WASHINGTON—A former U.S. defense official who served on the Trump transition team said on April 17 that he had been prevented from speaking at a forum in China after its embassy in Washington failed to approve his visa.
Michael Pillsbury said he submitted a visa application on March 22 and it had not been granted in time for him to travel to Beijing for the April 14 event.
“So, is this a subtle message of some kind, or just a mistake,” Pillsbury told Reuters, adding he was still “waiting patiently for my visa to be issued.”
Beijing and Washington are currently in talks to end a bitter trade war, but have sparred over other issues such as human rights and U.S. support for self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its sacred territory.
Pillsbury said the visa delay could be in retaliation for U.S. visa restrictions on some Chinese academics, which The New York Times reported on April 14, citing Chinese scholars who said their U.S. visas had been canceled.
Pillsbury said he had been invited to the forum by the Center for China and Globalization (CCG), which co-organized the event with an association under China’s Commerce Ministry.
A CCG invitation sent to journalists included Pillsbury on a list of confirmed attendees along with experts, ambassadors, and former government officials from around the world.
The agenda said Pillsbury, a senior fellow focused on China at the conservative Hudson Institute, was to take part in a panel discussion on tensions in U.S.–China relations.
“I’m surprised at this delay which is usually reserved only for harsh critics of China,” said Pillsbury, whose book ‘The Hundred Year Marathon—China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America’ was translated by China’s National Defense University.
“Chinese have told me they consider my views to be a ‘moderate’ hawk, not a ‘super hawk,’ who they would never invite,” he said.
A spokesman for the New York-based Asia Society said one of its experts, Wendy Cutler, a former U.S. trade official, had also not received a visa in time to attend the April forum.
The Trump administration implemented measures in June 2018 to shorten the length of visas issued to some Chinese international students to one year, as part of a strategy to prevent intellectual property theft by Beijing.
The proposed reform affects the visa validity date, not the length of time a visa holder is allowed to stay in the United States. The validity date refers to the length of time during which someone may use the visa to enter the country. In the case of affected Chinese students, it will be one year.
Chinese students enrolled in sensitive fields, including robotics, aviation, and high-tech manufacturing are affected by the changes. These are fields targeted for aggressive development by the Chinese regime’s “Made in China 2025,” an economic blueprint for China to become a tech-manufacturing powerhouse by 2025. These are also areas of military significance to Beijing.
By David Brunnstrom. The Epoch Times contributed to this report.