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America: “Admit more Chinese students for the humanities and Indians for sciences!”

America: “Admit more Chinese students for the humanities and Indians for sciences!”

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Virendra Pandit

New Delhi: A top American diplomat said the US should welcome more students from China to study the humanities, and Indian students for sciences, noting that American universities are limiting Chinese students’ access to sensitive technology given security concerns.

Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said on Monday not enough Americans were studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The US needed to recruit more international students for those fields, but from India – an increasingly important US security partner – not China.

For years, Chinese students have made up the largest foreign student body in the US—nearly 290,000 in the 2022-23 academic year. However, some in academia and civil society argue that deteriorating US-China relations and concerns about the theft of US expertise have derailed scientific cooperation and subjected Chinese students to unwarranted suspicion. Indian students comprise nearly 20 percent of foreign students in the US.

“I would like to see more Chinese students coming to the United States to study humanities and social sciences, not particle physics,” Campbell told the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a top think-tank.

He was asked about the China Initiative introduced by the Trump administration, intended to combat Chinese espionage and intellectual property theft, which ended under the Biden administration after critics said it spurred racial profiling of Asian Americans.

Campbell said the US universities had made “careful attempts” to support continuing higher education for Chinese students but had also been “careful about the labs, some of the activities of Chinese students.”

“I do think it is possible to curtail and to limit certain kinds of access, and we have seen that generally, particularly in technological programs across the United States,” he said.

Campbell said some had suggested that China was the only source to make up the shortage of science students.

“I believe that the largest increase that we need to see going forward would be much larger numbers of Indian students that come to study in American universities on a range of technology and other fields.”

The diplomat said the US had to be careful to not eliminate links between China and the US, but officials in Beijing were largely to blame for any withering in academic, business, or non-profit sector ties.

“China has made it difficult for the kinds of activities that we would like to see sustaining,” Campbell said, adding that foreign executives and philanthropists were wary about long-term stays in China because of concerns about personal security.


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