American Students’ Love Affair With China Cools

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American Students’ Love Affair With China Cools

Mike Thompson was all set to go to Beijing last year with Fulbright funding to research how the Chinese government recruits and trains its officials.

When the U.S. suspended in July all Fulbright programs in China, part of sanctions over Beijing’s crackdown on Hong Kong, his Fulbright program offered him and some other China-focused scholars opportunities to move their field work to Taiwan. Mr. Thompson, a 30-year-old University of Michigan doctoral student whose first trip to China was in 2009, was able to switch his topic to Taiwan’s bureaucracy but was disappointed with the Trump administration’s decision.

“It’s a personal setback for me and a big setback for the U.S.-China relationship,” he said.

The number of U.S. students in China has dropped by more than one-fifth since a 2011-2012 peak, according to data released in November by the Institute of International Education. The number of American students in Taiwan has climbed by nearly 55% during the same period.

The shift comes in the midst of a deterioration in the Washington-Beijing relationship and, according to educators, predates the Covid-19 pandemic. Interest in studying Chinese on U.S. campuses has cooled, they said.

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