The suspension is part of a larger set of actions against the People's Republic of China (PRC) that the President announced on Friday. It comes in the midst of an escalating confrontation between the US and China over trade, the origins of the novel coronavirus pandemic, China's security crackdown in Hong Kong, and China's military moves in the disputed South China Sea. Other actions he announced on Friday include imposing yet-to-be-specified sanctions against Chinese and Hong Kong officials “directly or indirectly involved” in eroding Hong Kong’s autonomy; and ending to U.S. participation in the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO); beginning a process of stripping some of Hong Kong’s privileged trade status.
In the proclamation, the President declares that the PRC "is engaged in a wide‑ranging and heavily resourced campaign to acquire sensitive United States technologies and intellectual property, in part to bolster the modernization and capability of its military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)." He asserts that PRC’s "acquisition of sensitive United States technologies and intellectual property to modernize its military is a threat to our Nation’s long-term economic vitality and the safety and security of the American people" and that the PRC's authorities "use some Chinese students, mostly post‑graduate students and post-doctorate researchers, to operate as non-traditional collectors of intellectual property." Continuing, he proclaims that "students or researchers from the PRC studying or researching beyond the undergraduate level who are or have been associated with the PLA are at high risk of being exploited or co-opted by the PRC authorities and provide particular cause for concern."
The President concludes that "In light of the above, I have determined that the entry of certain nationals of the PRC seeking to enter the United States pursuant to an F or J visa to study or conduct research in the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States."
It has been estimated that the suspension in the proclamation could impact between 3,000 and 5,000 Chinese graduate students. It does not apply to undergraduate students. It is effective on Monday, June 1, 2020, and is set to remain in effect until the President explicitly revokes it.