A man jogs near the White House during the outbreak of COVID-19 in Washington D.C., the United States, April 1, 2020. The United States became the first nation with more than 200,000 COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, according to a new tally from Johns Hopkins University. (Xinhua/Liu Jie)

By Zhong Sheng

Washington recently betrayed its public promises, imposing unreasonable visa restriction on Chinese students and researchers.

To force the implementation of the policy that has been widely criticized by Americans, the White House groundlessly accused Chinese students and researchers, relating them with technology theft, spying, and security risks.

Such a practice is purely political persecution and racial discrimination, and seriously violates the legitimate rights and interests of the Chinese students and researchers in the U.S., placing extremely negative impacts on the normal people-to-people and cultural exchanges between China and the U.S.

The White House’s lies to stigmatize Chinese students and researchers are absurd. Officials acknowledged there was no direct evidence that pointed to wrongdoing by the students who are about to lose their visas, wrote the New York Times in a report. American universities, the most straightforward critics of U.S. practices, also expressed their dissatisfaction.  “I don’t even understand the term ‘academic espionage,’” said Mark C. Elliott, Harvard’s Vice Provost for International Affairs. He said for academics the goal is to publish what they have learned, and it’s to share. Lee C. Bollinger, president of Columbia University remarked that “Academic research is intended to be shared — released into the public domain to advance human progress.” He opposes the U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies to develop more robust protocols for monitoring foreign-born students and visiting scholars — particularly if they are ethnically Chinese.

People-to-people and cultural exchanges between China and the U.S., including their educational cooperation in the past four decades, have received wide support from the two sides, serving as an important pillar for their bilateral relations.

In late 1970s, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter once told China to send 100,000 students to his country. Since then bilateral educational cooperation set sail and constantly injected vitality and energy into the general relationship between the two countries.

At present, there are over 400,000 Chinese students studying in the U.S., and China has been the largest source of international students in the U.S. for years. The fundamental reason for such achievements is that Chinese-U.S. educational cooperation conforms to the common demand of the two countries, as well as the trend of the time of openness and cooperation.

However, to welcome the Chinese students is only a lip service paid by Washington as it constantly makes troubles for China-U.S. educational exchanges. It limited the length of visas to one year for Chinese graduate students working in fields deemed “sensitive”, and frequently set obstacles for Chinese students and researchers in visa application. This time, China-U.S. educational cooperation was once again deteriorated by the visa restriction imposed by the White House.

As the U.S. becomes more sensitive, its “national security” is gradually incorporating everything. It seems like the country is trying to isolate itself with the world. Does the U.S., the world’s only superpower, think it’s fragile?

Some American politicians are obsessed with Cold War mentality and zero-sum game, paving road for their anti-China policies with frequent lies. What they did has triggered broad concerns in the U.S. society. Some insightful people noted that confrontation and mutual consumption would only damage the U.S. interests. U.S. universities also made voice immediately after the visa restriction policy was unveiled, stressing the move would result in multiple impacts on science and technology development, campus culture and universities’ economic performance.

By stigmatizing Chinese students and researchers, the U.S. politicians are indeed fanning up the so-called external threat so that they can act tougher in diplomacy and seek political gains. Recently, legal and civil rights organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice denounced the U.S. ban on Chinese students from studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics in America, saying this move is rooted in the same racism and xenophobia that led to the expulsion of countless Chinese Americans and immigrants under the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

Learning alone without exchanges with others will lead to ignorance. The “decoupling” advocated by certain U.S. politicians, as well as the new “Cold War” they plan to launch against China, completely go against the trend of time.

The “handshake across the Pacific” by former U.S. President Richard Nixon started a journey that benefited not only Chinese and Americans, but also the people from the world. The close relationship between the two countries nowadays conforms to the common aspiration and interests of the two peoples.

Washington should immediately correct its wrongdoing, abandon Cold War mentality and ideological prejudices, and stop its groundless restriction and unreasonable persecution on Chinese students and researchers.

No one is able to reverse the trend of history. Facilitating friendly exchange between the two peoples is in line with the will of the people and the trend of time.

(Zhong Sheng is a pen name often used by People’s Daily to express its views on foreign policy.)

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