For the first time in recent months, a senior Trump administration official has come out in open to clear the air over the government’s treatment of Chinese students and scholars.
While speaking at the EducationUSA Forum in Washington, Marie Royce, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, emphasized the importance of providing a welcoming environment to Chinese students by integrating them on campuses and blamed Chinese social and state-controlled media for spreading misinformation on studying in the U.S.
Royce alleged state media of exaggerating the “dangers of living and studying” in the U.S. to Chinese students through Communist Party-curated content.
She further said that Chinese students studying in the U.S. live in a “propaganda bubble,” which is driven through the use of WeChat, the Chinese social media app on a similar pattern of WhatsApp as their primary means of connecting online.
“Even after arriving here, the constant stream of Chinese propaganda might continue to shape their perceptions of our country – even though they are living in California, Kansas, Nebraska, New York, Texas, or elsewhere — unless they are able to fully experience the reality of the United States firsthand,” she told the crowd.
Royce blamed “constant negative and false narrative” as the primary reason why Chinese students perceive the United States in a bad light and become reluctant to have interactions with their American peers.
Recently, more than twelve colleges and universities issued statements against the so-called witch-hunt of Chinese students and researchers who have been at the center of aggressive investigations by federal agencies.
University of Pittsburg Chancellor Patrick Gallagher lamented the “unprecedented” scrutiny of collaborations between scientists from other countries specifically pointing out China.
Royce also pointed out Chinese Students & Scholars Associations that interacts with Chinese diplomatic missions in the U.S. puts an undue influence and pressure on Chinese students on campuses.
“They are stifling speech and limiting opportunities for personal expression. Concerns have also been expressed about the role of Confucius Institutes,” she said.
Earlier this year, Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations brought out a report that found the Chinese government spending millions of dollars on the Confucius institutes over the last decade to limit criticism of its political policies in America. It also found that Chinese institutes were threatening academic freedom by having access to the American educational system.
Lately, the universities that are receiving funding from China are also under the federal scanner. Currently, the U.S. Department of Education is investigation four universities, including Cornell University and Rutgers University. They have been accused of receiving foreign funds, particularly from China and Qatar, and not disclosing them to the Education Department.