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China-US relations

United States voids 10-year multiple-entry visas for some Chinese researchers

  • Specialist in China-US ties says status was revoked without explanation
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 November, 2018, 8:45pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 November, 2018, 11:34pm

The US embassy in Beijing has revoked 10-year multiple-entry visas issued to some researchers specialising in China-US relations, a further tightening of entry controls as ties between to the two countries worsen.

In November 2014, China and the United States agreed to give all passport holders seeking to visit for business or tourism reciprocal multi-entry status for up to 10 years so they did not need to keep applying for visas.

One Chinese researcher whose 10-year visa had been revoked recently said: “The embassy did not give me any explanation. And I have to attend an interview with the embassy’s consul general to get my US visa in the future.”

The researcher said that so far the cancellations appeared to be limited to a small number of specialists at American studies institutes.

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But there have been complaints in China that the review process for US visa applications has become longer, forcing some researchers to cancel their US trips.

The US embassy in Beijing was closed on Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Under the administration of President Donald Trump, the US has also stepped up screening of Chinese people with access to American hi-tech sectors.

Trump has labelled China a strategic competitor, accused the country of intellectual property theft and criticised Beijing for its “Made in China 2025” programme, which aims to move the country up the hi-tech industrial value chain.

As a result, the US launched a restrictive visa policy in June, cutting visas for Chinese graduate students in robotics, aviation and advanced manufacturing from a maximum of five years to 12 months.

But the visa scrutiny appears to affect a broader number of areas. In July, Rao Yi, a prominent Chinese neuroscientist who used to have US citizenship, accused the US embassy in Beijing of being arrogant in repeatedly denying his visa to the US.

Another expert on international relations whose 10-year US visa is still valid said national security concerns were driving the extra scrutiny.

“Visa control is just one of the measures,” he said.

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Chinese analysts said better communication – particularly with influential conservative think tanks in the US – was needed to resolve the issue.

“It is unprecedentedly difficult for China to communicate with government officials, think tanks and enterprises in the US,” Chen Wenling, chief economist with the China Centre for International Economic Exchanges think tank, said at a forum on the weekend.

Chen said the biggest hurdle was the political and social consensus in the US to take a hard line against China.

Former vice finance minister Zhu Guangyao said better communication was needed at all levels to avoid missteps.

Washington and Beijing have been locked in the trade war since July, imposing tariffs up to 25 per cent on each other’s products.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Trump are expected to meet on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on December 1, raising prospects for a ceasefire in the tariffs.

But deeply rooted conflicts over China’s state capitalism and the US technology blockade are likely to continue.