One of the Trump administration’s most vocal anti-immigration advisers, Stephen Miller, made headlines this week when the Financial Times reported that he was urging the president to “make it impossible for Chinese citizens to study in the US.”
While some other more hawkish administration officials sided with Miller, who along with being a senior policy adviser is credited with writing Donald Trump’s most high-profile speeches, there is no indication of how seriously the president took the advice.
The US ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, pushed back on Miller’s assertion that the policy would hurt culturally liberal, elite universities, pointing out that smaller schools all across the country rely more heavily on the money that streams in from China.
Students from China make up by far the highest proportion, almost one-third, of foreign students studying in the US, spending billions in the process.
The idea of a blanket ban was shot down, for the time being, but various restrictions on Chinese visas for those engaged in scientific research with applications in strategic industries have already been put in place by the Trump administration.
Miller’s proposal was reportedly aimed at deterring Chinese political-influence campaigns. White House national security adviser John Bolton is also said to be pushing for US intelligence agencies to report on Chinese influence operations in the US.
US Vice-President Mike Pence is scheduled to give a speech on Thursday that is expected to touch on the issue of Chinese interference in US politics.
The report this week adds another straw to the camel’s back of US-China relations, which have been strained by a series of events in the past week alone.
Amid an escalating trade war, a perilous confrontation in the South China Sea was caught on camera, the US sold US$330 million worth of arms to Taiwan and slapped sanctions on a department of the Chinese military, while Trump alleged that Beijing was interfering in America’s upcoming midterm elections.