From the ABC:
In an exclusive interview, Australia’s first ambassador to China has raised the alarm about China’s influence in the higher education sector.
Stephen Fitzgerald singled out Bob Carr’s Australia China Relations Institute for particular criticism, saying universities need clear firewalls between donations and research.
ACRI, part of the University of Technology Sydney, was established with a large donation from the Chinese businessman Huang Xiangmo.
Mr Huang was the donor at the centre of the controversy surrounding Labor senator Sam Dastyari.
“I wouldn’t have taken the funding,” Mr Fitzgerald told Background Briefing.
“This is one of the really difficult issues about what is happening at the moment, because you don’t want to say no to all Chinese money.
“That would be ridiculous, self defeating, but you have to put firewalls between the donation and the way it is spent, and you have to be certain about the origins of that money.”
The director of ACRI, former foreign minister Bob Carr, said he disagreed.
“[This criticism] is coming from people on the cold warrior fringe of the Australian politics, people who are resentful of any hint of Australia running a pragmatic national interest-based China policy,” he said.
“There are two standards being applied here.”
As well as ACRI, hundreds of other language and culture centres have been established on campuses worldwide through confidential agreements between universities and the Chinese education ministry.
Mr Fitzgerald said he believed these centres, known as Confucius institutes, had no place in Australian higher education institutions.
“I just don’t think they should be in universities,” he said.
“Have them in Australia by all means; have them all over the country. I’d welcome them, but I don’t think they should be in universities.”
“There will be people who have been involved with these institutes who will say there has never been one instance of any attempt to influence what we teach and what we say.
“There will be others who might admit that there has been such an attempt.”
Background Briefing has revealed that at the University of Sydney, a confidential 2007 plan included a clause that would have seen the university’s existing Chinese language program incorporated into a Confucius institute.
This draft agreement ended up in the hands of Professor Jocelyn Chey, the former Australian consul-general in Hong Kong and a visiting professor at the university’s Department of Chinese Studies.
“I wasn’t sure that the university authorities knew what they were letting themselves in for,” she said.
“There’s the question of academic freedom and the right of academics not just to teach but to research and publish in areas where they are not under the guidance or direction of anybody.”
Professor Chey wrote a strongly worded letter to the vice chancellor outlining her concerns and saying the Confucius institute should be rejected, or the arrangement should be significantly modified to protect the integrity of the university.
“People who accept donations should be aware of the expectations and obligations that they’re taking on with the finance,” she said.
The university senate voted in favour of the Confucius Institute, but adopted some of the changes to the arrangement that were recommended by Professor Chey.
A University of Sydney spokesperson confirmed a proposal to establish a Confucius Institute at the University of Sydney was circulated to the senate in 2007.
Feedback from staff was considered, and it was confirmed that the university did not intend for existing university programs to be delivered by the Confucius Institute.
The spokesperson said these programs continue to be delivered by the Department of Chinese Studies in the School of Languages and Cultures.
To clarify, Stephen Fitzgerald is the former Director of the UNSW’s Asia-Australia Institute and an eminent Sinologist, the precise opposite of Bob Carr’s assessment of his critics coming from the “cold warrior fringe of Australian politics”.
In truth, Carr has yet to put any public defense of ACRI other than a series of ad hominem attacks, even while the benefactor of the institute, Mr Huang, has resigned in a clear acknowledgement that ACRI is ill-conceived and doing harm to UTS.
I’ve let this go given the funding ties have been cut, and so far as I can tell ACRI now is not actually a Confucius Institute, from Wikipaedia:
Confucius Institute (Chinese: 孔子学院; pinyin: Kǒngzǐ Xuéyuàn) is a non-profit public educational organization affiliated with theMinistry of Education of the People’s Republic of China, whose aim is to promote Chinese language and culture, support localChinese teaching internationally, and facilitate cultural exchanges.
The Confucius Institute program began in 2004 and is overseen by Hanban (officially the Office of Chinese Language Council International). The institutes operate in co-operation with local affiliate colleges and universities around the world, and financing is shared between Hanban and the host institutions. The related Confucius Classroom program partners with local secondary schools or school districts to provide teachers and instructional materials. The Confucius Institute is sometimes compared to language and culture promotion organizations such as Portugal’s Instituto Camões, Britain’s British Council, France’s Alliance Française, Italy’sSocietà Dante Alighieri, Spain’s Instituto Cervantes and Germany’s Goethe-Institut.
The Australia-China Relations Institute (ACRI) relies on a mix of funding sources, including from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) central research and operational budget, private philanthropic gifts and corporate donations. Support is financial, in-kind and by way of participation in events, exchanges and public debate. ACRI has a fully independent, academically rigorous and transparent research agenda.
If ACRI had Hanban funding I think we’d know.
Having said that, Stephen Fitzgerald has a reasonable point. Even after cutting ties with Yuhu Group and being privately funded, ACRI as it is formulated still doesn’t belong in a university. It gives what could easily be labeled Chinese propaganda undue credibility.
Which makes me wonder what is driving Bob Carr’s outburst today at Domainfax:
Just when you think it can’t get any worse – Trump as candidate – here comes a more troubling prospect: the Trump next time, four years off, who defeats an unpopular President Clinton.
…It’s easy to tick off what gave the Republican nomination this time to a bossy, ignorant demagogue – the loss of industrial jobs, anxiety over borders and trade, racist resentment of minorities. Perhaps, as well, bewilderment at a multipolar world where America can’t get its way.
None of these is about to fade.
The old jobs aren’t coming back. China is shrugging off traditional manufacturing so the plants in America’s industrial belt aren’t going to be opening again. In any case the robots are arriving to disrupt manufacturing and services alike.
The anger of white working-class males, incited by Trump, is bound to simmer angrily at a distrusted woman in the White House imposing background checks for gun buyers and appointing three or four liberal justices to the Supreme Court.
…The US will continue to be defied – not just by Putin, even by President Duterte of the Philippines. North Korea or Syria are problems without solutions, leaving chauvinists to lament the US has never been more powerless. The truth is this catch cry has been thrown at every president since Harry Truman, including Ronald Reagan in his last years. But the US Right stridently insists America is surrounded by enemies. The neo-cons who gave us Iraq and unleashed Islamic State are demanding America prove its greatness with new wars in the Middle East.
If Clinton takes office on January 20 she will have been defined as “crooked Hillary” by Republican attacks over emails, the family foundation and paid speeches to Wall Street. Only one voter in three sees her as honest or trustworthy and she may have the lowest approval rating of any victor since polls began. No honeymoon. Little goodwill.
Wow, Bob, could you paint a less flattering portrait of what is still the greatest democracy on earth with daylight second? Russia will always seek to protect itself via external brinkmanship. North Korea is small, Syria even smaller. The Philippines is a democracy and will wax and wane in US support as it always has. All-up this is a next-to-nothing list regarding the vulnerability of US power.
Even with these small problems, does Bob Carr really reckon that this is worse than China’s un-elected despots who he breathlessly promotes every day with never a negative word?
Nobody in their right mind is going to argue that the US doesn’t face challenges both internally and externally. But they absolutely pale next to China’s internal struggles, which includes running its own people down with tanks every few decades, several restive regions of totalitarian rule and repeated rebellion. Externally it is completely untested.
China Bob has completely lost perspective.