The United States government has come up with a new set of regulations that will restrict visas granted to Chinese students. The decision comes on the back of reports that suggested Beijing’s communist government was using (or “manipulating”) some of its students for espionage.
Restricting Chinese student visas
In June this year, the U.S. administration had shortened the length of visas given to students from China from five years to just one year. The restriction was imposed in areas like robotics, aviation, and advanced manufacturing. This was done to reduce the chances of Chinese students stealing sensitive American intellectual property and technical knowledge.
“Every Chinese student who China sends here has to go through a Party and government approval process… You may not be here for espionage purposes as traditionally defined, but no Chinese student who’s coming here is untethered from the state,” a senior U.S. official said in a statement (VOA News).
Beijing wants to gain technological supremacy over the U.S. However, America continues to attract the best minds in the world and produces the most advanced technologies. Hence, the Chinese government engages in theft of American IP in order to ensure that they don’t lag behind. As far as the U.S. is concerned, this theft of knowledge is something they have to stop immediately.
“America is a country known for innovation and entrepreneurship. College campuses stimulate our creativity and ambition. University research gave us rocket fuel, GPS, oil refining, seat belts, and pacemakers. Despite the brainpower on college campuses, naivete remains a concern. If we’re not careful, we’ll export our ‘Made in America’ brand to China,” John Kennedy, U.S. Senator, wrote in The Advocate.
Dwindling Chinese students
The decision to restrict visas to Chinese students has sent several U.S. universities into panic mode since this segment literally makes up the biggest portion of international students. If they were to stop enrolling in American universities, the U.S. educational industry could face a crisis.
As per estimates, Chinese students paid almost US$7 billion in tuition in the U.S. during the period between 2008 and 2012. But starting 2016, there has been a downward move in Chinese admissions due to concerns like “gun violence” propagated by the Chinese media. The new visa restrictions might just accelerate the trend.
“We’ve definitely seen the numbers decline… Even just generally walking around, interacting with international students, you can see that there’s a very obvious decline in international students, especially from China,” Carl Ford II, who worked at the Office for International Students and Scholars at the Michigan State University for three years, said to The State News.
Foreseeing the risk of lower Chinese students, several universities have started taking insurance to protect their revenues.
The colleges of engineering and business at the University of Illinois has apparently taken a US$60 million insurance in case admissions from China fall due to any “specific set of identifiable triggers.” “We chose the $60 million figure because that roughly is our exposure across the two colleges,” Jeff Brown, dean of the Gies College of Business, said to Inside Higher Education.
The triggers include events like a trade war, a pandemic, and the biggest risk of them all — visa restrictions. If any such event were to result in a fall in Chinese admissions and revenues, the insurance company will compensate the colleges for loss of revenue.