The Indian government recently announced it would require Chinese academics to go through additional security screening to get visas. It is also reviewing dozens of MOUs Indian universities have signed with counterparts in China. Sino-Indian academic partnerships could be “drastically scaled down,” one Indian official told Bloomberg.
In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is seeking the power to veto or scrap agreements that universities or local governments sign with foreign entities.
Although the proposed legislation applies to foreign partnerships broadly, it understood to be directed at China, as tensions between the two countries have risen. Australian officials have questioned universities’ ties to China, including Confucius Institutes, the Chinese-funded language and cultural centers on college campuses, and a research collaboration between Monash University and a Chinese state-owned company that has been accused of economic espionage.
Speaking to reporters, Morrison said that Australia needed to “protect” itself from foreign interference. But the Group of Eight, Australia’s leading research universities, warned that the bill could interfere with their global collaborations, saying that it “may not be proportionate to risk, may lead to over regulation, and could undermine the good work that has been undertaken between universities and the Government in this area to date.”
There can be the instinct in the U.S. to view issues as ours alone, and certainly, the current administration has been aggressive in stance toward China. (I’ll have more reporting on that this week, in fact.) But around the globe, universities and researchers are finding themselves caught up in the fraying relations between their home countries and China. Before the pandemic, national higher-education associations had begun to meet to compare notes on China and their countries’ response.
The scrutiny may not be universal, but it is global.
Meanwhile, it’s been a busy few weeks on the China investigations front:
- The FBI charged a Chinese researcher at UCLA with destroying evidence to obstruct an investigation after he was observed throwing a damaged hard drive into a dumpster outside his apartment.
- Officials arrested a researcher at the University of Virginia just before he boarded a flight to China on allegations of accessing a computer without authorization and theft of trade secrets.
- A Texas A&M professor is accused of hiding his affiliations with a Chinese university and a Chinese company, a violation of a grant he had to lead a research team for NASA.
- The University of North Texas canceled visas for 15 Chinese researchers after it severed ties with the Chinese Scholarship Council. A spokesman said the university took action based on “specific and credible information following detailed briefings from federal and local law enforcement.” More than 5,000 people have signed a petition asking the university to reconsider its decision to end the exchange program.
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