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Trump reportedly considered banning Chinese student visas to keep out spies

Matt Linden

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President Donald Trump’s administration debated the idea of banning visas for Chinese nationals to come and study at US universities for fear of spying, the Financial Times has reported.

Former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, now US ambassador to China, shot the initiative, according to the FT. The report said the idea was championed by Trump administration immigration hardliner Stephen Miller.

Under Trump the US has confronted China like never before, and the FT’s report comes at a time of record high military tensions between the great powers.

Trump’s recent National Security Strategy explicitly called for the kind of review reportedly put forth by Miller.

The strategy said it would “review visa procedures to reduce economic theft by non-traditional intelligence collectors” while reevaluating how the US provides access to foreign students in science fields, which have national security implications.

Chinese students as spies?

The US and China have increasingly began butting heads in less of a rhetorical sense, and more in their military relations.

Beijing protests every time a US or international warship transits the South China Sea, a key waterway in the Pacific that China has laid unilateral claim to, in violation of international law.

On Sunday a Chinese destroyer nearly rammed a US destroyer that was sailing within 12 miles of a sea feature claimed by China.

The encounter “constituted a risk of collision, in violation of the International Rules of the Road [Collision Regulations], which govern the safe navigation of vessels” and “violated the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), a multilateral agreement including both the PRC and the US,” Lawrence Brennan, a maritime lawyer and former US Navy captain told Business Insider.

The incident also followed the US sanctioning China for buying Russian arms, as well China denying a US ship the right to make a port call in Hong Kong. China recent cancelled military-to-military talks with US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, despite previously hailing those talks as important.

In May, the US banned all Chinese-made smartphones from the Pentagon, saying devices from Huawei and ZTE “may pose an unacceptable risk to department’s personnel, information and mission.”

Michal Kranz contributed to this report.

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