China-Aussie ties at all-time low after Canberra extends crackdown on China academe: expert

By Zhao Yusha and Cui Fandi Source: Global Times Published: 2020/8/31 23:58:36

China Australia Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Australia on Monday announced an inquiry into "China's infiltration" of its university sector, a move Chinese observers said follows Washington's crackdown on China, which would impede technological and cultural cooperation between Beijing and Canberra and will hurt the latter more, and further plunge already souring ties. 

The Australian parliament is set to probe alleged foreign interference at public universities, Alan Tudge told Sky News on Monday. The move comes after Canberra announced last week that it would give the federal government powers to scrap any deal that local authorities and public institutions reach or have reached with foreign countries that it believes threatens the national security. 

It also comes after an investigation by The Australian newspaper last week which alleged that dozens of the country's leading scientists had been recruited by China's secretive "Thousand Talents" research program, which the FBI has described as an economic espionage and national security threat.

It shows that Canberra, which is blindly following Washington's move to crack down on China, has expanded its reach to the academe. But given the fact that Australia needs academic cooperation with China more than the US, the Morrison government's decision may hurt its own country more than it hurts China, Chen Hong, a professor and director of the Australian Studies Center at East China Normal University, told the Global Times on Monday.

 "This criticism of China is politically motivated," Yu Lei, a chief research fellow at the Research Center for Pacific Island Countries at Liaocheng University, told the Global Times, noting that, on the contrary, as China leads on some scientific research, its scientific achievements have constantly been stolen by Western spies." "China is the victim here," he added.

 Yu said he finds the Australian government's accusation "confusing," as Australia does not have an advantage over China in science and technology, especially militarily. "Why would China give up its own advanced technology to steal from Australia?"

According to recent research by the Australia China Relations Institute (ACRI) the University of Technology Sydney published, China will eclipse the US as Australia's top scientific research partner within the year. 

Local media reported that the inquiry will also look into the extent to which foreign actors threaten free speech at universities, such as Elaine Pearson from the University of New South Wales. 

Pearson published an article in July denouncing Hong Kong's human rights problem, which agitated Chinese cohorts at that university. 

This further exposed Australia's real intention to throw mud at China, said Chen, questioning how China could possibly pose a threat to Australian academics.

"If someone published inappropriate comments on China, China will rebut through legal and justified channels. As a country that worships freedom of speech, Australia should know the rule better than anyone," Yu said. 

Chen warned that China-Australia relations are at an all-time low, and urged Canberra to discard its Cold War mentality that politicizes and weaponizes normal academic and scientific activities based on ideological grounds.

Newspaper headline: Bilateral ties at all-time low as Canberra probes China academe: expert

Posted in: DIPLOMACY

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