Under the pretext of national security, Washington has recently announced new restrictions on visas of certain Chinese graduate students over unwarranted "espionage" suspicions.
The decision has exposed once again the deep-seated zero-sum game mindset of some U.S. politicians who have been desperate to divert public attention at a time when the U.S. administration is grappling with the double crises of a raging coronavirus pandemic and fast-spreading protests against racial discrimination.
Over the last few years, Washington has been abusing background checks and additional vetting of Chinese students over ill-founded national security concerns, triggering doubts over the legitimacy of those measures, as well as worries over whether the age of McCarthyism is hovering back.
The New York Times pointed out that U.S. officials had acknowledged that there was "no direct evidence that pointed to wrongdoing by the (Chinese) students who are about to lose their visas." U.S. universities are wary of a possible new "red scare" that "targets students of a specific national background and that could contribute to anti-Asian racism," according to the newspaper.
Last year, Yale, Stanford, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) released several statements to support their faculty of Chinese descent and reaffirmed their commitments to global scientific collaboration. "An automatic suspicion of people based on their national origin can lead to terrible consequences," UC Berkeley said in its statement.
Washington's latest Cold-War mentality plot has reflected America's profound lack of self-confidence in the areas of scientific research and development and talent competition. Those zero-sum gamers in Washington have based their decision on assumptions that China has stolen technologies from the United States, and seem to believe that as long as they shut the door to China, China will stop moving forward.
However, the United States not only has misread China's success, but also is poised to lose by rolling out those anti-China moves. One first loss for the country is in economic terms.
At present, about 360,000 Chinese students are studying or working in the United States, roughly a third of the total international student population. By accepting Chinese students, the U.S. educational institutions have been making substantial profits. The Wall Street Journal once commented that higher education has been "an especially successful U.S. export." The new visa rules will inflict brain drain and economic losses on U.S. universities.
By disrupting the normal flow of personnel exchanges between the two countries, America's global competitiveness will also take a hard hit.
Since World War II, the United States has been benefiting from the influx of talents thanks to its openness. Since China's reform and opening-up, a growing number of Chinese students went to the United States and some worked there after graduation, who later played an indispensible part in building and cementing America's technological strength.
Chinese and Chinese-American researchers are not only "exemplary members of our community but exceptional contributors to American society," MIT President L. Rafael Reif wrote in a letter.
U.S. China hawks' idea of slamming the door on Chinese students would only attack "a major U.S. strategic and cultural advantage: the excellence of American science," Bloomberg said in an opinion piece.
Technological innovation will only prosper in unimpeded exchanges and benign competition across borders. Decision-makers in Washington need to realize that lowering down a technological iron curtain will in no way deter China's determination to develop. Also, such an iron curtain will not help the United States preserve its technological edge.