Earlier today, the White House issued a new Executive Order targeting graduate students and researchers from China who have affiliation with certain Chinese entities that have ties to the Chinese military. The Order will suspend the entry of Chinese nationals coming to study or research in the United States, “who either [receive] funding from or who currently is employed by, studies at, or conducts research at or on behalf of, or has been employed by, studied at, or conducted research at or on behalf of, an entity in the PRC that implements or supports the PRC’s so-called “military-civil fusion strategy” (“MCF strategy”). The Order also allows the Department of State to revoke visas of such persons within its discretion.
The stated purpose of the Executive Order is to curtail what the Administration sees as China’s coordinated efforts to acquire sensitive U.S. technologies and intellectual properties, in part to bolster the modernization and capability of its military. The Administration claims that some Chinese students, particularly post-graduate and post-doctorate researchers are being used by the Chinese government to collect intellectual property with military application to support these efforts. The order is aimed specifically at graduate-level Chinese students and researchers in F-1 student status and J-1 exchange visitor status with affiliation to certain entities in China that are deemed to implement and support China’s so-called MCF strategy. According to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, the MCF strategy “aims to spur innovation and economic growth through an array of policies and other government-supported mechanisms, including venture capital (VC) funds, while leveraging the fruits of civilian innovation for China’s defense sector.” The entities covered by this order include research departments at some of China’s well-known universities. However, according to the New York Times, which cites government sources, the cancellation would only affect about 3,000 of the 360,000 Chinese students in the United States.
The Order also appears to apply only to the “entry” of covered Chinese nationals, and not to Chinese nationals who are already studying or researching in the United States. However, it may prevent such persons from reentering the country if they leave, even for a short time period. The Order also does not apply to undergraduate Chinese students, and makes further exceptions for spouses of U.S. citizens or permanent residents, members of the U.S. military, and certain other persons, as laid out in the order.
It is unclear at this point how the Executive Order will be implemented, and how it may impact Chinese students and researchers already in the country. As noted above, it is expected to apply to only a small number of Chinese students and researchers with certain affiliations to specific entities within China. We will provide more information as it becomes available, and will also be reaching out to clients who have students who may be affected by this order in the coming days.