Back in the 1900s, foreign policy was the domain of the federal government.  As America becomes more polarized, states are beginning to enact their own policies on everything from immigration to foreign investment.  A few weeks back, I pointed to a law that restricted Chinese investors from buying property in the state of Florida.  Now Florida is going after Chinese graduate students:

Foreign Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows have long been crucial to academic research in the US. UF says its professors recruited more than 1,000 graduate students every fall from China, Iran, Venezuela and four other countries covered by Florida’s law prior to its passage. This year, it’s closer to zero, faculty leaders say.

“The day-to-day research work is actually done by grad students, not done by the faculty members,” said Jiangeng Xue, a professor of materials science and engineering at UF. “If we don’t have a pipeline of good, high-quality Ph.D. students, we cannot do all the work that we want to do.”

The irony here is that recruiting Chinese grad students is America’s single most powerful weapon in its competition with China for global dominance.  We dominate the global high tech sector precisely because of the foreign talent that we have attracted to this country.

You might wonder if Florida acted because the federal government refused to address the national security issues involved in higher education.  Not so:

The Biden administration has been using a Trump-era presidential proclamation to reject the visas of aspiring Ph.D. researchers from China suspected of having ties to the military.

As with its policies on Chinese purchases of real estate, Florida decided it would adopt its own foreign policy.  One effect of Florida’s decision will be to further entrench California as the dominant center of the world’s high tech sector.

PS.  The rise in nationalism doesn’t just affect foreign students trying to enter the US.  According to Bloomberg, the federal government now pressures banks to discriminate against US citizens who are originally from countries viewed as a national security threat:

Like thousands of Americans of Iranian origin, Salehi says he’s become collateral damage in Washington’s surging use of financial sanctions to punish global enemies. Lawyers and consumer advocates say US banks are increasingly reluctant to handle even seemingly benign transactions for customers with links to countries covered by the restrictions, fearing huge fines from regulators.

This also caught my eye:

Use of sanctions has exploded in recent years as the US seeks to pressure enemies without resorting to military force. Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria face the most stringent restrictions, while Russia and others are subject to less sweeping limits.

Russia is far and away the biggest threat to global peace.  The fact that we have tougher sanctions on inconsequential Cuba than on Russia tells me all I need to know about why our Ukraine policy is so dysfunctional.  Some day the Western world will wake up to the nature of the Russian threat.  I hope that it’s not too late.