Students sit on the steps of Wilson Library on the campus of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the US. Picture: REUTERS/JONATHAN DRAKE
Students sit on the steps of Wilson Library on the campus of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the US. Picture: REUTERS/JONATHAN DRAKE

Beijing — China warned students and academics on Monday about risks involved in studying in the US, pointing to limits on the duration of visas and visa refusals, amid a bitter trade war and other tension between the two countries.

Relations between China and the US have nosedived because of their trade conflict, US sanctions on Chinese tech firm Huawei and tension over the disputed South China Sea and US support for Chinese-claimed Taiwan.

State television, citing the ministry of education, said that recently some students seeking to study in the US had encountered problems with the duration of their visas being limited and an increase in visa refusals.

"This has affected Chinese students going to study in the US or smoothly completing their studies," state television said.

"The education ministry reminds students and academics of the need to strengthen risk assessment before studying abroad, enhance prevention awareness, and make corresponding preparations."

The ministry declined to offer an immediate response.

At stake is about $14bn of economic activity, most of it tuition and other fees generated annually from the 360,000 Chinese nationals who study in the US.

Hu Xijin, editor of the widely read Chinese newspaper the Global Times, linked the warning to recent discrimination against students faced and the trade dispute.

"This warning is a response to recent series of discriminatory measures the US took against Chinese students and can also be seen as a response to the US-initiated trade war," Hu wrote on his Twitter account in English.

In 2018, China's embassy in Washington issued a security advisory to Chinese nationals travelling to the US, warning tourists to be aware of issues including expensive medical bills, the threat of public shootings and robberies, and searches and seizures by customs agents.

A group of US President Donald Trump's fellow Republicans in Congress introduced legislation in May intended to prohibit anyone employed or sponsored by the Chinese military from receiving student or research visas to the US.

The bill would require the US government to create a list of scientific and engineering institutions affiliated with China's People's Liberation Army, and prohibit anyone employed or sponsored by those institutions from receiving the visas.

The bill comes as some US. officials have expressed concern about the possibility of the theft of intellectual property or even espionage by Chinese nationals at US universities and other institutions.

Many US and university officials also warn about over-reacting, however, arguing it is important to acknowledge the important role Chinese scholars and students play at US institutions while being aware of security risks. 

Reuters