“The Chinese Communist Party must be held accountable for the damages they have caused the world as a result of their gross negligence, conduct ― and I might even argue that it was criminally negligent conduct,” Messner said during a virtual town hall he hosted Thursday.
He said the “developed countries of the world who owe China money” should stand “shoulder-to-shoulder” and refuse to pay the debt. He argued there should be a focus on border security and bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States.
And, Messner said, Chinese students should be banned from American colleges and universities.
“We also have to, I think, not allow Chinese students to attend American universities, because they come here and they become educated, and they go back with our intellectual property,” he said. “The United States can no longer be the research and development arm for the Chinese Communist Party. It’s just not acceptable.”
Listen to Messner’s comments, as captured by the Democratic super PAC American Bridge 21st Century:
Messner did not respond to a request for additional comment.
The White House has considered a proposal similar to Messner’s. The Financial Times reported in 2018 that anti-immigration hardliner Stephen Miller urged President Donald Trump to stop providing visas to Chinese citizens, which would make it impossible for them to study in the United States.
The administration ultimately decided not to go forward with Miller’s plan because of the economic and diplomatic effect it would have.
There is an argument to be made that U.S. colleges and universities rely too much on international students. They tend to pay full tuition, and schools use them as a major source of revenue. As Inside Higher Ed notes, Chinese students are the largest group of international students, compromising just over a third of the population.
But banning students from just China as retaliation for the coronavirus would not address that issue. Many Chinese students are already facing barriers in continuing, or starting, their education in the United States because of travel restrictions related to the pandemic.
And Chinese students have faced xenophobia and discrimination while studying here, dealing with questions and suspicions that they’re spies for the Communist Party or are in the United States in order to steal research.
Messner, an attorney and former Army Ranger, is running for the GOP nomination in the Sept. 8 primary to take on Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. Messner is largely self-funding his campaign. He has praised Trump for his work fighting the coronavirus and defended the president’s suggestion that people should consume disinfectants, saying it was “aspirational” talk.
Messner is running against Don Bolduc, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general and the former commander of American Special Operations Forces in Africa. Bolduc has repeatedly claimed that China likely created the coronavirus in a lab, which is a theory that has been widely rejected by scientists but pushed by pro-Kremlin voices.
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