U.S. Sen. John Kennedy's Nov. 27 letter regarding Chinese students' spying at American universities smacks of late-19th century "Yellow Peril" grandstanding and hyperbole. While it is no secret that certain countries project soft-power in various ways on American college campuses via some of their visiting students, and that some of those students have participated in spying for trade secrets, this is no different from what has been done by other countries for decades.
Kennedy's singular focus on Chinese students, however, as a threat to American prosperity strikes similarly in tone to some of the racially charged arguments that have been used to justify among other things the Chinese Exclusion Act and the internment of Japanese-American families after Pearl Harbor. Kennedy also states that it is his belief "that the number of students who don't play by the rules and are encouraged to steal our intellectual property by the Communist Party of China would surprise" us. Is Kennedy's belief informed by specific intelligence? Otherwise this would appear to be nothing more than a thinly veiled justification of President Donald Trump's ridiculous trade war despite its serious consequences to Louisiana agriculture and industry, for its timing and specificity are suspect. Kennedy must understand that contrary to the president's beliefs, no amount of tariffs will change the dominant standard operating procedure of every major American corporation that has produced goods for the past three decades — unless Kennedy wishes to trade in his Chinese-assembled smartphone for two tin cans and a string.