The Impact of Trade Wars


The impact of a trade war between the United States and China future international student recruitment and enrollment



In my book, International Student Mobility and the New World Disorder, I make the claim that future international student mobility will be influenced by economic, political, sociological and technological changes taking place throughout the world. In this section of an updated white paper on my prior book and predictions, I am focusing on the potential impact of a trade war between the United states and China on the future enrollment of Chinese students in the United States.

In 2018 the United States initiated a series of trade wars with both allies and adversaries alike. In Bob Woodward’s book, Fear, the author outlines President Trump’s obsession with the United States’ trade imbalance with China, South Korea, Japan, Canada and Mexico and his desire to terminate past trade agreements and write new ones. The president considers tariffs bargaining chips in rewriting global trading rules and lists as one of his major economic successes the “new” NAFTA trade agreement reached in September 2018 with Canada, Mexico and the United States. Similarly, South Korea gave the president his first big trade deal by agreeing to accept more American imports. Japan is reviewing its trade deficit with the United States and is expected, like South Korea, to import more American products.

This report will focus on the trade war between the United States and China. Geopolitical differences and mutual distrust have been a cornerstone in American and Chinese relations for years.  In August 2018, the president instructed his trade team to consider imposing 25 percent tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese exports. Additional tariffs were announced in September, making the total number of Chinese goods affected by the tariffs $250 billion. China’s retaliation, also announced in August, was to impose tariffs of $60 billion on American imports.

In September 2018 the president accused the Chinese government of attempting to influence the November midterm elections by identifying the American states, in the south, Midwest and northeast that would be the most negatively impacted by Chinese tariffs. Almonds from California, steel from Pennsylvania, car parts from Michigan and soybeans from Iowa are the states most likely affected by Chinese tariffs.

The president’s imposition of tariffs on a number of Chinese exports has raised the level of tension and rivalry between the two countries. Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, remarked on October 2, 2018 that the current state of U.S./China relations is a “new cold war.”

Since the imposition of tariffs Chinese stocks have fallen sharply.  In September 2018, the stock market was down almost a quarter from its peak in January 2018. The Economist reports that since April the yuan is down 8 percent and there was a current-account deficit in the first half of 2018, China’s first such gap in two decades.

Like the United States, China is seeking other trading partners, including Russia, certain European countries, the countries in its “Belt and Road” project and the countries in the new Trans-Pacific partnership to increase trade. Zhiwu Chen, director of the Asia Global Institute at the University of Hong Kong, predicts the emergence of “different trade blocks based on geography and values.”

Global trade, like global student mobility, has been shifting eastwards and southwards for some time. Still there are more Chinese students studying on American colleges and universities campuses than from any other country. Trade tensions between China and the United States could easily spill over into future international recruitment of Chinese students. Many colleges and universities in the United states are heavily dependent on the revenue from Chinese students to meet both enrollment and financial goals. The Chinese government could impose a limit on the number of students it allows to enroll on American college campuses. This is not as farfetched as it may first appear. I was a young admission officer at Georgetown University in Washington, DC when the Iranian revolution resulted in all of the enrolled Iranian students ordered home immediately. This summer the government of Saudi Arabia recalled all of its students studying in Canada because of a statement made by a Canadian government official that was offensive to the Saudi government. I realize I am citing political events that resulted in shifting international student mobility enrollment. But I believe that economic events, like a trade war between the United States and China, could also result in fewer Chinese students studying on American college campuses. Do many American schools have a plan B should this happen?

Jack Ma, founder of Ali Baba, predicts that a trade war between the United States and China, will last two decades. A sobering prediction.


This entry was posted in Colleges, Foreign Students, International Education, International students, Universities by Marguerite Dennis. Bookmark the permalink.

About Marguerite Dennis

Marguerite Dennis has been recruiting internationally for over 25 years, first at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and then at Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts. During that time she was responsible for establishing a branch campus for Suffolk University in Dakar, Senegal and Madrid, Spain. Marguerite increased the international student population at Suffolk University by 193% from 1993 to 2011 and increased the number of study abroad programs by 135%, from 20 to 47. She monitored the recruitment programs for Suffolk University in 20 countries and hired a network of 10 international educational consultants. She signed agreements in Viet Nam, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Germany, Mexico, France and Argentina.

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