How do Australians feel about Asians?

China's influence on AustraliaDemocracy dispute over Hong Kong also at Australian universities

A cameraman films the demonstration by Chinese students in Australia who protest against the democracy movement in Hong Kong and declare their solidarity with the People's Republic. Then he gets in trouble and the recording breaks off.

In Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne and many other cities in Australia, the clashes over Hong Kong found their echo in the universities, with pro-democracy activists as well as China sympathizers.

A third of all foreign students come from China

There are 12,000 Hong Kong students at Australia's universities. In contrast, there are around 183,000 Chinese students - that is a third of all foreign students. They bring seven billion euros in income into the country, the University of Sydney alone receives 300 million euros in tuition fees from Chinese sources. And these students have a clear opinion that they give the BBC:

"Our country is important to us and when we hear that someone is defaming it, we get upset and try to correct it."

"Sometimes the lecturers give a wrong opinion or wrong idea. Then the Chinese students have a duty to correct the teachers - for example, that this is not the correct map of China."

The case of the map of Taiwan became known last year: a lecturer declared that Taiwan was a sovereign state, a Chinese student protested, started the dialogue and a Chinese newspaper in Sydney disseminated it.

"He demands respect and sensitivity from the lecturer, who in turn emphasizes that he cannot take the sensitivities of a group of students into consideration."

Chinese-language media outlets represent Beijing's opinion

Almost all Chinese-language media in Australia are controlled by companies that are friendly to the People's Republic. They spread the government's message, but not all other points of view.

Professors observe that the Chinese government is exerting clear influence, for example through demonstrations or via the Internet and social media. In addition, the Australian Cyber ​​Security Center has found that universities are increasingly exposed to cyber attacks. You advise to act:

"Universities are an attractive destination because they do research in many areas and thereby generate intellectual property," said Australian Minister of Education Dan Tehan. "In addition, government-controlled cyber attackers can use the university networks for their infrastructure - they are reliable and there is a lot of data traffic, so attackers can hide in the crowd."

Task force investigates possible infiltration

Because they fear not only cyber attacks, but also that China could influence students and research, Tehan has now appointed a task force made up of university and secret service employees. That should secure the cyber defense. A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry replied that this was all nonsense:

"China's so-called infiltration of Australia and similar statements are complete nonsense and point in a completely different direction. China's practical cooperation and cultural exchange with Australia on the basis of mutual trust improves the relationship between the two countries. Politicizing educational cooperation does not help anyone who is the population on the other hand."

Close economic relationships

Australia's population is ambivalent about relations with China: economically, the continent down under benefits from its proximity, China's rise has also fueled Australia - and literally vice versa: China has consumed vast amounts of Australian coal and iron ore; it is overall Australia's most important trading partner. But many Australians believe that economic relations shouldn't mean political interference. Last year, foreign, especially Chinese, donations to politicians were heavily criticized and then made stricter. What an Australian with Chinese roots comments:

"It's common practice in China. But from an Australian perspective, it's bribery."