The U.S. administration has passed a new policy that restricts the visas of Chinese students to just one year in a few fields of study. While the move has garnered opposition from people who say that it is “racist,” the American intelligence community sees it as a necessary action to protect the country.
Restricting the visa
The new visa restrictions are largely targeted at Chinese students applying for studying in STEM fields. And many academics have voiced concerns against the policy, stating how it is openly racist and will limit the talent pool that the U.S. can attract in the future.
Xinhua quotes an educator from Virginia as saying: “America has just reversed course and defaulted 130 years, playing another prejudiced game against the Chinese,” while adding: “I think they have no idea how large a segment of our society they are affecting, and the economic power they [international students] wield.”
As per estimates from the Association of International Educators, international students contributed about US$37 billion dollars to the economy of the United States during the academic year 2016-2017. And Chinese students make up a big portion of this contribution.
But despite this economic benefit, the U.S. government has decided to restrict visas to Chinese students largely out of unavoidable security concerns.
The need for visa restrictions
The Chinese have been trying to lure researchers and scientists from the U.S. into their own companies and organizations. And the fact that students trained in critical technologies in the United States were being taken away by China was a serious issue for American intelligence agencies.
“There are many foreign academics and researchers currently attending U.S. institutions from nations that are strategic competitors, including Iran, Russia, and the People’s Republic of China… We are particularly concerned about China because it is among the United States’ most formidable economic competitors,” The Epoch Times quotes Joseph G Morosco, assistant director at the National Counterintelligence and Security Center.
A report released by the White House, entitled How China’s Economic Aggression Threatens the Technologies and Intellectual Property of the United States and the World, raises serious concerns regarding China’s use of U.S. trained professionals.
The White House document says: “Chinese recruiters appeal to national pride and urge a ‘return to China’ to ‘serve the Motherland.’ Those who return are rewarded with financial incentives and career opportunities. Those staying abroad are afforded multiple avenues to ‘serve the country,’ often including short-term visits to China and drafting reports outlining their research abroad.”
An example of China using “national pride” to lure back American-trained Chinese nationals is the country’s “Thousand Talents Plan” launched in 2008. As per the plan, leaders in scientific fields who hold intellectual property rights to key technologies that are deemed essential by Beijing are lured back into the country by offering attractive incentives and top positions in Chinese universities and research institutes. Almost 44,000 highly skilled Chinese nationals have returned to the country since 2009, according to government sources.
And with China launching its ambitious “Made In China 2025” plan, which aims to enable the country to overcome the U.S. to be the leading technology provider in the world, it should be understandable why the United States administration is seeking to restrict Chinese nationals from enrolling in sensitive fields of study like aviation, robotics, high-end manufacturing, and so on.