a serious stigmatization. Trump claimed such groups of Chinese nationals "implement or support China's Military-Civil Fusion (MCF) strategy," and the action aims to “dismantle China’s ability to use graduate students to steal intellectual property and technology from the United States”. Such allegations are totally groundless, prone to fueling discrimination and xenophobic attitudes especially amid the ongoing anti-Asian sentiments in the US.

More importantly, at a time when the world is still grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, cooperation in scientific researches is vital for the entire human race to weather the outbreak. Banning Chinese students and researchers will “erode the collaborative nature of scientific research that yields new discoveries and medicines at a time when humans need them the most”, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology said in a statement.

For over 40 years, education and other humanistic exchanges have been widely supported in the two countries, serving as a key pillar for bilateral ties. There are more than 400,000 Chinese students in the US and China has been the No.1 source of international students in the US for several consecutive years. In 2018, Chinese nationals accounted for 13.5 percent of all of the 42,227 students earning doctorates in science and engineering fields at US universities. The massive scale of bilateral cooperation in education and research is fundamentally due to the fact that it’s in line with mutual demands of both sides and conforms to the trend of openness and collaboration in a globalized world.

Seeking a degree in the US has been the aspiration of many overseas students as the country stands at the forefront of scientific innovation. Despite the stagnant federal funding for colleges and universities in the US over the past decade, the rising demand of overseas students has prompted the development of its higher education. Tuition fees and other expenses of Chinese students have contributed $45 billion to the US economy in 2019. Targeting Chinese students does no good but lowers the reputation and attraction of higher education in the US.

In recent years, despite its commitment to welcome Chinese students, the US has kept creating hurdles for education exchanges between the two sides. In 2018, the US limited visas to one year for Chinese graduate students working in “sensitive fields”. In 2019, the FBI banned some Chinese academics from visiting the country. This time a proclamation is made on suspending the entry of Chinese students and scholars over similar fears of “stealing technology and intellectual property”. Sweeping policies in the name of protecting national security has been the excuse of playing the blame China card in multiple fields, a political manipulation frequently used by the US.

This reminds people of the old cold war mentality, in which zero-sum game is the normalcy in international relations. As experts noted, antagonizing China-US relations will only hurt the interests of the US itself. After the ban is issued, American institutes have voiced their anger and concerns as this will be strongly affect the development of international education, vital research such as STEM research, campus culture and more practically, school funding.

Decoupling China and the US and even repeating a cold war is a backward move. No one can turn back the clock, and making way for people-to-people exchanges between the two countries is in the interests of the people and the times.