Will Trump Stop Issuing Student Visas to Chinese Citizens?

President Donald Trump was lobbied by immigration senior adviser Stephen Miller to stop issuing visas to Chinese students seeking to study in the United States, according to to a report by the Financial Times.

Miller was responsible for the Trump administration's hardline immigration policy, whose focus has been reducing immigration to the U.S. Miller was behind the administration's "zero tolerance" policy, which included prosecuting undocumented migrants picked up at the border, and resulted in the separation of children from their parents.

Citing three unnamed people familiar with the situation, the Financial Times reported that Miller pushed Trump and other senior officials to effectively keep Chinese citizens from studying at American colleges and universities as a way to crack down on Chinese spying and to punish elite academic institutions, which rely on tuition from foreign students, for speaking out against the president.

In the end, Trump agreed with Miller's opponents in the debate over how to tackle China under the president's 2017 national security strategy: Be tough but not draconian. But Trump could return to the issue and reconsider banning Chinese students, which experts said could do enormous damage to America's colleges and global reputation.

The White House and the Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Trump has taken on China over a number of issues, including trade, the theft of U.S. intellectual property, spying, its support for North Korea, and its ambitions in the South China Sea. Among the president's actions are the imposition of tariffs on a wide range of Chinese imports.

American universities and their importance to China were mentioned by Trump in the national security strategy, which was published at the end of December.

"For decades, U.S. policy was rooted in the belief that support for China's rise and for its integration into the post-war international order would liberalize China," Trump wrote.

"Contrary to our hopes, China expanded its power at the expense of the sovereignty of others. China gathers and exploits data on an unrivaled scale and spreads features of its authoritarian system, including corruption and the use of surveillance.

"It is building the most capable and well-funded military in the world, after our own. Its nuclear arsenal is growing and diversifying. Part of China's military modernization and economic expansion is due to its access to the U.S. innovation economy, including America's world-class universities."

The Open Doors study by the Institute of International Education found that there were 1,078,822 foreign students enrolled at American higher education institutions in the 2016-17 academic year, an annual increase of 3.4 percent.

China accounted for the largest portion of international students enrolled in the U.S., with 350,755 students, 32.5 percent of the total and an increase of 6.8 percent over the previous year.

Donald Trump Xi Jinping
President Donald Trump speaks to China's President Xi Jinping during a state dinner in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 9, 2017. Trump has reportedly considered banning Chinese students from studying in the United States. THOMAS PETER/AFP/Getty Images