Trying to avoid the politics of the current trade “issue” between China and the US is becoming a bit of a challenge, with the recent news that China has issued a warning that the US is not welcoming to Chinese students. Some of this is related to the increasing costs of applying for an F-1 Visa. Some of it is related to the news confirming what we have heard for a while, that students applying for visas will need to supply usernames and passwords for ALL social media. Included under these conditions are email addresses and phone numbers. All of this will be part of the background check and will begin this month. Finally, China issued a direct warning on Monday to citizens due to the increased scrutiny on students studying STEM subjects, the increasing US concerns about Confucius Institutes at US universities and of course, other escalating issues related to the trade war.
Sorry for the long introduction, but the rest of the article needs some context. One thing that’s certain is that the US administration is currently focused on certain issues related to the overall health of the US economy. This article’s purpose is not to take sides but point that out, or at least point out some of the concerns are valid and others just tit-for-tat posturing on both sides.
China is currently the largest sender of foreign students to the US with more than 363,000 students at universities and colleges, and even more if we include high schools and lower grades. Related to that is the amount of financial support Chinese students provide not just to the schools they attend, but local economies. Further, many of these same students are an important part of scientific research.
Suffice it to say that the interwoven nature of China/US relations is more complicated than the trade war. Both countries need to have well-educated students with broad educational experiences to maintain their vibrant economies. The repercussions of all of this are being felt around the world even though it is specific to both countries.
In reality, none of this is new news, which leads to the concept of perception. Are students being denied visas? Yes, they are. At a higher rate than before? Probably, but perhaps not significantly. News tends to heighten concerns rather than focus on actual results. Let’s just say news can amplify what is really happening to create a frenzy, which then results in panic.
It is important to note that schools want Chinese students, and not just for the money they provide. The international diversity of a school is essential on many levels. Cross-cultural education is important for the world that we currently live in. While nationalism is on the rise, most of the fear is spread by not knowing, not understanding or the inability to be open-minded. Diversity provides the space for dialogue of understanding. After all, we share this place called Earth.
So as we look forward, students who have all their information prepared for their visa appointments will most likely be successful. With all the dialogical digressions, it is important for all concerned to not feed into the perception created by posturing. This does not mean one shouldn’t be concerned; it just means everyone should be well prepared.