US-China relations to be “major theme” under Biden, speakers predict

The US will need make clear that international students are welcomed and their contributions recognised – one way would be by raising the cap on the number of refugees allowed into the country – they agreed.

“The worst of all worlds would be to bring folks over and then give them no opportunity whatsoever to stay”

However, China will remain a important policy area.

“The Trump administration came in and labelled China a strategic competitor, which I think was good and took a tougher line [than previous administrations],” said Richard Fontaine, CEO of the Center for a New American Security think tank.

“Just to imagine that a Biden administration is not going to be concerned about China, I think is not the case,” Karin Fischer, senior writer at the Chronicle of Higher Education agreed.

“Politicians on both sides of the aisle have [in the past] expressed deep concern about the approach China has taken related to intellectual property in the US and particularly on US campuses,” NAFSA CEO Esther Brimmer noted.

A survey of 124 companies by the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai released this week found that 60% of American businesses in China are more optimistic about doing business in the country following the results of the US presidential election.

Nearly one third of companies surveyed also believed that China-US trade tensions will continue indefinitely.

There are two points for international education regarding US-China relations, Fontaine proposed.

“I think sometimes people express outrage that we have Chinese students in the US at all. I think [enrolling Chinese students] is a sign of the great strength of our educational sector, and we want Chinese students here,” he said.

However, the US should not enrol Chinese students “associated with the People’s Liberation Army or that are studying things in order to acquire specialised skills that they can take back to get military or intelligence advantage over the US”, he suggested.

“Here, I think the Trump administration made a pretty good slicing dicing of trying to segregate the small number of people that are connected to Chinese security services, as opposed to the vast majority of Chinese students who would come here are not.”

In 2020, the administration announced measures to restrict access to non-immigrant visas to those with links to China’s military.

The second point – Fontaine explained – surrounds opportunities for Chinese graduates in the US, a point where he suggested the Trump administration and Congress have been less effective.

“The worst of all worlds – from just from an American national security perspective – would be to bring folks over from a strategic rival, educate them in our top institutions in areas of that are that are highly competitive, and then give them no opportunity whatsoever to stay and actually contribute to the society, to this economy as immigrants if they would prefer or if they would choose to do that,” he said.

“We’ve got a long way to go [on] having a path for graduates to have more options rather than just returning home and seeing what’s available on the other side.”

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