The US has revoked the visas of more than 1,000 Chinese students and researchers that they suspect have ties to the Chinese military in the latest clash between the rival superpowers. The move comes in light of the Trump administration’s efforts to impose limits on Chinese students.  

Image Credit: Aljazeera

Still, university officials say the government is paranoid, and that the US will ultimately lose out with China. They strongly oppose any US restrictions on Chinese students from studying in the US and have urged Washington to take proactive steps to enhance future relations and understanding, not hinder them.  

As students face accusations of espionage, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that the withdrawal has been affected to prevent Chinese nationals from stealing and otherwise disseminating sensitive government information.  

According to the DHS, China had been abusing student visas. After students complete their graduate work, some move into jobs at prominent technology companies in the US, further exacerbating the fears of American officials that said employees could engage in industrial espionage, compromising homeland security. 

The approximately 360,000 Chinese nationals are currently studying in the US. They bring in significant revenue to both the country and the various tertiary institutions. However, the decision will supposedly only affect a small percentage of students. Some students say that they have already received email notices from the US embassy informing them their visas have been revoked. Almost 50 students currently in possession of an F1 academic visa said that their notices stated that they would have to apply for new visas if they wanted to travel to the US ever again.  

Some praised the move as a proactive measure to mitigate the risk of theft of sensitive information. At the same time, others disparaged it as an overly reactive and likely ineffective measure that could lead the way for further restrictions on Chinese students. 

This is not to say that China has has no further options in terms of international study for it’s youth, many Citzenship by Investment programmes across the world offer a wealth of opportunities to young students wanting to study abroad. The Caribbean CBI programmes are particularly popular with Chinese nationals as they offer not only investment opportunities and second citizenship, but also open doors to a range of higher education facilities. 

The news of the visa cancellations comes in the context of broader efforts to restrict Chinese students. Two Republican senators and a Republican congressman on Wednesday announced legislation that would bar all Chinese nationals from receiving student or research visas to the US for graduate or postgraduate studies in science, technology, engineering or mathematics fields. 

It heralds possible further educational restrictions, and the Chinese government could retaliate by imposing its own visa or academic ban on Americans. Over the last year, hostilities between the US and China have spread to numerous fronts. These include mutual sanctions against officials, an expanding trade war, and technology and media access, putting relations between the two at their worst point in decades. 

Bianca Church