Chinese nationals have previously made up as much as 35% of the international students studying in the US. For a while, the US was the top place that Chinese students wanted to go if they were looking to study abroad.
Now, though, those numbers are going down. So far, the number of student visas given to Chinese students in the US has dropped by about 50% in 2022 from pre-pandemic levels. Chinese students are looking elsewhere to go to university, with the UK, Singapore and Hong Kong being more coveted places to study, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Students have a variety of reasons they say they aren’t as interested in the US as before. Some cite anti-Asian rhetoric and violence in the US as a reason for their disinterest – in 2021, 16% of Asian American adults were the victims of a hate crime in the US, according to data from AAPI Data and Momentive. Other students have cited gun violence or the deteriorating relationship between the US and China. And still, others have said they just don’t feel wanted, pointing towards a 2020 order from Trump banning the US entry of graduate students from China who had any connection to the military.
Whatever the reason, the drop in Chinese international students in the US represents a massive economic hit. In the 2019-2020 academic year, Chinese students provided nearly US$16 billion worth of economic activity in the US, according to data collected by the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors.
The Biden administration has been trying to make the visa process more welcoming for these students, but it hasn’t reversed that Trump order just yet. So, for now, these Chinese students are just looking to other places in the world to study, and there’s no sign that the US might take back the mantle for the first pick.