The Wall Street Journal reported that major American universities are complaining about the lack of Chinese students currently enrolled in the United States. The universities complain that “dominance in science and technology could be undermined by toughened U.S. visa requirements that are squeezing the flow of talent from China,” our chief geopolitical adversary.
The universities continue to protest a presidential proclamation from then-President Donald Trump. That proclamation barred the entry of Chinese researchers and students who had ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) or the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). This was a common-sense decision to prevent American technology, innovation, and industry intelligence from falling into the hands of China. Chinese students and researchers have a well-documented history of stealing American industrial secrets and intellectual technology.
There is no doubt that foreign students do contribute to important gains in research within science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. But it is also true that universities over-enroll foreign students because they pay full tuition and do not qualify for need or merit-based scholarships in most circumstances. Universities have a financial incentive to enroll as many foreign students as possible. Chinese students are no more capable of conducting STEM research than are students from other countries, including our own allies. Students from Europe, Oceania, and India enroll in American universities every year. Are Chinese students somehow better than these other foreign students?
This begs the question of whether we need Chinese foreign students in our universities at all. In April, I posed this same question:
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic about one third of all foreign students in the United States were Chinese. Think about the national security implications of that fact. The United States – through our world-class universities – is happily educating nationals from our greatest rival on the world stage. In extreme cases, some of those students become American citizens and then subsequently spy on the U.S. for the Chinese Communist Party. But in many others, these students return home to China with American degrees to work in China for either the Chinese government or for any one of China’s CCP-aligned firms.
How on earth is this in our national interest? Even if you agree with the notion that we should maintain or even increase the number of foreign student visas, why would we allocate such a great proportion of those visas to citizens of a country that views us as a rival, targets our elections, steals American intellectual property, hacks our government systems, and openly attacks the notion of Western democracy as a whole?
The answer is simple. We do not need Chinese foreign students. It is disturbing that American universities now protest current regulations on Chinese students affiliated with the CCP and PLA. From a national security perspective, our universities should not educate individuals who will be plotting against us in the future. From an economic perspective, it makes no sense to educate people who will return home after their studies.
From a cultural sense, what does it say about American universities and our broader education system that our universities are up in arms over this issue without making a meaningful attempt to bring more American students into STEM roles? Spare me the reply that Americans do not pursue STEM degrees – it is not true. Data from the National Science Foundation found that almost 40 percent of all incoming freshman major in STEM degrees, a trend that is increasing rather than decreasing. Our country is heading in the right direction with STEM education. Let’s not derail that progress by arming our number one global adversary by educating their students.
Let China educate its own, and let America educate ours.