August 30, 2004

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Costs of the war on terror

The SCMP had a front page article outlining some of the costs in the new strict US immigration system. And it isn't China that is complaining: it is American businesses and universities.

American businesses on the mainland say "undignified" US visa application processes are costing companies billions in lost revenue and straining Sino-US ties.

A report by the American Chamber of Commerce in China...says members have seen a big drop in exports to the mainland because Chinese officials and customers do not want to travel to the US. The report blames (this) on an over-stringent visa application process that include mandatory fingerprinting and a lengthy approval period.

...a survey commissioned by eight American businesses estimated more than US$30 billion had been lost between July 2002 and March 2004 because of visa delays and denials.

US visa approvals for mainland travellers last year were down nearly 40% from the 2001 peak. There were 25% fewer applicants.

While the quantum of some of the numbers can be debated, the effects cannot. Other geopolitical considerations aside, China has never been considered part of the global war on terror. The US's immigration scheme is forcing Chinese students to look elsewhere for study, Chinese businessmen elsewhere for opportunities and Chinese tourists for elsewhere to visit. It may be that the US is prepared to pay that price to stay vigilant. But it is a significant and growing cost. Culturally many Chinese visa applicants feel humiliated by the application procedure, as would anyone expected to be fingerprinted and have full background checks. It will continue to drive a wedge between the world's superpower and the world's emerging superpower at a time the world can least afford it, politically and economically.

Ironically it is US business that is being hurt most by this policy.

posted by Simon on 08.30.04 at 11:21 AM in the


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