Canberra's move belies its claim to value ties: China Daily

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – China-Australia ties now are regrettably in their lowest ebbs for years, but it seems all Australia’s government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison can do is to put the blame on China and continue to take measures that will deal yet another heavy blow to normal people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.

Canberra is introducing legislation this week that will empower the foreign affairs minister to review and cancel agreements between local governments and universities and foreign countries considered “detrimental” to Australia’s foreign policy objectives. China, of course, is once again the target.

The move was apparently prompted by a recent media report by The Australian newspaper, which pointed an accusing finger at normal collaborations between Australian universities and their Chinese counterparts, fuelling Australian fears that the country’s research was being misused to further China’s military advancement.

Like similar accusations lodged by Australia’s irresponsible media outlets in recent years, The Australian has failed to provide evidence to support its accusations against China.

The move has met with strong criticism, even from its own universities.

The Group of Eight, a coalition of Australia’s leading research universities, has blasted the plan, with top representatives of the higher learning sector issuing warnings that Australia will be “in really serious trouble” without international partnerships and that Australian scientists have been vilified just because they worked with Chinese counterparts.

Joint programs and collaborations between universities around the world are not only essential for the advancement of people-to-people exchanges between different countries but also contribute to the efforts to find answers to some of the world’s most pressing problems.

Last year, Duncan Ivison, deputy vice-chancellor for research at the University of Sydney was quoted by Sydney Morning Herald as saying that research partnerships and collaborations with Chinese institutions produce over 1,000 joint scientific articles each year.

The Australian government’s move will undoubtedly tarnish the image and damage the interests of Australian universities as cooperation with Chinese universities has enhanced Australian universities’ academic standing.

The Australian government’s move and its media’s rising anti-China sentiments will not only cast a shadow over research collaboration between the two countries but also more broadly over people-to-people exchanges and bilateral ties at large.

Yet, it seems that the ill trend in Australia, which puts almost every people-to-people exchange with China under a prejudicial magnifying glass, will not stop any time soon.

Although Australian politicians have said their country will not follow every step of the United States and they still value China-Australia ties, it seems such remarks are anything but sincere as they are doing just the opposite and making bilateral ties from bad to worse.

China Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 news media organisations.

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