United States President Donald Trump was ranting about China a few months ago when he reportedly told a group of executives that “almost every student that comes over to this country is a spy.”
Now, it appears Trump aides nearly convinced him to stop issuing student visas to Chinese nationals who want to study in the U.S., according to a recent report.
Citing sources familiar with the discussion, Financial Times reported that it was White House aide Stephen Miller who has been pushing the idea to President Trump.
Known for his hardline immigration views, Miller was reportedly selling the idea that such an action would not only be a deterrent to Chinese espionage but can also hurt the elite universities which have been critical against his presidency.
However, U.S. ambassador to China Terry Branstad was able to convince Trump that Miller’s suggestion was “too draconian,” explaining that it would harm smaller colleges during an “intense” Oval Office meeting.
U.S. embassy officials in China also pointed out that Chinese students significantly contribute to the service-sector trade surpluses that most U.S. states are running with China.
The White House has earlier released a national security strategy document that included a promise to tighten visa procedures for some countries in order to “reduce economic theft by non-traditional intelligence collectors.”
During an open Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in February, Director Chris Wray also described Chinese students as part of a ”whole of society” threat to the U.S.
Instead of the proposed ban on Chinese students, the White House came up with new rules which shortened the length of visas for Chinese graduate students studying in “sensitive” fields like robotics, aviation, and high-tech manufacturing, which was instituted in June.
While the move has been hailed by supporters as a solution to China’s alleged espionage through academia, many have criticized it as making it more difficult for brilliant Chinese students to move to the U.S. and contribute to American innovation.