A Chinese Threat to Australian Openness, by Merriden Varrall.
Australians are increasingly concerned about China’s growing influence in the country. Chinese money is being funneled to politicians. Beijing-run media outlets buy ads in Australian newspapers to promote the Communist Party view on local and regional issues. Chinese companies are buying Australian farms and natural resources.
The push extends to Australia’s universities. Chinese agents are said to monitor Chinese students and report on those who fail to toe the Communist Party line. And in another troubling trend, many of the 150,000 visiting Chinese students are importing a pro-Beijing approach to the classroom that is stifling debate and openness.
An instructive example:
In 2008-9 I taught international relations to undergraduates at a Chinese university in Beijing, giving me a window into Chinese students’ attitudes and behavior. I was struck by the tendency for students to align themselves with the government view.
I was not given any guidance or warnings about the topics I could cover in the classroom. But throughout the year, I was offered hints that my approach to teaching was inappropriate. Those warnings came not only from the administration but from the students themselves.
On several occasions, students suggested I use a different style of teaching. They found critical analysis and picking apart expert opinion uncomfortable. This was particularly true for readings and class discussions that could be construed as critical of China.
Most students, for example, would reject anything that suggested China had not always been peaceful. The majority of students would react angrily to any reading material implying that Japan was not an inherently aggressive and expansionist country.
Some students told me in private that they were afraid to express their views in class. They feared that their peers would report on them and that they would receive a black mark on their record. The minority of students who showed interest in open discussion were shut down by classmates who parroted Beijing’s talking points.
In one session, students gave a presentation that, unsurprisingly, painted the Japanese in a negative light. One of their classmates wondered aloud whether Chinese people still needed to hate Japan. Another suggested that China also publishes textbooks with self-serving interpretations of history, as Japan does. Outrage erupted. One student furiously accused the two of “not loving China enough.”
At my midyear review, I was told firmly by my department leadership that my approach of “trying to teach through rumor and hearsay” was unsuitable. When I refused to change my methods, I was told that I would not receive my bonus and that my contract would not be renewed.
How modern. How in the spirit of the times. Meanwhile the PC elite are copying Chinese methods in all areas of society.
hat-tip Stephen Neil