Sunday, October 7, 2018

Financial Times: White House Considered Blanket Ban on Student Visas for Chinese Nationals, partly with goal of hurting Universities (Michael Simkovic)

From the Financial Times:

"White House hawks earlier this year encouraged President Donald Trump to stop providing student visas to Chinese nationals, but the proposal was shelved over concerns about its economic and diplomatic impact. . . . 

Stephen Miller, a White House aide who has been pivotal in developing the administration’s hardline immigration policies, pushed the president and other officials to make it impossible for Chinese citizens to study in the US, according to four people familiar with internal discussions. . . .

While the debate was largely focused on spying, Mr. Miller argued his plan would also hurt elite universities whose staff and students have been highly critical of Mr Trump, according to the three people with knowledge of the debate.

The issue came to a head in an Oval Office meeting in the spring during which Mr Miller squared off with administration opponents, including Terry Branstad, the former Iowa governor who is US ambassador to China.

According to the four people familiar with the discussions, ahead of the Oval Office meeting Mr Branstad argued that Mr Miller’s plan would take a much bigger toll on smaller colleges, including in Iowa, than on wealthy Ivy League universities. US embassy officials in Beijing also made a broader economic argument that most American states enjoy service-sector trade surpluses with China, in part because of spending by Chinese students.

Mr Branstad succeeded in convincing the president that Mr Miller’s proposal was too draconian, according to one person familiar with the White House showdown. At one point, Mr Trump looked at his ambassador and quipped: “Not everyone can go to Harvard or Princeton, right Terry?”

One person familiar with the debate said Mr Miller’s opponents were worried the president might return to the issue, particularly as he takes an increasingly tough line on China over everything from trade to cyber security.  

“Turning away foreign students would do enormous damage to the US economy,” said Edward Alden, an immigration expert at the Council on Foreign Relations think-tank. “The US has long attracted the lion’s share of the world’s most talented immigrants because they come here initially to attend the world’s best universities. If we shut off that pipeline, the US will become poorer and weaker.” . . . 

Michael Green, a Georgetown University professor who was the top White House Asia adviser in the Bush administration, said that while Chinese espionage was a growing concern, it was important not to overreact.

“There is a problem, but this is a case where you don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The overwhelming majority of Chinese students studying in the US become bridges, not threats,” said Prof Green, who agreed with Beijing embassy officials that colleges in states that Mr Trump won in 2016 would suffer the most from an absence of Chinese students, rather than elite universities. . . .

Trump also singled out China and accused it of meddling in the US midterm elections.

Asked about Mr Miller’s proposal, a Chinese official said it was “ridiculous” and would be “very short-sighted”, pointing out that Chinese students had contributed $18bn to local economies in 2017 alone.

“To politicise the normal exchange of students and shut the door for exchanges and co-operation goes against the trend of globalisation,” the official said. “It stands little chance of hurting China without hurting the US.”"

Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Law in Cyberspace, Of Academic Interest, Science, Weblogs | Permalink