According to a Saturday report from Salon, The SECURE CAMPUS Act — a bill introduced earlier this week by Republican Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee — is meant to distract the public from President Donald Trump’s failures amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The bill aims to bar Chinese nationals from receiving student visas in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields. As Cotton said in a statement, the bill is meant to prevent China’s ruling Communist Party from conducting espionage and stealing intellectual property.
“The Chinese Communist Party has long used American universities to conduct espionage on the United States. The SECURE CAMPUS Act will protect our national security and maintain the integrity of the American research enterprise,” he said.
Blackburn echoed her colleague.
“Beijing exploits student and research visas to steal science, technology, engineering and manufacturing secrets from U.S. academic and research institutions,” she said.
Cotton and Blackburn’s bill would require American universities and other institutions that receive federal funding to “attest” that they will not participate in the Chinese government’s alleged efforts. Rep. David Kustoff of Tennessee has introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives.
But, according to Salon, the bill is “a twofer for right-wing extremists: xenophobia with a healthy dose of McCarthyism, complete with a loyalty oath.” The publication noted that the legislation has virtually no chance of passing. Rather, it is meant to distract the public from Trump’s failures.
Furthermore, the publication wrote, the legislation is meant to send a clear message to the establishment wing of the Republican Party that Cotton’s brand of conservatism has nothing to do with the GOP mainstream, and that his ambitions go beyond the United States Senate.
“The Arkansas senator is clearly beginning to position himself as the ethno-nationalist presidential contender for 2024, and perhaps the anointed successor to Donald Trump.”
Blackburn has also called for a more aggressive approach to China. The senator recently described the Asian superpower as an “enemy” of the United States, accusing it of deliberately releasing the novel coronavirus. She has also argued that interest payments on U.S. debt to China need to be waived.
Cotton and Blackburn may be leading the charge to confront China, but other prominent Republicans appear to have adopted similarly hawkish positions. In fact, part of the GOP’s strategy for the 2020 elections is reportedly to shift the public’s focus to China and ramp up the rhetoric against its government.
Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas have all argued that China needs to be treated as a major threat to the United States.