China's Top Universities Cancel Entrance Exams For Overseas Students

The move is seen as a bid to encourage more international students to absorb the ruling party's propaganda.

China's Top Universities Cancel Entrance Exams For Overseas Students

Universities in China have begun canceling entrance examinations for overseas students, citing coronavirus concerns, as the central city of Wuhan reported a new cluster of cases for the first time since its lockdown was lifted.

China's prestigious Peking University (Beida), Renmin University, and Shanghai Jiaotong University have all canceled exam requirements for overseas students in recent days, according to announcements on their official websites.

"To protect the health of the majority of candidates during the coronavirus pandemic ... the University has taken the decision to cancel the written examinations for international students applying to being in an undergraduate program in 2020," Beida said in an announcement on its website.

The cancellations will effectively make it far easier for international students to win places at top Chinese universities, and is likely linked to the ruling Chinese Communist Party's ongoing overseas propaganda effort, analysts said.

They said the move is likely part of the ruling Chinese Communist Party's response to the recent closure of Confucius Institutes run by the Hanban under China's cabinet, the State Council, amid concerns over growing Chinese influence affecting freedom of speech on campuses far beyond China's borders.

Calls to the Beida international student office rang unanswered during office hours on Monday.

The announcement came as the central Chinese city of Wuhan announced its first cluster of coronavirus infections since its lockdown was lifted last month.

Wuhan reported five new confirmed cases, all from the same residential compound, all of which had previously been classified as asymptomatic.

China's total tally of confirmed cases stood at 82,918, with 4,633 deaths, on Monday.

Propaganda factories

Education experts said there could be a less obvious reason for the cancellation of the entrance exam for foreign students.

Chinese education specialist Shi Dajun, who is also a Beida alumnus, said Chinese universities have largely become propaganda factories, rather than genuine centers of learning.

"It is not just Tsinghua or Beida; many other schools make exceptions for foreign students, which is in fact a part of China's overseas propaganda policy," Shi said.

"Now that the Confucius Institutes are running into obstacles, we are seeing them take a new direction."

The idea, according to Shi, is that international students studying in China can absorb the ruling party's message and return to spread Beijing's narrative in their own countries.

"Chinese universities .. regardless of whether they are in the arts or the sciences ... are moving more and more in the direction of functioning as propaganda units," he said.

Long-running strategy

A retired professor at Lanzhou University who gave only his surname Cai said that enticing overseas students to China is part of a long-running strategy by Beijing.

"We know that the government uses education as a form of soft power," Cai said. "It's an opportunity for citizens of other countries who admire Chinese culture to come into contact with it."

"They want it to take root in the hearts and minds of young people in Western and African nations," he said. "This is all about China moving out into the wider world; they are laying the groundwork by training up some human resources."

Students who study in China under its Belt and Road infrastructure and lending plan are handed generous living expenses with no tuition fees, as well as pleasant accommodation, Cai said.

"They are training up the next generation of pro-China people, and developing friendly ties with these countries," he said. "This is a very good foundation, and the government has spared no expense."

According to Shi Dajun, Beijing had hoped to spread its propaganda via the Confucius Institutes embedded on overseas campuses, and via the Belt and Road initiative.

"They had managed to brainwash some foreigners with their party-loving and patriotic education via the Confucius Institutes," Shi said. "The brains of the Chinese people have pretty much already been washed away."

"Now they are keen to brainwash young people from overseas, and imbue them with an experience of China, its culture, and the great achievements of the Communist Party," he said.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translate and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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Change and continuity in the Philippine–US–China triangle

Author: Richard Javad Heydarian, Manila Shortly after his landslide election victory in 2016, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared his intention to chart a new course for the Philippines independent of the United States. Just months earlier, he made it clear that he intended to approach China for development assistance. Four years on, Duterte shocked the […]

Change and continuity in the Philippine–US–China triangle

Author: Richard Javad Heydarian, Manila

Shortly after his landslide election victory in 2016, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared his intention to chart a new course for the Philippines independent of the United States. Just months earlier, he made it clear that he intended to approach China for development assistance.

Four years on, Duterte shocked the world by unilaterally nixing the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) — the linchpin of the Philippine–US alliance since the end of Cold War.

Duterte’s presidency marks the greatest transformation in Philippine foreign policy since US colonisation a century ago. Some critics portray him as a Manchurian candidate — a ‘Filipino Hugo Chavez’ — who will turn a long-time US ally into China’s regional proxy. Others dismiss him as more bark than bite, highlighting the robust fundamentals of Philippine­–US relations despite Duterte’s repeated threats to sever them.

