Xenophobic restrictions remain in the United States

A view from Calhoun Drive on the Clemson University campus on June 10, 2020 in Clemson, South Carolina. [Photo/Agencies]

Nightmares still haunt Chinese scholars even though their contributions are welcome

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed Chinese students for their contributions on Thursday, but whether the White House will really open the door remains to be seen, an expert said.

The United States is “lucky” to have Chinese students who “enriched our communities,” Blinken said in a speech outlining the United States’ approach to China at George Washington University.

“Welcoming Chinese students will greatly benefit America’s tech industries, but it remains to be seen whether the Biden White House will truly open the door and not let xenophobia creep in over time,” said George Koo, adviser in international business retired from Silicon Valley. , told China Daily.

“I’ve seen recent statistics of Chinese students applying for admission to US graduate school, but I wouldn’t be surprised if enrollment from China dwindled after years of hostile reception from Washington.”

Although Blinken acknowledged the contributions of Chinese students, his remarks did not address the increasingly hostile environment in which they must live and study.

Donald Trump had cracked down on Chinese students during his presidency. The rhetoric of profiling Chinese students and scientists as “spies” and visa restrictions have made it increasingly difficult for them to study and conduct research in the United States.

Academic and civil rights groups have called for reversing some of Trump’s policies and easing visa restrictions since President Joe Biden took office last year. But restrictions are still in place, including Presidential Proclamation 10043.

The order, issued by Trump in 2020, bars entry to Chinese students and scholars deemed “security threats” for alleged ties to the Chinese military. Since the rule came into force in June 2020, the government has revoked more than 1,000 visas for these students in three months.

Analysis by Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology estimated that the order could block 3,000 to 5,000 Chinese students each year, representing a fifth of annual Chinese new enrollments in STEM, or science. , technology, engineering and mathematics, graduate programs.

Although Blinken said the United States issued more than 100,000 visas to Chinese students in four months last year, experts said Chinese students faced a large visa processing backlog because the government had shut down Chinese student visa processing for 13 months during the pandemic.

‘Cooling effect’

During his speech on Thursday, Blinken said more than 80% of Chinese students pursuing science and technology doctorates in the United States have stayed for the past few years. But US experts have warned of a “tech brain drain” due to “the chilling effect of the Chinese initiative”.

Under widespread backlash, the so-called China Initiative, which was launched in 2018 to target researchers with ties to China, ended in February. But new cases are still targeting the Chinese community in the United States. The lingering effects of the program still haunt many Chinese scientists and their families in the United States.

Gang Chen, a renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who was a victim of the China Initiative and whose charges were recently dropped, said, “We can’t get rid of nightmares and we are constantly afraid.”

“It’s harder to recruit international talent than it was five years ago. We’re losing talent. We’re deterring talent from coming,” Chen said recently.

A recent American Physical Society survey of international graduate students and early-career scientists found that almost half said they decided not to come to the United States because were not welcoming to foreigners. Of those who have come to the United States, more than 40% said the current US government approach makes it likely that they will choose to leave the country.

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