China marks 40 years of U.S. student exchanges amid visa uncertainties
Updated 11:53, 22-Nov-2019
North America;The United States of America
VCG Photo

VCG Photo

The Chinese Embassy in the U.S. is commemorating the 40th anniversary of China-U.S. overseas student exchanges in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.

The celebrations come amid fears of tighter U.S. visa policies on Chinese students under the Trump administration.

Chinese officials said at one celebration event that Beijing is hoping to boost people-to-people exchanges with the U.S.

"The academic and scientific exchange between our countries is an important way to create a better understanding of one another," wrote former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in a congratulatory letter for the event.

In 1978, Carter's adviser Frank Press led a delegation to China and started negotiations on normalizing China-U.S. relations. Sending Chinese students to the U.S. for academic exchanges became one of the important issues.

The first batch of 52 overseas Chinese from the People's Republic of China arrived in the United States in December 1978. These people witnessed the establishment of the diplomatic relations between China and the U.S.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter sent a congratulatory letter for China's celebration of the 40th anniversary of China-U.S. student exchanges.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter sent a congratulatory letter for China's celebration of the 40th anniversary of China-U.S. student exchanges.

Since July 2018, the U.S. State Department has restricted visas to Chinese graduate students studying sensitive research fields to one year, with the chance to reapply every year.

The move rolls back an Obama-era policy that allowed Chinese citizens to secure five-year student visas.

But Trump's remarks at the G20 summit in June 2019 signaled greater openness.

"We want more Chinese students," Trump said during the summit.

"We want to have Chinese students [go] to our great schools and great universities. They are great students and tremendous assets," Trump said on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan.

Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankai also delivered a speech at the event later on Thursday.

"Over the past four decades, the number of Chinese students in the U.S. has seen an exponential growth, and there are now 370,000 Chinese students studying in American universities, which means that out of every three international students here, one comes from China. And the desire to pursue studies in each other's country is mutual. In the past 40 years, the number of American students studying in China has reached a total of 330,000," Cui said.

In today's political context, the China-U.S. relationship risks being jeopardized by some extreme rhetoric replete with biases and hostility, Cui said. "However, I always believe friendship and cooperation are and will always be the mainstream, as they are in the fundamental interests of the people."

"It is all the more important to step up exchanges and engagement, and build up mutual understanding and trust. And this is the essence of student exchanges," Cui stressed.

At the end of his speech, Cui announced a new "Study in China" initiative, which is to encourage and support more student exchanges in the future. The program would fund 2,500 American students for short-term, credit-bearing learning in China every year, Cui introduced.