In a veiled threat to Australian universities, a state-run Chinese newspaper has warned that their treatment of the country’s students is jeopardising billions of dollars in tuition fees.
An editorial in the Global Times said Australian institutions were treating Chinese students as a “cash machine” while doing little to help them mix with locals, and miscasting them as “spies” when they spoke out.
“Chinese students come to your country to study critical thinking and how to be open-minded,” it said. “It is not Australia’s place to critique students’ political standpoints.
“You cannot expect Chinese students to think or behave the same as Australian students.”
Part of the People’s Daily group published by the Chinese Communist Party, the Global Times is considered a belligerent propaganda mouthpiece. Articles last year blasted Australia as a “paper cat” over its stance on the South China Sea, and a “country at the fringes of civilisation” following Australian swimmer Mack Horton’s description of Chinese rival Sun Yang as a drug cheat.
The latest missive was written by Beijing-based journalist Lilly Wang, who claims to have lived in Sydney between 2014 and 2016. Last month she authored a Global Times article questioning whether Australia was safe for Chinese students after an attack in Canberra hospitalised one of them.
Similar concerns over violence against Indian students contributed to a plunge in international enrolments six years ago.
The new editorial cited concerns that Australian universities had “lowered their academic standards” to boost Chinese enrolments. It said many Chinese students paid off loans by working as “daigou”, buying local goods such as UGG boots and health supplements for people back home.
This kept them so busy that they hired ghostwriters to sit exams for them, the article said. “Many Australian universities are still unaware of this trend (or) do not seem to be taking sufficient measures to address it.
“I sincerely advise Australian universities to pay more attention to their quality of education and stop treating Chinese students as a cash machine. Some of them are spending their parents’ lifesaving to come to Australia.
Are you providing enough knowledge and opportunities in return?”
China is easily the biggest source country of overseas students in Australia, providing more than a quarter of the estimated $28 billion they generate.
An analysis by The Australian found that 16 per cent of operating funding at the University of Sydney, and 19 per cent at the University of NSW, came from the pockets of Chinese students.