Universities defend CCP influences
With the Australian Federal Government supporting a joint parliamentary inquiry into universities and their subjection to ideological, financial and relational pressure emanating from Beijing, the universities have defended their position with the newspeak term “international collaboration”.
In recent years, Australian universities have engaged with China’s academic recruitment programs. Further, much like the bestowing of honorary degrees and doctorates, universities have been awarding honorary professorships and chancellorships, particularly to diplomats from foreign nations. Universities also run token study programs where a passage fee guarantees passing the course, including the providing of cut-quality training programs sold for overseas corporations or government departments.
All of these mechanisms have been heavily awarded to or patronised by foreign figures. Concerns have been raised in particular regarding the granting of titles and honorific roles to Chinese leaders.
The parliament’s intelligence committee is investigating whether their actions have opened up security breaches, particularly in relation to the flow of information from Australia to the CCP and the uncanny power Chinese figures have had on influencing university materials and policy directions.
The curriculum for subjects such as twentieth century revolutions and Asian studies have seen carefully rewritten to make China like heroes. Further, research and university administration has often been identified as places where Chinese influence is particularly visible within universities.
Coalition MPs such as Andrew Hastie and David Van have been particularly vocal at China’s influence, and Liberal senators have been pushing for an investigation into universities after concerns were raised about the Chinese government’s academic recruitment programs.
A joint parliamentary inquiry is under way which is looking into Chinese influence within Australian universities, but they claim that this investigation could be used as a means to cut off current financial ties and Australian-Chinese research collaboration.
The inquiry is not designed as an impost on universities, but rather to identify cases of Chinese over-reach or national security concerns.
A spokesperson for the joint parliamentary committee stated that they hoped to find that educational institutions were ideally taking proactively take steps to protect academic freedom, allowing free speech on campus and the upholding integrity in their research.
All these problems connect to China and in finding and rooting out these issues, learnings will then be applied to how Australian universities deal with other countries in the future.
In China education is heavily centralised and highly regulated, and there are risks that the predominate left-wing bias in Australian universities has opened the door for political and ideological coercion and for stifling of educational enquiry.
The great risk is with international research cooperation arrangements while international student relationships have also been a problem, with numerous Chinese students being deported every year from Australia for spying or national security reasons.
Australia needed to be realistic about China’s intentions and their participation in Australian universities. The relationship is not passive nor is it neutral, but China seeks to impose its authoritarian political socialism on Australia. This has meant that Australian universities have effectively surrendered or been undermined by the Chinese fifth column.
The inquiry is also shining a spotlight on any inadequate or weak practices at Australian universities because the public have an interest in maintaining a healthy and robust educational sector which has economic impacts.
The Australian government has already tightened regulations on the tertiary education sector, including introducing the power to veto international research agreements.
New measures will be necessary, but as with all regulation, the needs of the sector must be weighed against the needs of national and cultural security.
The government has also set up a university foreign interference taskforce which works with various security agencies to ensure that universities and tertiary education is freed from foreign interference.
The need for rigid and stronger measures is required, as the left-wing institutions have become culturally and ideological at odds with mainstream Australian society and culture.
The Australian Security Intelligence Agency has also revealed that researchers’ families have been threatened, coerced or intimidated by actors seeking to have their sensitive research provided to a foreign state. Further they are aware that some universities have been threatened through financial coercion should critical research continue. This has led to unfortunate circumstances where universities have attempted to censor research because it might upset China.
In a plea against overreach, peak tertiary education body, Universities Australia has claimed that it cannot afford negative scrutiny and the political agenda investigating its education and research systems, and claimed that it must find ways to collaborate with China that effectively and proportionately balanced national security concerns with social and economic benefits.
Unrepentant universities have also pointed out that the previous chair of the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security after the previous chair, Andrew Hastie, was banned from travelling in China in 2019. Hastie attributed this to his previous revelations of Chinese activities and criticism of their policies.
Some have attempted to water down their criticism of China by attempting to separate the Chinese Communist Party from the nation itself. However, with the existence of the one-party state, China as a country is using its people who believe as they are taught to act against Western interests and Australian culture.
In a wider sense, the hidden Chinese threat within the approximate one million Australians of Chinese descent is a cause of major alarm. No vetting or investigation has been undertaken of the extent of Chinese sympathisers and agents embedded in Australia, and while from time to time agents are detected, the underlying problem is far deeper.
The increased possibility of connections between the Australian radical left and Communist Chinese elements is frightening. Just how far Chinese money or coercion has intertwined with left-wing elements which control universities and the tertiary education sector is unknown.
It is in Australia’s national interest to cut any ties of partnership between Chinese influencers and Australian institutions, and at a time where security alertness is heightened, there is a growing awareness that Australia faces real foreign affairs challenges.
Australia’s universities need to be cleaned up as their current breaches and sinophilia pose real challenges to our sovereignty and our democracy.