As Beijing seeks to reduce its influence over universities, Germany is pushing for the creation of its own team of Chinese experts.
Earlier this week, the German Ministry of Education announced that it was investing 24 million euros (.48.48 million) in a project that will run from 2017 to 2024 to strengthen “independent Chinese research capacity” in universities and research institutions.
The purpose of the project is to support scientific and research cooperation with China “on the basis of European values,” the Ministry of Education said in a statement. Education Minister Anja Karlisek said Germany still wants to cooperate with China and needs skills to understand Chinese culture, language, community and history.
He said, however, that such efforts should be carried out independently by Germany and called on universities to sever ties with Chinese language and cultural studies with Confucius, China’s state-funded educational partner.
“I don’t want the Chinese government to affect our universities and our community,” Karliksek said. “We have given Confucius more space to develop companies and have done very little to develop independent Chinese research capacity in Germany.”
Since 2006, 19 Confucius companies have been established throughout Germany. At least two companies have been shut down due to concerns about “political influence and information leakage”.
There are more than 500 Confucius companies around the world. But many facilities in countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia and Sweden have been closed due to doubts about their role in promoting Beijing’s interests.
Tensions are rising between China and the West. The European Union is increasingly critical of China’s policies in Hong Kong and Xinjiang. They have imposed sanctions on Chinese officials involved in the affair.
China has responded with widespread sanctions against European politicians, diplomats and researchers, prompting members of the European Parliament to suspend the approval of the investment agreement between the two countries. The parties, the German government played an important role.
Despite the political tensions, economic relations between the two countries remain strong. China is Germany’s largest trading partner for the fifth year in a row in 2020, with a trade volume of 212.1 billion euros, according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.
Pwong Wu (As stated therein SCMP)