The US and China are increasingly in a Cold War. Our political systems differ dramatically. Tensions in geopolitical influence and specifically economic and military competition in the Pacific are significant. Recently, intellectual property theft and trade practices make the headlines. The competition between the two countries is real and serious.
Nonetheless, the US educates thousands of Chinese students each year. While the US defense and intelligence communities are rightfully concerned about technology transfer in sensitive domains, recent changes in US immigration policy towards Chinese graduates in the US hurts our national interest rather helping it. I have previously blogged about a crackdown on Chinese scholars at US universities. But the situation is more serious for Chinese nationals who are recent graduates of US degree programs.
We routinely expel them a year or two after they graduate, even after getting a master’s or doctoral degree.
Once we make a decision to invest in educating a Chinese citizen in a field such as computer science, our goal should be to keep that student and to easily transition her into citizenship. We need more well trained technological experts, not fewer of them. We certainly don’t want to drive that person into the arms of our adversary.
We shouldn’t worry so much about dual loyalty, but rather we should glean the benefits from immigrants with much to offer. We get loyalty from new Americans quite rapidly simply by being who we are. Life is simply better here. Freedom and economic opportunity and political stability and the rule of law make the US a wonderful place to live. Yet, recent graduates of US higher educational programs who are Chinese find it harder than ever to stay and work because of restrictive visa policies. This is unbelievably short-sighted.
We have been smarter about this in the past. After World War II, we welcomed former Nazi scientists to work on our rocket and missile programs. Wehrner von Braun, who developed the V 2 that bombed London for Germany during World War II, moved to Huntsville, Alabama and worked for the US Army on ballistic missile development at the Redstone base. Then he headed NASA’s programs that developed the Apollo rockets that got us to the Moon. Many other German scientists and their families followed. These new Americans helped us prevail in the Cold War against the Soviet Union and accomplish one of our proudest civilian scientific achievements.
We should welcome Chinese scientists to settle here, work for our firms and start companies here. US immigration policy should reflect thoughtful, not paranoid, long term US economic and national security interests.
Even the Chinese press recognizes how US immigration policy actually helps China by forcing Chinese scientists to return to China. The attached article from a Chinese English language publication provides an example by reviewing the case of Chinese scholars who studied in the artificial intelligence field in the US.
Read the full article, PLA soldiers sent onto streets of Hong Kong for first time since protests began – to help clear roadblocks near Kowloon Tong garrison, dated Nov 16, 2019, SCMP Reporters.