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Proposed Legislation Would Bar Chinese STEM Graduate Students

May 28, 2020

Two Republican senators and a Republican congressman introduced legislation on Wednesday that would bar Chinese nationals from receiving student or research visas to the United States for graduate or postgraduate studies in science, technology, engineering or mathematics fields.

Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Representative David Kustoff, also of Tennessee, announced their proposals, which they framed as intended to combat espionage and intellectual property theft on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party.

"We've fed China's innovation drought with American ingenuity and taxpayer dollars for too long; it's time to secure the U.S. research enterprise against the CCP's economic espionage," Blackburn said in a press release.

The introduction of the bill represents an escalation in efforts by Republican lawmakers to restrict Chinese students, who accounted for about 13.5 percent of the 42,227 students earning doctorates in science and engineering fields at U.S. universities in 2018. Cotton suggested on Fox News last month that lawmakers need to take “a very hard look” at visas for Chinese students, especially those studying advanced science at the graduate level.

“If Chinese students want to come here and study Shakespeare and the Federalist Papers, that’s what they need to learn from America,” Cotton said -- comments that provoked mockery on social media from users who pointed out that the Bard was English.

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Elizabeth Redden

Elizabeth Redden, Senior Reporter, covers general higher education topics, religion and higher education, and international higher education for Inside Higher Ed. She has more than a decade of experience as an education journalist. She holds an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing from Columbia University.

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