The US is killing its own tech dominance with xenophobic bills
A new bill introduced in Texas by State Representative Tony Tinderholt would, if enacted, bar undocumented students, as well as any students from China, Iran, Russia and North Korea, from studying in Texas universities. While it reportedly has little chance of making it through to the Governor’s desk, it still reflects a racist and counter-productive attitude by some US officials.
Texas State Senate Republicans also introduced a bill that would bar citizens of these same four countries from owning property in Texas under the guise of security and curbing foreign influence over the state’s economy. However, activists and Democratic Party lawmakers have protested this bill over what they claim is its xenophobia and potential to deter law-abiding residents from investing in the state.
Asian Americans responded in droves to testify against the legislation in a Senate committee last week, saying it would contribute to the country’s surging anti-Asian hate crimes while fueling prejudice and punishing ordinary residents who have legal employment visas. Others claimed that it would make it impossible for legal residents to buy homes for their families, after working for years to achieve these dreams.
The federal government is, of course, indirectly complicit in this xenophobia following the shameful “China Initiative” undertaken by the Department of Justice under former President Donald Trump. That misguided initiative looked into Chinese students and professors for alleged economic espionage but evolved into a neo-McCarthyite witch hunt that uncovered little evidence of any wrongdoing.
This behavior by state and federal officials has created a hostile environment for Chinese and other foreign students, who are now beginning to question the value in even studying in the United States. It has severely damaged the credibility and quality of US higher education as well. For example, in October 2022, the World University Rankings published by Times Higher Education said that the share of the top 100 universities in the world is on-pace to see China edge out the US.
Since 2018, the number of US universities in the top 100 fell from 43 to 34. Meanwhile, China rose from two to seven. “The data is very clear: America can no longer take for granted its decades-long dominance of world higher education and research, and it is China that is leading the challenge,” said Phil Baty, the rankings editor. “If current trends remained the same, we would see China overtaking the US in the coming years.”
Meanwhile, the US is seeing China surpass it in key innovation metrics. According to data from the National Science Foundation, China held 49% of the global share of patents in 2020, up from 16% a decade earlier, while the US declined from 15% to 10% in that same period. Likewise, a study by the journal Scientometric found that China eclipsed the US in “high impact” scientific papers.
The US has a twofold problem: domestic college enrollment is falling while foreign talent is being shooed away by politics, shrinking the talent pool on both ends. In 2021, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reported that enrollment at US colleges and universities was on pace to drop by an estimated 500,000 undergraduates that autumn. Lower college attendance is compounding an already dire situation for the country’s future workforce that began with the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the data. All told, undergraduate enrollment has been declining since about 2012.
As for foreign students, it has been a mixture of the US failure to scientifically manage its Covid-19 outbreak and ongoing political misgivings that are leading Chinese and other foreign students to study elsewhere. This is not insignificant for US innovation because it is no exaggeration to say Silicon Valley was built on the back of foreign talent. According to a 2013 report by the Immigration Policy Center, from the years 1995 to 2005, over 52% of startup companies in Silicon Valley had at least one immigrant founder.
By continuing to introduce xenophobic and downright racist legislation and policies, state and federal officials are scaring away foreign talent – and, in effect, curbing future US innovation and America’s status as an innovation center. US tech dominance is seriously threatened by these discriminatory attitudes that are translated into policy. If trends hold, and foreigners invest their talents into other markets, the US will no longer be a world-leading tech hub. Government officials will then have no one to blame but themselves.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.