A more careful examination reveals an indeterminate picture, where Duterte largely lacks unilateral power to dictate the country’s foreign and defence policy. He faces pushback from both the defence establishment and the general public, which view China as a leading strategic threat.

There are concerted efforts, including by Duterte’s top officials, to rescue the alliance. Even within his own cabinet, several key officials seek to maintain the VFA, while the Philippine Senate, dominated by Duterte allies, has challenged the constitutionality of the President’s unilateral decision at the Supreme Court. The result is a bifurcated foreign policy with various elite factions nurturing competing strategic patrons.

There are two competing schools of thought on Duterte’s impact on Philippine foreign policy. The first posits that Duterte’s grievous rhetoric should be taken seriously, but not literally. After all, he has yet to act on his repeated threats to eject US soldiers stationed in the country.

The second argues that Duterte’s presidency is inflicting significant damage on the Philippine–US alliance amid a determined so-called ‘pivot to China’.

In reality, Philippine foreign policy under Duterte is a mixture of change and continuity.

Unlike his China-sceptic predecessor Benigno Aquino — who took China to international court over South China Sea disputes — Duterte made it clear that Beijing is a preferred national development partner. He also proudly told the Chinese media that the United States is an unreliable partner, hence his preference for a ‘meek’ and ‘humble’ relationship with Beijing. This signals a largely transactional approach towards the great powers.

This dramatic shift in foreign policy is partly an upshot of Duterte’s brand of proto-nationalism (or ‘Dutertismo’), with his presidential campaign serving as a referendum on the Philippines’ West-leaning liberal oligarchy. Duterte’s decisive victory against his two US-trained rivals, Manuel Roxas III and Grace Poe, served as a partial rejection of the country’s US-centric foreign policy.

Duterte also adroitly exploited a climate of fear, entrenched political patronage and historically high approval ratings to push the Philippines’ ‘presidential bandwagoning’ system to its logical limit. As a result, he swiftly colonised different branches of the state, creating an imperial presidency for the first time since the fall of the Marcos dictatorship. This ‘authoritarianisation’ allowed Duterte to radically recast his country’s foreign policy. Duterte also exploited an acute credibility gap in US commitment to the Philippines, which was fully on display during the Scarborough Shoal crisis.

In stark contrast, China offered a clear matrix of costs — including military escalation — and benefits, namely large-scale investments.

Still, Duterte faces concerted pushback from other centres of power in the Philippines, especially the defence establishment. Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana openly criticises China’s ‘bullying’ of the Philippines. And on multiple occasions, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) leaked information to the media about China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea, while openly calling on the government to take a tougher stance against China.

The Philippines’ top brass remains broadly supportive of robust defence cooperation with the United States. The Trump administration is also doubling-down on pushing back against China, expanding defence aid and clarifying the parameters of its commitment to regional allies such as the Philippines.

The AFP is yet to sign a major defence deal or strategic agreement with China. Philippine National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon has openly warned about the potential national security ‘threat’ posed by Chinese investments in the Philippines. The views of the AFP — which has facilitated the downfall of two presidents in recent decades — matter to Duterte, who has openly confessed his fears that the military would oust him if he crossed certain redlines.

Despite his popularity, Duterte is under constant public pressure. Surveys repeatedly show that close to nine out of ten citizens want the Philippines to assert its sovereign rights and resist China’s encroachment into Philippine waters. Thanks to China’s relentless militarisation and ‘militia-sation’ of the South China Sea disputes — coupled with a near-absence of any significant Chinese infrastructure investments — Duterte faces unabated pushback against his Beijing-friendly strategic orientation.

At the same time, intensifying disagreements over human rights issues, including US imposition of travel bans and other potential sanctions against top Philippines officials, has led to a de facto diplomatic freeze in Philippine–US relations.

By unilaterally abrogating the VFA, Duterte risks emboldening Chinese adventurism within Philippine waters, including the prospective militarisation of the contested Scarborough Shoal. He also risks weakening the country’s ability to deal with a whole host of non-traditional security threats.

The upshot is a strategic stalemate, whereby the Philippines is neither developing a new alliance with China, nor fully abandoning its defence cooperation with the United States. Despite his best efforts to revolutionise Philippine foreign policy, Duterte has — at best — ushered in an era of strategic despondency.

Richard Javad Heydarian is a Manila-based scholar, columnist and author of The Indo-Pacific: Trump, China, and the New Struggle for Global Mastery (Palgrave, 2019) and The Rise of Duterte: A Populist Revolt Against Elite Democracy (Palgrave, 2017).

A longer version of this article appears in the most recent edition of East Asia Forum Quarterly, ‘’, Vol. 12 No. 1.

Source : East Asia Forum More   

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