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The summer of Australian academics apologizing to Chinese students – China’s latest political and current affairs news

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summary of the top news in Chinese politics and current affairs for September 8, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina newsletter, a convenient package of China’s business, political, and cultural news delivered to your inbox for free. Subscribe here.
1 week ago
Lucas Niewenhuis

The BBC reports on “four prominent cases” this summer where Australian academics have backtracked after their teaching materials received complaints from Chinese students. These incidents are:

  • A lecturer at the University of Newcastle Australia showed a video that called Taiwan a country, and apologized after footage of confrontation over the incident went viral online.
  • A lecturer at the University of Sydney displayed a map that showed some Chinese-claimed territory as part of India, and apologized and said it had been a mistake after complaints.
  • A professor at Australian National University wrote a warning about cheating to students in both English and Chinese, and apologized after Chinese students complained of unfair targeting.
  • A lecturer at Monash University was suspended over a test question that “suggested that Chinese officials told the truth only when ‘drunk or careless.’”

What’s actually going on in Australia?

  • Many commentators see the large Chinese student population as an organized, nationalistic group, strongly influenced by the Chinese government to be intolerant of any perceived slight to China. See opinions in the New York Times (paywall) and the Guardian to this effect. A report by Australian ABC in June also pushed this narrative.
  • Other reports indicate that Chinese state influence may be more pervasive outside of universities — see a pair of pieces in the Canberra Times on influence campaigns among Chinese living in Australia and among Chinese businesspeople giving donations to Australian politicians.
  • In June, SupChina also pointed out an op-ed by Merriden Varrall, director of the East Asia Program at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, who writes that the media reports “did not convincingly demonstrate that the Chinese Party-state is orchestrating a coherent, strategic effort to infiltrate and influence Australian policy.”

By Lucas Niewenhuis
Lucas Niewenhuis is an associate editor at SupChina who helps curate daily news and produce the company's newsletter, app, and website content. Previously, Lucas researched China-Africa relations at the Social Science Research Council and interned at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He has studied Chinese language and culture in Shanghai and Beijing, and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.
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