The Trump administration has announced a new set of restrictions for Chinese diplomats in the U.S. According to the revised rules, Chinese diplomats will have to get U.S. government permission before they engage in any activities like meeting local officials, visiting university campuses, and so on. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted that the restrictions have been implemented in the name of reciprocity. Should Beijing remove restrictions placed on U.S. diplomats in China, Washington will also do the same.
“Cultural events with groups larger than 50 people hosted by the Chinese embassy and consular posts outside our mission properties will also require our approval… Additionally, we’re taking further steps to ensure that all official PRC embassy and consular social media accounts are properly identified as government accounts, Chinese government accounts… We’re simply demanding reciprocity. Access for our diplomats in China should be reflective of the access that Chinese diplomats in the United States have, and today’s steps will move us substantially in that direction,” Pompeo said, as reported by CNN.
Beijing is known to use its embassies for espionage activities. In July, the U.S. government ordered the shutdown of a consulate in Houston after it came to light that it was a part of a wider spying network spanning 25 cities. Xia Ming, a professor of political science at New York’s City University, reveals that he was approached by representatives from the Chinese embassy to establish a Confucius Institute at his university. When a major political issue breaks out, Beijing will use the institutes to pressure university leaders to support the position adopted by the Chinese regime.
Ming warns that there are many lecturers in universities who act as a Trojan horse for Chinese interests. Such people are driven by a desire to protect their own interests, which are tied to how well they bat for Beijing. This includes securing funds from China, avoiding a potential boycott from pro-CCP Chinese students, getting a visa for a Chinese research visit, and so on. With new visa restrictions preventing diplomats from contacting universities unless they get approval from the government, such recruitment efforts through official channels can be curbed to some extent.
In August, the Trump administration classified Confucius Institutes as foreign missions to get better transparency over their activities on American campuses. Pompeo accused the institutes of advancing malign communist propaganda in universities. Earlier this year, several Chinese media outlets were also categorized as foreign diplomatic missions since they were being funded by the Chinese Communist Party.
Chinese student visas
In a recent interview given to a radio station, Pompeo revealed that President Trump is considering whether to restrict Chinese students from studying in the United States. Pompeo admitted that it would be unfair to assume that every single Chinese student coming to the U.S. will be acting at the behest of the Chinese Communist Party. However, given the number of espionage cases involving Chinese students, the President is apparently weighing the practicality of such a move.
In the last week of August, it was reported that a Chinese national from the University of Virginia was arrested for trying to steal trade secrets and intruding into university computers. Students from China are also facing increasing scrutiny at U.S. airports. John Demers, U.S. Assistant Attorney General, revealed that the airport screening process is based on the student’s educational history in China. Scholars specialized in advanced sciences and with ties to the Chinese military are likely to be targeted for screening.