Mutual respect vital in educational exchanges and cooperation
Editor's note: The following article is taken from the Chinese-language "Commentaries on International Affairs" published on China Plus on June 3. The article reflects the author's opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.
China's Ministry of Education on Monday issued its first "study abroad alert" of the year, warning Chinese students and academics of the risks of studying in the United States, citing increasing U.S. limits on the duration of visas and visa refusals as well as longer waiting time for visa processing. The ministry has urged them to step up risk assessments and to act accordingly.
This is the 63rd such warning issued by the ministry since the mechanism for studying abroad was established in 2003. Since 2018, the United States has imposed visa restrictions on a number of Chinese citizens visiting the United States citing anti-espionage as grounds for their action.
In addition, the National Defense Authorization Act submitted by the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee clearly requires reinforced screening of visa applications by Chinese students and academics.
Some U.S. senators have recently submitted a bill to Congress, aiming to prohibit those who work for or receive sponsorship from China's military research institutions from receiving visas to the U.S. to reduce so-called security risks.
The Department of International Exchange and Cooperation of the Ministry of Education issued the first "study abroad alert" this year. /VCG Photo 

The Department of International Exchange and Cooperation of the Ministry of Education issued the first "study abroad alert" this year. /VCG Photo 

As a result, according to statistics from the China Scholarship Council, of the 10,313 government-sponsored Chinese citizens who planned to study in the United States in 2018, 331 (or 3.2 percent) were unable to go due to visa restrictions. In the first quarter of this year, 182 (13.5 percent) of the 1,353 government-sponsored applicants were denied visas.
Such politicization of normal bilateral educational exchanges, coming against the backdrop of increasing tensions in Sino-U.S. trade relations, has not only harmed the dignity of Chinese students and infringed on their legitimate rights and interests, but also poured cold water on Sino-U.S. educational exchanges and cooperation.
The warning issued by China's Ministry of Education is aimed at protecting the interests of those who intend to study and those who are already studying in the United States. Inevitably Chinese students will reassess their study choices and make rational decisions as a result.
Since China and the United States established diplomatic ties 40 years ago, educational cooperation has become a strong link between the two countries. After returning to China, a large number of students who studied in the States have made important contributions to China's development.
Innovation and economic growth in the United States also gained momentum thanks to the contributions made by Chinese students. At present, China is the top origin country for international students, representing around one-third of all foreign students studying in the United States.
For the 2017 academic year, Chinese students contributed nearly 13.9 billion U.S. dollars to the U.S. economy. Educational exchanges and cooperation have become an important part of Sino-U.S. service trade.
However, some U.S. politicians, exhibiting a zero-sum mentality, are not only suppressing China in the fields of trade and science and technology but are now also reaching out to the field of educational exchanges and cooperation.
They've deliberately labeled the Confucius Institutes as a tool used by China to expand its political influence in the United States, and are vilifying Chinese students as spies. Some have even helped shut down laboratories involving Chinese scholars, in an attempt to create panic in American society, so as to pave the way for their ulterior political goals.
Students from Confucius Institutes at Tennessee State University hold paper signs with Chinese characters to celebrate the Chinese New Year on January 5, 2019. /VCG Photo

Students from Confucius Institutes at Tennessee State University hold paper signs with Chinese characters to celebrate the Chinese New Year on January 5, 2019. /VCG Photo

But such behavior can never blind people of insight in the U.S. education circle. Two American higher education associations recently issued a statement saying that Chinese students are crucial to U.S. scientific research. The presidents of a whole host of renowned universities including Harvard, Yale and Stanford have expressed their welcome to and support for international students and scholars including those from China.
The U.S. "Foreign Policy" website recently published an article by Paul Musgrave, an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, saying that the "American schools' best market" is Chinese students, and that the unilateral constriction of the number of Chinese students by the United States poses "a significant and underappreciated risk to U.S. schools," and that "much of America's higher education system couldn't survive without that money."
The fact that some American political figures are making educational cooperation a tool of political suppression has seriously damaged the interests and international competitiveness of American colleges and universities and is thus strongly criticized and resisted.
According to a recent survey released by China's leading educational consulting firm EIC Education, Britain has overtaken the United States to become the most popular destination for Chinese students. Over one-fifth of Chinese students say that they intend to study in the United Kingdom while only a little over 17 percent chose the United States. Observers say the U.S. government is handing over outstanding Chinese students to other countries, thus losing a competitive advantage.
China has expressed its willingness to strengthen educational exchanges and cooperation with other countries including the United States. But cooperation is not a one-way street. 
Instead, it should involve two-way interaction and mutual respect. China has always been committed to further opening up its education sector. In 2018, the total number of Chinese students studying abroad was 662,100. In the same period, 492,200 international students from 196 countries and regions were studying, doing research, and receiving training in 1,004 universities, research institutes and other educational institutions in China.
Regardless of the changes in political and economic relations, educational exchanges and cooperation should remain unaffected. In the future, China will continue to further open its education sector and welcome students from all over the world to study in China, learn more about China and participate in China's development process.
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