The state media in China has issued a warning to Chinese students, advising them to not enrol in Australian tertiary education institutions. This move follows a series of accusations that the Australian Government in Canberra was delaying the approval of Chinese reasons because of political reasons.
Several scholars and students from China have claimed that their Applications for a visa to live and study in Australia have taken too long since they applied in 2015. Most of the students affected seem to be from an engineering background, leading some to believe that Australia sees some kind of security threat from Chinese engineering students.
One student was quoted saying that Canberra must think they are “academic spies” and that the entire debacle was “ridiculous”. The student reaffirmed that Chinese students simply wanted to study in Australia and that there was no “grand conspiracy” behind them.
Earlier in March, the CSC (Chinese Scholarship Council) acting on behalf of the Chinese Education Ministry warned students seeking to study in Australia that they should “make plans in advance”. They cited lengthy Australian visa approval processes and implied students should seek another country to study in.
This issue with academic visas only adds to the increasing tension between China and Australia that started last year when Malcolm Turnbull announced his crackdown on foreign political donations. China has been increasingly defensive when talking to and about Australia, claiming outright racism as an explanation for current bitterness.
Many Chinese new organisations have run along a narrative that Australia is specifically targeting them due to issues of sovereignty in the South China Sea. With China building military bases in contested waters, Australia has had to weaken its political ties with its biggest trading partner.
While a relationship with China is good for economic reasoning, many have criticised the nation for human rights abuses and an aggressive posture towards peace in the region.
A state-owned newspaper in China blamed Australia’s “anti-China” agenda as explaining the prolonging on visa application times for Chinese students. The paper also told students not to bother with travelling to Australia saying that it was not worth jeopardising their academic futures because of the “narrow-minded Australian Government”.
Certainly this recent scandal regarding student visas does not ease tensions between Australia and China. In response to this the Home Affairs Department has stated that the increased times for visa approval was not exclusive to China.