Canberra’s ‘chronic sinophobia’ harms Aussie scientists
Published: Feb 17, 2021 09:58 PM

China-Australia Photo: VCG

 The Australian government has got a chronic mentality - anything related to China, even normal cultural or scientific exchanges, would cause malicious suspicion, said a Chinese expert, as Australian media reported that some top scientists' funding has been denied due to "habitual sinophobic sentiment."

A number of top scientists at Australian universities have been denied lucrative taxpayer-funded research grants on "national security grounds," as the federal government cracks down on projects that "could hand military or economic advantage to foreign adversaries," The Australian newspaper reported on Wednesday.

The Australian government has ordered five applicants from the Australian Research Council (ARC) to be denied research grants worth A$500,000 ($386,882), and in December 2020, then education minister Dan Tehan denied 18 applications from the ARC, The Australian said.

It did not state who the affected applicants are, but said the projects concerned "radar, satellite, radio communication, nanotechnology and unmanned vehicles," and that Australian officials consider these projects could help China in military fields. The report said that before this, dozens of Australian scientists were found to have connections with a Chinese talent plan. 

Chen Hong, director of the Australian Studies Center at East China Normal University in Shanghai, told the Global Times on Wednesday that "it seems like Australia has a habitual mentality - to maliciously suspect any exchange and cooperation with China, which is extremely terrible."

Some Australian think tanks and media have played a role in creating and forming such a mentality, Chen said, adding that now Tehan has become Australia's minister for trade, "we do have reason to worry about to what extent Tehan could play a positive role to help normalization of China-Australia trade ties." 

This kind of sinophobic atmosphere among Australian politicians is a long-existing problem. According to the Xinhua News Agency in September, several Chinese academics were cutting off communications with their Australian counterparts and canceling plans to travel to Australia amid a rise in China-bashing rhetoric in the country.

Australian universities expressed opposition to the decision made by the government because this will impose new restrictions on their capability for international cooperation, The Australian reported.