EYESHENZHEN  /   Opinion

Targeting Chinese scholars groundless and unwise

Writer: Winton Dong  | Editor: Jane Chen  | From:  | Updated: 2019-04-29

According to a recent report made by the New York Times, the U.S. intelligence department has initiated an operation aimed at excluding Chinese scholars in social science fields from visiting the U.S. if they are “suspected of having links with the Chinese Government.”

Some famous Chinese scholars said that the U.S. side canceled their visas or put them under administrative review by the FBI. These Chinese academics only received emails from the U.S. embassy or consulates, informing them their visas were revoked, without elaborating the reason. When they went to the embassy or consulates to apply for new visas, U.S. officials kept asking and even rigorously interrogating them, demanding extensive materials like travel records for the past 15 years, family members’ information, social media accounts, bank accounts and other personal information.

Some Chinese academics even complained that their personal computers were searched and hard disc contents copied while staying in the United States before. Because of the arrogance and rudeness of U.S. officials, many Chinese scholars said that they prefer not to visit the United States in the coming years.

This is not the first time that the U.S. has targeted Chinese through such actions. At the end of 2018, the U.S. State Department shortened the length of visas issued to Chinese students, especially those involved in high-tech academic STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

If Chinese scholars had ever done any intelligence work in the United States, it is understandable for the U.S. Government to take counter actions. However, not a single case has been reported till now. So on what grounds does the U.S. target such a large group of Chinese intellectuals without any convincing proof?

It is a pity that the U.S. treats Chinese intellectuals in such an unfriendly and offensive way. U.S. exclusion of Chinese scholars is not only groundless, but also unwise. It also shows that the superpower has now become oversensitive and has a lack of confidence in handling its diplomatic relations with other countries, especially emerging nations like China. Facts have proven that some U.S. politicians are not confident any more with their political system and their own values. That may also be the reason why the “Chinese threat theory,” “Chinese sharp power” and other hyped-up terms are so prevalent in the United States in recent years.

In my point of view, Washington’s measure to treat China as a rival could severely hurt normal bilateral ties and cultural exchange between the two biggest economies in the world, which is an important channel to enhance mutual understanding and mutual trust. For some Westerners, the Cold War mentality has not yet departed, and they view everything from China through the lens of zero-sum geopolitics. Actually, those who do not harbor bias or practice double standards will see China not as a threat, but a country with plenty of chances for cooperation and opportunities.

Frankly speaking, groundless cancellation of visas for Chinese scholars and Chinese absence from U.S. academic activities are the loss of the United States, not China. Many Chinese scholars originally thought of the U.S. as an example of the values of “freedom, democracy, fairness and human rights.” But these appreciative words are no longer applicable and suitable to the U.S. today. By groundlessly barring Chinese intellectuals who have great familiarity with both U.S. politics and Chinese policy-making process, the United States will ultimately pay the price for its unwise action.

Moreover, everybody knows that openness, inclusiveness and immigrant culture helped make the United States a great country in past centuries. In a highly interconnected world today, can the U.S. isolate itself from others and live with its head in the sand? If the U.S. insists on barring Chinese scholars from entering its territory, the country’s open and inclusive national image will be damaged. From a longer perspective, it will also bring about great economic loss to the country because of its inaccurate, incomplete and even one-dimensional understanding of China.

(The author is the editor-in-chief of the Shenzhen Daily with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.)