Universities sold their soul for Chinese international students


Drew Pavlou, the student facing expulsion from the University of Queensland (UQ) over its sordid links with the Chinese Communist Party (see here, here and here), has penned an article in Foreign Policy on how Australia’s universities have ditched their values in pursuit of the Chinese student dollar:

After being an outspoken campus critic of Chinese state human rights abuses, I now face expulsion from the University of Queensland (UQ), where I am a fourth-year philosophy student, on the grounds that I “prejudiced” the university’s reputation by using my position as an elected student representative to express support for Hong Kong’s democratic protesters.

I am being threatened with this unprecedented move because of UQ’s particularly close relationship with the Chinese party-state; UQ enjoys perhaps the closest relationship of any university with the Chinese government in the Anglosphere. In addition to funding and controlling a Confucius Institute on campus, the Chinese government funds at least four accredited UQ courses that present a party-approved version of Chinese history to students, glossing over human rights abuses in Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong, and mainland China.

In addition to these state-backed courses, the Chinese consul general in Brisbane, Xu Jie, serves as an honorary professor at the university. Vice Chancellor Peter Hoj, meanwhile, is a senior consultant to Hanban, the Chinese government organization that oversees Confucius Institutes worldwide, and received a 200,000 Australian dollar ($130,000) bonus from the university for bolstering ties with China…

Confucius Institutes, educational institutes funded and run by the Chinese party-state, have come under intense scrutiny in recent years for “repeatedly straying from their publicly declared key task of providing Mandarin Chinese language training” in favor of disseminating Chinese state propaganda. In 2015, China’s then-vice premier awarded Hoj the Hanban “Outstanding Individual of the Year Award” for his “contribution, guidance and support to the UQ Confucius Institute and the Confucius Institute global network contributions to the promotion of the Confucius Institute network worldwide.” He only resigned from his position on the board of Hanban in December 2018 after being informed that his activities would have to be declared under Australia’s Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme…

Ultimately, my ability to complete my education at my hometown university in Australia is up in the air due to my political activities critical of the Chinese government’s human rights abuses. If I am expelled, I fear the terrifying signal it would send to students across the country. On reading the entire document, Clive Hamilton, a noted expert on CCP influence operations in Australia, wrote to me: “Most of the allegations are trivial; some are risible. In the context of the University’s documented discomfort with your political activism—especially your highlighting of links between the University, its Vice-Chancellor and various arms of the Chinese Communist Party—I can only read the threat of expulsion as an attempt to silence legitimate political activism on the campus.”

He’s right—it’s an attempt to intimidate students into self-censorship. Already, I know dozens of students at UQ who have told me they cannot join me in my activism for fear of university reprisals. If I lose the case and have my enrollment voided, who will dare speak out again?

Like many of Australia’s universities, UQ has become financially dependent on the fees from Chinese international students.

UQ has one of 13 China-backed Confucius Institutes operating on Australian university campuses. These Confucius Institutes are fully funded subsidiaries of China’s Ministry of Education. They provide participating Australian universities with partial funding, native language instructors, teaching resources, student exchange opportunities, and Chinese language and culture consultative services from the Chinese Government.


Their formal mission is to promote Chinese language and culture, and therefore give an uncritical view of Chinese society, as well as provide direct influence inside our universities.

Our universities have also signed agreements explicitly stating they “must accept the assessment of the [Confucius Institute] Headquarters on the teaching quality” at their centres.

Göran Lindblad, former vice president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and a former Swedish Parliament member, explains the dangers of these Confucius Institutes below:


Here’s the money quote:

“The main purpose [of Confucius Institutes] is to indoctrinate people and gather information for the totalitarian regime. These are the two main goals that are not spoken. And with budgets reduced, a lot of universities have been interested in having Confucius Institutes paying for the education in Chinese language, Chinese culture, etc. Same in the 1930s with Mussolini’s language institutes…”

“These Confucius Institutes are integrated into the universities. So there is an excellent opportunity to do infiltration work, also spying, indoctrinating the students in the communist thinking. And all of the teachers from the Confucius Institutes are of course controlled from Beijing… The CCP controls the Confucius Institutes”.

In the pursuit of Chinese international student dollars, Australia’s universities have turned into useful idiots of the world’s most evil autocratic regime.

These Confucius Institutes must be shut down, as has occurred in Sweden, and CCP influence must be expunged. If the federal government has to threaten funding withdrawals to do so, so be it.


No amount of fees are worth the cost of selling-out Australia’s independence and democratic freedoms.

About the author
Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. He is also a co-founder of MacroBusiness. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.