The State Department on Monday announced it will restrict visas for Chinese students and researchers who are working in the U.S. and are linked to the People’s Liberation Army, the Chinese military.
President Trump last week announced a series of measures aimed at retaliating against China for its move to impose mainland laws and other security measures on Hong Kong in the face of massive pro-democracy protests. China has responded in kind.
The State Department measures include restricting “J” and “F” visas for students and researchers as a way to limit China’s attempts to acquire or learn more about cutting-edge U.S. technology and other intellectual property. The crackdown is part of the Trump administration’s larger effort to develop more reciprocal trade and economic relations with Beijing while better protecting national security.
“We will not tolerate [Chinese] attempts to illicitly acquire American technology and intellectual property from our academic institutions and research facilities for Chinese military ends,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in announcing the curbs.
The wide-ranging restrictions suspend entry into the United States for certain Chinese students and researchers and cover academic or research work likely to support Chinese Communist Party entities engaged in “military-civil fusion” activities.
“Our actions last Friday are a direct consequence of PRC government strategies and policies that exploit the access of some of China’s brightest graduate students and researchers, in targeted fields, to divert and steal sensitive technologies and intellectual property from U.S. institutions, taking undue advantage of our open and collaborative academic and research environment,” Mr. Pompeo said.
“Our concern is with the malign actions of the Chinese Communist Party and specific individuals, not with the Chinese people,” Mr. Pompeo added.
An estimated 330,000 Chinese nationals are in the United States studying for degrees or conducting research. They are often lucrative sources of funds and tuition for top American colleges and research institutes.
Mr. Pompeo said the restrictions will limit “a small subset of Chinese student and researcher visa applicants.” Education analysts said perhaps 3,000 Chinese studying in the U.S. could be affected.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing on Monday that the U.S. move “seriously harms” the legal rights of Chinese students and researchers affected, and will end up hurting the U.S. reputation as a magnet for foreign talent.
“We urge the U.S. to stop making the use of various excuses to wantonly restrict and suppress Chinese students in the U.S. and to roll back the move immediately. We support students in safeguarding their legitimate rights and interests in accordance with the law,” Mr. Zhao said.
Preventing Chinese theft of American technology has been a key element of Trump administration policies toward Beijing. A 2017 White House report put Chinese theft of U.S. technology at anywhere from $250 billion to $600 billion annually.
“We expect this new visa policy will contribute to an improved, open and transparent environment in which U.S. and Chinese scholars can engage with greater trust,” Mr. Pompeo said. “At the same time, the United States will continue to do everything in its power to safeguard U.S. technology and institutions, and to ensure our national and economic security remain safe and free from foreign interference.”