Is China Seeking to Decrease the Number of Its Students Coming to the U.S.?

By David North on June 6, 2019

There are more foreign students from China in the United States than from anywhere else on earth — 360,000 in the 2017-2018 academic year — but is China seeking to reduce that number? The Washington Post asked that question on June 4.

Or is China, annoyed with the ongoing trade war with the White House, simply seeking to out-bluster the president by threatening to reduce the amount of money spent by well-to-do Chinese parents at American universities?

The Post account approaches the matter with the usual set of self-imposed blinders. It deals with the broader demographic and labor-market considerations of the matter, but primarily focuses on the internal economics of the U.S. colleges and universities, writing: "U.S. schools benefit from the tuition they pay, educators say, and the global perspective they add to the campuses."

China, according to the story, issued a warning to Chinese youngsters (and their parents) urging them to "strengthen" their risk assessments before deciding on an American university.

Yes, most Chinese students, below the PhD level, pay their own way for four years as undergraduates. But what the Post misses is that if these are students in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields, as most of them are, and if they choose to work in the States, they can get three years of post-graduation, government-subsidized jobs through the Optional Practical Training program.

That subsidy — excusing both the employer and the foreign alumnus from the normal payroll taxes — is essentially funded by our sick and elderly, as the money is not paid into the nation's Social Security and Medicare trust funds. OPT costs our elderly some $2 billion a year, and gives employers of foreign alumni a substantial tax break for the act of hiring an alien rather than an American college grad. The mainstream media never write about this subsidy.