U.S. treatment of Chinese students is blow to claims of 'Greatness'
Updated 18:37, 03-Sep-2019
Tom Fowdy

Editor's note: Tom Fowdy, who graduated from Oxford University's China Studies Program and majored in politics at Durham University, writes about international relations focusing on China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Last week reports circulated in American media that United States Customs and Border Protection had denied nine Chinese students' re-entry to the country in order to complete their studies at Arizona State University. The students, who were of good standing and had no issues related to misconduct, and nor were they accused of any illegal activities, were rejected on the grounds of "information acquired" by the staff.

The reasoning behind the decision has subsequently hinted at it being the political views of the students involved, with United States immigration now demanding inspection of the social media accounts of individuals on entry, combined with a reported increased scrutiny of Chinese students who may have “suspect” political opinions in accordance to American preferences. They are not the only nationality affected by this policy shift.

U.S. President Donald Trump listens while participating in a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) roundtable discussion, Virginia, U.S., Feb. 2, 2018. /VCG Photo

U.S. President Donald Trump listens while participating in a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) roundtable discussion, Virginia, U.S., Feb. 2, 2018. /VCG Photo

Nevertheless, in every sense, as the politics of the United States has turned toxic against China, Chinese students studying overseas in the United States have become a focal point of political demonization and opportunism. Not only are such students routinely and unfairly branded as spies and infiltrators and interrogated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), but now the Trump administration is accelerating a marked intolerance towards Chinese studying in the United States who have different respective worldviews. This has combined with Trump's increasingly aggressive immigration policies to create brutal outcomes such as the denial of innocent and law-abiding students to the U.S.

First of all, let's look at the world of U.S. border and entry requirements under the Trump administration. Eager to feed the hypernationalism sentiment in the country, the White House has become the most arbitrary in history in its attempt to stifle entry to the U.S., both illegally and legally. 

From day one, we have seen how Trump has banned entire nationalities from entering the country, has accelerated deportations and detentions and is forcing officials to look for any excuse possible to deny people who are even legitimate visitors access to the country. Students are not exempt.

President Donald Trump tours the border wall prototypes near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry, San Diego County, U.S., March 13, 2018. /VCG Photo

President Donald Trump tours the border wall prototypes near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry, San Diego County, U.S., March 13, 2018. /VCG Photo

Last year, the administration introduced its "extreme vetting policy" which is likened to a "cold war ideological screening test," which openly targets the political views of visa applicants. A part of this has involved scrutiny of the social media of entrants. On American visa forms, you have to declare your accounts to the country's embassy, and if you have a visa, you may already be asked to present such profiles on arrival.

Despite America's claims to freedom of speech and liberty, if you have "dissenting" views there is an increasing probability you will be denied access. A Palestinian student at Harvard was recently denied access to the country for having friends on Facebook who were "critical of the U.S." even though the student in question said nothing himself.

Now combine this with the already toxic attitude towards Chinese students within the United States. As part of the unaccountable hysteria which is sweeping Washington against Beijing, Chinese students, who contribute over 8 billion U.S. dollars to the U.S. economy annually, are being branded a systematic “threat” and treated with suspicion.

American discourse portrays Chinese students as being potential spies and technology thieves who cannot be trusted on scientific courses. Graduate students in the U.S. have come under increased "surveillance" from colleagues and have even been questioned by the FBI unfairly.

The newest move should not be a surprise.

About a month ago, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural affairs Marie Royce publicly accused Chinese students of living in a "Communist Party bubble." Thus, any Chinese student that may possess open "disagreements" with the United States or is linked to individuals at home who do, are now at risk of being denied entry to the country.

As a result, the Trump administration is openly betraying its country's professed values and putting up an ideological wall as to who can and can't enter it. In this sense this is not just about immigration, it's also firmly about politics in the administration's grant and belligerent goal of forcefully asserting American hegemony through openly coercive means.

You either subordinate yourself to precisely what the U.S. wants, or you directly or indirectly become subject to a series of unilateral measures targeting you for your dissent – on a foreign policy level or personal level.

To target Chinese students for this is an abounding hypocrisy. If this is about "Making America Great Again," the reality is that the White House is truly discarding what makes America "Great" in the process, which are openness, tolerance and diversity in political views and perspectives.

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