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China warns against traveling to the U.S., citing ‘shootings, robberies and theft’

Chinese tourists at the New York Stock Exchange. (Mary Altaffer/AP file)

China warned its citizens against traveling to the United States amid what it called “harassment” by U.S. law enforcement and frequent shootings, opening another front in the trade war between the two nations.

The Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism said gun violence, robberies and thefts have become frequent in the United States and that visitors should “fully assess the risk of travel” there. In a separate alert, China’s Foreign Ministry said U.S. law enforcement agencies have been interrogating and interviewing Chinese visitors, the Associated Press reported. Both warnings are active through Dec. 31.

Tensions between China and the United States have been rising, with the Trump administration imposing a 25 percent levy on $250 billion worth of products from China. Beijing has responded with its own tariffs.

President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are scheduled to meet in Japan this month at the Group of 20 summit to discuss an exit strategy from their nations’ trade war. The world’s two largest economies seemed close to reaching a deal last month before Trump tweeted that China had tried to renegotiate their almost finalized agreement.

The new travel admonitions came a day after Beijing recommended that Chinese students consider the “risks” of attending college in the United States. Xu Yongji, an Education Ministry official, told reporters in Beijing that the Trump administration and Congress have “politicized some normal China-U.S. educational exchanges and cooperation activities.”

China warns students about ‘risks’ of going to the U.S. in the latest twist to the trade war

More than 370,000 Chinese students attended American universities in the past academic year and comprised almost one-third of international students. Chinese officials, however, expressed concern about students’ ability to get education visas.

The rejection rate of students who sought to study in the United States on Chinese government scholarships was 3.2 percent in 2018, according to Chinese government statistics. But 182 of the 1,353 students — or 13.5 percent — who applied for visas in the first three months of this year experienced visa issues that stopped them from going.

President Trump escalated the U.S.-China trade war on May 10 by keeping his promise to double tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports. (Video: Reuters)

China’s Ministry of Education suggested Monday that Chinese students “strengthen risk assessment” before participating in study-abroad programs in the United States due to the restrictions on student visas, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency. The Trump administration also has rescinded the visas of some Chinese scholars working on relations between the two countries.

The Chinese Embassy in the United States told its citizens this week that the U.S. government has started asking visa applicants for links to their social media accounts. The embassy warned that U.S. border enforcement officers often deny entry to visitors on suspicion that their true purpose is different than the type of visa they have received.

Fewer Chinese residents have been visiting the United States, with travel from China decreasing by 5.7 percent in 2018, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office. A further decline in Chinese tourism to the United States could be costly to businesses and industries that rely on the $60 billion that visitors from China spend on American services each year.

China issued an earlier travel warning for the United States last year, citing shootings and robberies, as well as high health-care costs. The U.S. State Department, in return, asked visitors to China to be cautious due to “arbitrary enforcement of local laws” and “exit bans” that keep them from leaving.

Exit bans are meant to force U.S. citizens to participate in Chinese government investigations, draw people back to China from other countries and help Chinese authorities resolve civil disputes in favor of Chinese parties, the State Department said. The agency added that most U.S. citizens find out about the exit ban only when they try to leave China.

The U.S.-Chinese trade war originated with Trump’s vow to eliminate the United States’ roughly $400 billion trade deficit with the Asian nation. In addition to the existing tariffs, the Trump administration has blacklisted Chinese telecom company Huawei and threatened to tax the other $300 billion worth of products that the United States gets from China.

In response, China has put tariffs on $60 billion of American goods and announced a plan to create a list of “unreliable” foreign companies and organizations, which would force businesses around the world to choose to side with either China or the United States.

Anna Fifield and David J. Lynch contributed to this report.

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