China to drop trade war hammer on international students

The CCP trade war on Australia is a sight to behold. It has already delivered Australia a reinvigorated ANZUS, and iron ore led income boom, and the very accelerated export decoupling that we desperately needed but couldn’t do owing to CCP’s corruption of local politicians and businesses.

In February, Beijing identified the collapse of Australian pedagogical standards driven by international students:

  • The Chinese Ministry of Education (CME) complained that Aussie universities are delivering sub-standard courses in China JVs.
  • According to CME, universities have under-invested and failed to deliver quality Australian staff numbers.
  • An audit of the courses was forthcoming.
  • The Chinese courses are often part of package degrees that then bring Chinese kids to Australia.
  • As expected, the Australian universities denied the CME’s claims.

This action by CME was clearly a shot across the bows for Chinese students attending Australian universities.

A new ANU paper now warns that the CCP is likely to further restrict studying in Australia:

The paper, to be released on Wednesday, says education is Australia’s only remaining export to China valued at more than $10bn a year that Beijing can target without doing significant harm to itself.

At the same time, the paper says, action by China to reduce the flow of students will do major damage to Australia for two reasons.

First, Australian universities and other education providers do not have alternative markets available to replace Chinese students.

Second, the paper says, international education creates a large number of jobs in Australia and international student revenue funds research that is closely linked to Australia’s economic competitiveness.

“Coercion against the sector would significantly impact Australia’s prosperity,” the paper says.

All of this was foreshadowed in 2019 in Salvatore Babones’ seminal paper, The China Student Boom and the Risks It Poses to Australian Universities. This showed that Australian universities hade become dangerously dependent on Chinese students, with concentrations that dwarf similar advanced nations:

Chinese students at Australian universities

Australian universities’ concentration of Chinese students was extreme.

Another paper prepared for the Business Council and Asia Society warned that the excessive concentration of Chinese students at Australia’s universities had stifled free speech and debate, as well as compromised academic integrity:

“Far from serving to diversity the student cohort, the dependence on Chinese students has ­instituted a form of classroom monoculturalism in which ­encouraging students to embrace the values of academic integrity and free debate, and facilitating the development of core capabilities in critical thinking, effective English communication and cross-cultural competence, have become increasingly difficult,” Professor Shields writes…

The report recommends that universities “tighten academic and English-language standards for Chinese students”, requiring higher scores in the Chinese end-of-school exam, the Gao Kao, and put more emphasis on the International Baccalaureate as an entry examination…

Excessive numbers of Chinese students at our universities perverted the very ethos of knowledge and learning via:

  • Repeated scandals whereby free speech was violently suppressed (e.g. the Drew Pavlou affair).
  • Universities aiding and abetting CCP persecution via intellectual property deals.
  • Academics being captured via “global talent” schemes that double their incomes.
  • Student unions being turned into Chinese lobbies and Confucious Institutes pumping straight propaganda into coursework.
  • Pedagogical standards being smashed in order to teach and pass sub-standard, non-English speakers.

These developments were disastrous for the long-run productivity and prosperity of Australia, which hinges upon quality education.

There were also wider negative externalities, such as the crush-loading of infrastructure in the major cities, the crushing of wage growth, and rising property prices and rents.

In short, having too many foreign students, especially Chinese, was a net negative for wider living standards (though that is no fault of the individuals).

In this regard, any action by the CCP to curtail student numbers is another one of the delightful ironies of the great Chinese decoupling that will hopefully continue.

Unconventional Economist
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  1. Recent Australian students who feel their degree was devalued by low standards of education and overcrowding of classes, should demand a 50% discount on their student debt, as their value and potential has been damaged for sure by Chinese Students shenanigans.

  2. kannigetMEMBER

    Narcissists regularly over estimate their position due to the consistent gaslighting of their victims. The victims always question themselves instead of the narcissist giving the narcissist the power… The only way to break the spell is to call their bluff and the whole house of cards comes down, but they continue to push the line looking more ludicrous each time.

    The relationship between CCP and Australian trade follows all the classic narcissist playbook and its not that surprising when things seem to be not working out the way they implied it would.

    Our Universities need to either return to an Australian first program or look for other potential students in other countries, otherwise the CCP will gain be allowed to continue this behaviour..

  3. Niall de Santos

    The Chinese student in Australia is very useful to the CCP. It’s one of the cheaper ways to invade and divide and conquer us.

    My prediction is that they will send more, not less, once Covid is over.

  4. Good,
    if it happens can we all chip in and buy President Xi Jinping something really nice from Australia?
    Wine is a no-no so I’m thinking a nice bottle of Sullivans Cove whiskey or brandy from Tasmania.
    Present it to the Chinese consul general in Sydney as a thank you gift from the proletariat people of Australia for China actually looking after their interests ahead of vested interests of migration agents, real estate agents and universities running the government policy strings in Canberra.
    Have the Global Times, SCMP and New China TV cover the event.

    • adelaide_economistMEMBER

      Or a six pack of Grange with a 2L coke? Thinking that’s more Xi’s style. I’m sure his family members who happily live in this cats paw of a country could let him know how best to mix the two.

      • Absolute BeachMEMBER

        Love your work mate. I will never hear Grange mentioned again by my partner (a dead-set wine spanker…) without imaging the sound of a Coke cracking open.

  5. adelaide_economistMEMBER

    And the voices of thousands of importers of German cars, owners of windowless student apartments and purveyors of untaxed food paid for using wechat cried out in terror…

    • “untaxed food paid for by wechat”

      GOLD!! Won’t someone think of the cash economy!!!!

  6. Plenty of Indian and Nepalese students to make up the numbers, unfortunately though they make the Chinese students look like mini Einsteins.

    • Yes, plenty of them, unfortunately in aggregate they are nowhere near as wealthy as the Chinese, hence ScoMo lifting the working restrictions (using covid as cover) to keep those “export” numbers up. 😉 Also the Indians won’t bring in huge research budgets from their government for the Universities, which is good as less of our tech will leak to the CCP, hopefully.

      • Most of them are here anyway to gain PR also work as much as possible.

        Most of them will have used loan sharks to borrow funds in India and Nepal so to be able to satisfy visa decision makers that they have the funds to support living and studying in Australia. Then there’s the cost of the airfares to support Mum and Dad to come out and cook and child mind while they work.

  7. BobTurkeyMEMBER

    Unless things have changed in the last 20 years universities were driven to feed on the international student teat by continual cuts to government funding and restrictions on their ability to raise course fees for local students. They cut expenses like anyone would, but there is only so much research funding that can be cut before the university stops being a university and reverts to being a TAFE. So the money had to come from somewhere.

    Not saying its a good thing, just pointing out the drivers.

    • This is myth. Unis are superbly badly run. And there is far too many of them in Australia. We need to rationalise the sector.

    • Know IdeaMEMBER

      Sponsored by Huawei, no less. Nothing could possibly be deemed controversial.