China warns students, academics about studying in the US

Students shield themselves from the sun as they line up at a job fair at a university in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China Nov 29, 2018. (Reuters pic)

BEIJING: China warned students and academics on Monday (Jun 3) about the risks of studying in the United States, pointing to limits on the duration of visas and visa refusals, amid a bitter trade war between the two countries.

Relations between China and the US have nosedived because of their trade conflict, US sanctions on Chinese tech firm Huawei Technologies, tension over the disputed South China Sea and US’ support for Chinese-claimed Taiwan.

State television, citing China’s Ministry of Education, said that some students seeking to study in the US had encountered problems with the duration of their visas being limited and an increase in visa refusals.

“This has affected Chinese students going to study in the United States or smoothly completing their studies,” the state television added.

“The education ministry reminds students and academics of the need to strengthen risk assessment before studying abroad, enhance prevention awareness, and make corresponding preparations.”

The ministry declined to offer an immediate response.

At stake is about US$14 billion of economic activity, most of it tuition and other fees generated annually from the 360,000 Chinese nationals who study in the United States.

Hu Xijin, editor of the widely read Chinese newspaper the Global Times, linked the warning to recent discrimination against students and the trade dispute.

“This warning is a response to recent series of discriminatory measures the US took against Chinese students and can also be seen as a response to the US-initiated trade war,” Hu wrote on his Twitter account in English.

Last year, China’s embassy in Washington issued a security advisory to Chinese nationals travelling to the US, warning tourists to be aware of issues including expensive medical bills, the threat of public shootings and robberies, and searches and seizures by customs agents.

A group of US President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans in Congress introduced legislation last month intended to prohibit anyone employed or sponsored by the Chinese military from receiving student or research visas to the US.

The bill would require the US government to create a list of scientific and engineering institutions affiliated with China’s People Liberation Army, and prohibit anyone employed or sponsored by those institutions from receiving visas.

The bill comes as some US officials have expressed concern about the possibility of the theft of intellectual property or even espionage by Chinese nationals at US universities and other institutions.

Many US and university officials also warn about over-reacting, arguing that it is important to acknowledge the important role Chinese scholars and students play at US institutions while being aware of security risks.