US politician uses McCarthyism, anti-China remarks to seek publicity
Published: Jan 09, 2022 09:24 PM
President of the University of Chicago Paul Alivisatos speaks during a memorial service for Zheng Shaoxiong in Chicago, the United States, Nov 18, 2021.Photo:Xinhua

President of the University of Chicago Paul Alivisatos speaks during a memorial service for Zheng Shaoxiong in Chicago, the United States, Nov 18, 2021. Zheng was shot death near campus during a robbery. Photo:Xinhua

Some US anti-China politicians are now targeting Chinese students studying in the US.

Shelley Luther, a Republican candidate running for House District 62, recently tweeted that "Chinese students should be banned from attending all Texas universities. No more Communists!" 

In response to some criticism to her Twitter post, she added, "I'm saying people from China right now, communist China, should not be getting free scholarships and money to attend Texas schools."

Such rhetoric mirrors that some anti-China forces in the US believe the advanced technology and ideas learned by Chinese students in the US will be brought back to China, which will ultimately benefit China and undermine the competitiveness of the US. 

This remark is not fresh, actually. Some US political elites have previously expressed similar ideas. For example, in 2018, then top White House aide Stephen Miller proposed a ban on Chinese college students from studying at US universities. 

But Luther's rhetoric is clearly more ideological. Previous criticism by US politicians in this regard was specific, with accusations of China stealing US intellectual property and trade secrets, while Luther's attack is meant to create an ideological enemy. Binding education and talents with ideology, such narrative is dirtier than previous ones. It is a 2.0 version of smear and slander toward China-US people-to-people exchanges.

US government and politicians have repeatedly hyped competition with China. The Biden administration is even sensationalizing the so-called democracy vs autocracy. Some politicians fuel the fire by taking advantages of the federal government's lines. But this does not represent the mainstream views in the US, especially those in the education sector. 

In March, Robert A. Brown, president of Boston University, and Andrew Hamilton, president of New York University, wrote a joint letter to Biden, saying the US must welcome international students again. Now their thoughts should remain unchanged, as they still hope to see more international students come to the US for further study.

Normal people-to-people and academic exchanges between China and the US have brought many benefits to the latter. The US is strong for many reasons, one of which is an open education system that attracts many international students from various countries such as China. Some of them stay in the US and contribute to the US development in technology and other areas. 

As for education funding, not all the Chinese students get scholarships from their universities, and many study in the US at their own expenses. Luther's rhetoric was made to confuse the public and further sow seeds of hatred for Chinese students and Chinese Americans among voters in Texas. Her comments reflect a kind of McCarthyism mind-set. She has expressed a kind of anti-China sentiment, rather than try to figure out how to compete with China. 

In the context of the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic, people-to-people exchanges have been heavily impacted. If the US deliberately creates more barriers for students and scholars entering the country, it will be detrimental to the introduction of much-needed talents as well as the development of US in science and technology, medical care, and other areas. 

China-related issues have been bound with the midterm elections despite a US domestic event. With the midterm elections approaching, making such a noise may be out of the consideration to draw more attention and publicity. 

Anti-Asian hate crimes in the US are on the rise. According to newly corrected FBI data, such crimes increased more than 73 percent in 2020 compared with 2019, a disproportionate uptick compared to hate crimes in general. This has a lot to do with politicians like Luther spreading hatred against Chinese students and Chinese Americans, which deepens racism in the US. 

Luther has a great influence on her constituents and even acts as an opinion leader among her supporters though still being a candidate. Those constituents may not have any prejudice or knowledge about China, but may be infused with a narrow and biased understanding of China. Not only does it deepen the public's hatred toward Chinese Americans, favorability toward China is also on the decline. 

The rise of racism in the US will inevitably deepen the divisions within the country.

The author is an adjunct fellow at the Center for International Security and Strategy of Tsinghua University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn