When China and the US wage a visa war against each other’s scholars, nobody wins

David Shambaugh:

In both countries’ cases, the internal security services – the Ministry of Public Security and FBI – have now come to play a determining role, instead of the Foreign Ministry and Department of State, in deciding who should be granted visas.

By denying or withholding visas from some of America’s leading China experts, the Chinese side has alienated precisely those who spend their lives working on informing the American public and policymakers, and who have impact on each.

China has thus turned potential allies into adversaries. Now, the US government is doing the same thing to China’s leading America hands. This only has negative consequences on each side.

Are Chinese students in the US really a national security threat?
For American and foreign scholars, the threat of visa revocation and not being able to visit China has made many carefully watch what they say and publish in the public domain – self-censorship – lest they be blacklisted.

For Chinese scholars now not being given visas to the US, the issue is not what they say or publish; rather, the US government (FBI) claims that they have links to China’s intelligence services and are “non-traditional collectors”, or they are increasingly viewed as “agents of influence” promoting the Communist Party and People’s Republic of China abroad.