Rising Anti-Foreigner Sentiment and Safety Concerns Cast Doubt on Xi’s U.S.-China Exchange Program


Last November, during the U.S.-China summit in San Francisco, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping announced a plan to invite 50,000 young Americans to exchange programs to study in China over the next five years. However, potential participants may want to reconsider after a recent violent incident involving American educators in China.

Four instructors from Cornell College in Iowa, including three U.S. citizens, were stabbed in broad daylight in Jilin, China. The instructors, teaching at Beihua University through an exchange program, were attacked by a local man, Cui, in a public park on June 11. Despite quick police action and no life-threatening injuries among the victims, the motive remains undisclosed, and Chinese authorities have heavily censored information about the incident.

While violence against foreigners in China has been sporadic, the CCP’s growing anti-espionage campaign under Xi Jinping has fostered an environment of suspicion and hostility towards foreigners. Since 2022, China has offered cash rewards for tips on national security threats and expanded its counterespionage laws, urging the public to be vigilant against foreign spies. This campaign has intensified with China’s spy agency actively promoting anti-foreigner sentiment on social media.

Instances of discrimination against foreigners have increased, such as hotels refusing foreign guests to avoid government fines. The anti-foreigner rhetoric has escalated tensions, exemplified by a Chinese citizen’s attack on an Israeli embassy worker in Beijing last October.

Retired Gen. Robert Spalding and other China experts have highlighted the danger of such anti-foreigner propaganda, suggesting that incidents like the recent stabbing are not isolated but part of a broader pattern fueled by official policies.

Moreover, the Chinese government poses significant risks to foreign participants in exchange programs. Foreign companies and individuals have faced raids, detentions, and “exit bans,” often without just cause. Over 200 U.S. citizens are estimated to be wrongfully detained in China, subjected to an opaque legal system with limited access to legal assistance.

Beyond personal safety concerns, the CCP’s motives for these exchange programs are questionable. Historically, the CCP has used such programs to influence foreign opinions and policies. With the number of American students in China drastically reduced, Xi’s initiative appears aimed at shaping the perceptions of future American leaders. There is also the risk of young Americans being coerced into intelligence activities for China, similar to the case of a British citizen recently arrested for allegedly spying for China after being recruited during his stay there.

Given the current strategic competition between the U.S. and China and the potential for direct military conflict, especially over Taiwan, Americans and American organizations must carefully weigh the risks of participating in Xi’s exchange programs.

Helen Raleigh
Helen Raleigh
Senior Contributor. Helen Raleigh, CFA, is an American entrepreneur, writer, and speaker. Her writings appear in other national media, including The Wall Street Journal and Fox News.

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