Degrees of espionage

Kerry Brown and Emma Luo put the threat posed by Chinese students studying abroad into perspective.

The World Today Updated 2 November 2020 Published 10 February 2020 5 minute READ

Professor Kerry Brown

Former Associate Fellow, Asia-Pacific Programme

Emma Luo

Postgraduate student, Lau China Institute at King’s College London

Fears are rising in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the United States that China is wielding undue influence through its supposed infiltration of universities and institutions and by its spying on companies and government.

These worries have now arrived in Britain with a recent parliamentary report stating that democracies face a ‘greater challenge than ever before’ in combating autocratic interference.

A clearer understanding of the issue may be achieved by focusing on the claim that the academic integrity and independence of western universities are being undermined by the financial incentive of attracting large numbers of Chinese students.

Australia has the world’s highest proportion of Chinese students, amounting to 11 per cent of its university population, compared with 9 per cent in New Zealand, and 6 per cent in Britain, according to a 2019 analysis by the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney.

Subscribe to read all issues

Articles from the current issue are free to read by all, the archive is exclusive to magazine subscribers and our members. Subscribe or become a member to view articles from the archive.