US mulls restricting Chinese researchers over espionage fears

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Wahsington, May 1 (IANS) US President Donald Trump’s administration is considering strict measures to block Chinese citizens from performing sensitive research at American universities and research institutes over fears they may be acquiring intellectual secrets, the media reported.

The White House is discussing whether to limit the access of Chinese citizens to the US, including restricting certain types of visas available to them and greatly expanding rules pertaining to Chinese researchers who work on projects with military or intelligence value at American companies and universities, informed officials told The New York Times on Monday.

The exact type of projects that would be subject to restrictions remain unclear, but the measures could clamp down on collaboration in advanced materials, software and other technologies at the heart of Beijing’s plan to dominate cutting-edge technologies like advanced microchips, artificial intelligence and electric cars, known as “Made in China 2025”.

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The potential curbs are part of a broad set of measures the administration says are necessary to combat a growing national security threat from China, which it has accused of pressuring or coercing American companies into handing over valuable trade secrets.

But blocking Chinese citizens’ access to American laboratories over fears of spying would be a significant escalation in an emerging Cold War with the Chinese over which nation will claim technological dominance, according to the officials.

The details are still under discussion and it is not known how many people could be affected, but restrictions would probably fall most heavily on graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and employees of technology companies in the US on temporary visas.

More than one million foreign students study in the US each year, with roughly one-third coming from China.

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This week, a delegation of administration officials, including Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, will head to China for discussions to help avoid a trade war, The New York Times reported.

Trump has threatened tariffs on roughly $150 billion of Chinese goods in retaliation for unfair trade practices.

The administration is expected to detail new plans for restrictions on Chinese investment in the US by the end of May.

Congress is also considering giving the US broader authority to restrict Chinese investments.

–IANS

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