For at least a decade after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russians were the bad guys in nearly every Hollywood movie. Fear of the Soviet Union ran deep both on and off the screen. From the Red Scare of the 1950s spearheaded by Senator Joseph McCarthy to the "Evil Empire" moniker coined by Reagan in the 80s, Russia was public enemy No. 1.
Then, as the post-Soviet Yeltsin era collapsed, Russians became dismissed as gangsters personified by Putin's tendency to be shirtless on a bear, and the occassional poisioning episode and annexation. After 9/11, Islamist terrorists took over the antihero spot. The idea of the “Red Scare” was left in the 20th century, and myths about it lost their appeal. Now, the U.S. has dug up its cold war rhetoric against its new “red” enemy – China.
The U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a document Friday, titled “Inadmissibility Based on Membership in a Totalitarian Party.” Citing threats to the safety and security of the United States, the office stated, “Any immigrant who is or has been a member of or affiliated with the Communist or any other totalitarian party (or subdivision or affiliate), domestic or foreign, is inadmissible to the United States.”
The USCIS added, however, that the rule will apply to those seeking immigrant status and applying for permanent residence.
Trump Uses Anti-immigration Rhetoric – Again
The move was in consideration since mid-July. The New York Times reported at the time that the Trump administration was drafting a broad ban that could deny entry to tens of millions of Chinese. While bickering over Covid-19, Hong Kong, the South China Sea, trade and technology, and human rights crimes, Washington kept “every option on the table with regard to China,” as White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said.
USCIS did not mention China in the policy alert, but there is no other Communist country Washington has been cutting ties with as aggressively as it has over the past two years and especially over the past few months. After his anti-Mexico rhetoric helped during the first election, Trump has created a new powerful enemy, adding to that a play on the “red” scare.
Indeed, as the election approaches, Trump’s tough-on-China stance is a major card he’s playing, even though he has been careful in keeping his hand out for the Chinese president.
At least, the Trump administration did not close the door completely to the Communist party members, a move it considered earlier this year, according to Reuters. Instead, it restricted the movements of Chinese diplomats, forcing them to seek permission to visit campuses and meet local government officials.
So, who will be affected by the new anti-Communist ban? As opposed to the Chinese students being denied entry to the U.S. depending on their field of study, the identities of Communist party members are not as clear. CNBC said in a July report, citing insiders, that the U.S. authorities do not have full lists of party members.
According to the South China Morning Post, the Chinese Communist Party has 90 million members. Statista reports an additional 81.3 million members served at the Communist Youth League of China (CYLC) as of 2017. Those seeking residency in the U.S., or those already residing in the country, if uncovered, may now face deportation. The Migration Policy Institute reports that there were 2.5 million Chinese immigrants in the U.S. in 2018, outnumbered only by Mexicans and Indians. There were also 233,000 Hong Kong-born immigrants in the U.S. that same year.
World Crisis Paints the Picture in Red
How the new policy will affect those already residing in the United States is uncertain. In the year that the China-born coronavirus has wreaked havoc globally, caused 1 million deaths and is forecast to kill another million by the year’s end, the public is uncertain and fearful. The rhetoric is different than three years ago, when the Trump administration prohibited or limited entry to the U.S. from certain Muslim countries.
The Muslim ban has been strongly opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and a number of other entities, which called the law “unconstitutional” as one targeting religious preference and equal treatment. Several courts (New York, Washington, Seattle, Maryland, Hawaii) challenged Trump: Several lawsuits dragged from early 2017 until June 2018, when the Supreme Court upheld the ban. However, the process continues to simmer: In July 2020, the House of Representatives voted 233-183 on the “NO BAN Act” – legislation reversing the controversial order, to which Trump by now had also added Venezuela and North Korea.
On a side note, Al Jazeera writes that the NO BAN act is not likely to pass the Senate. However, the enduring battle is bound to outlast Trump’s presidential term.
And it is a similar open question for the continued Sino-American cold war. For Joe Biden, a cold war with China is not among the top priorities, according to a recent report by the Foreign Policy, which some criticize as an absence of a clear strategy and overall ambiguity where a stronghold is needed.
The UN Sets Stage, but Unity Is Virtual
September concluded with a seven-day annual United Nations meeting, held virtually, where Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping made little progress in building bridges. Trump, again, blamed China for the global epidemic crisis, while Xi urged to resolve disputes through dialogue.
On Monday, Jun Zhang, China's permanent representative to the U.N, criticized the U.S. at the General Debate of the Third Committee of the U.N. General Assembly on behalf of China and 25 countries. He urged for the lifting of sanctions, as well as global solidarity and cooperation in the face of the Covid-19 crisis, as cited by state-run medium Xinhua.
“We continue to witness the application of unilateral coercive measures, which are contrary to the purpose and principles of the UN Charter and international law, multilateralism and the basic norms of international relations," Zhang said.
While the outcome of the elections is uncertain, this is: The fewer Chinese immigrants and students the U.S. allows through its doors, the less likely that China will change internally. Denying students to study because of geopolitical tenions with their home country?
To quote the most famous quip in American political history: "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you no sense of decency?"