As rumors of the Trump administration introducing limits on the number of Chinese students getting visas to study at U.S. universities increase, many have denounced such a possibility.
Some commentators have shouted that this is a racist position; others have said that this will wreak havoc on the U.S. education industry, some have taken both positions, and others still have taken alternate negative positions.
However, such a policy is not necessarily a bad thing.
As it stands right now, about 400,000 Chinese students travel to the United States every year to study at American universities. Certain universities have made it their business to attract a significant number of Chinese students to their campus to fund themselves. While many may shrug at such a position, the educational ability of the students must be questioned. Are all the students that are attending the universities truly good enough to attend these universities?
To give readers an idea, I briefly tutored a middle school student whose parents wanted him to improve his English scores. It turned out that his parents were incredibly wealthy, and the young man had private tutors for every class. Private classes took up his entire weekend, and he was entirely resentful of the situation. It turned out that his parents had no idea how to improve his grades, so they were, to use a common Western phrase, throwing money at the problem. It was truly a case of throwing good money after bad. The student is now at an international school in Australia where I have no idea about how well he is performing at school, but based on what little I hear, his academic performance has not improved.
On the other hand, I spent a lot of time tutoring a young lady who is now studying at a private high school in the U.S. She had always done well at her schools in Shenzhen, and thoroughly deserves her position in her school.
The point is that a reduction in the number of visa spots for Chinese students is not a bad thing for China. It would force universities in the United States to be more careful about the students it takes in, while other countries could offer Chinese students the opportunity to study in their countries. It would also increase the value of those foreign degrees, particularly in a Chinese market where not every returning graduate is providing substantial benefits to domestic employers compared to students who have stayed in China.
The issue for the United States should not be about the number of visa spots for Chinese students. It should be about American universities properly assessing students, from all countries, and their ability to handle a Western university educational experience. If the students are going to travel overseas and not spend any real time in their foreign culture, what was the point of them going? Readers can point to the foreigners that spend all their time in Shekou, and I would agree wholeheartedly with them — if you visit a foreign country for an extended period, you should get involved in it.
(The author is an Australian working as an English editor in Shenzhen.)