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Canberra continues to strain ties: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2019-08-27 20:07

A celebration for the 10th Anniversary of Strategic Cooperation between the University of New South Wales and Shanghai JiaoTong University is held on Feb 19. [Photo/confuciusinstitute.unsw.edu.au]

Australia's New South Wales Department of Education scrapped the Confucius Institute program last week without consulting the Chinese side. The unilateral move will do a disservice to normal people-to-people exchanges between the two countries and deal a heavy blow to Australia's ties with China, which are already in bad shape.

The program, allowing the teaching of Mandarin in 13 public schools across Sydney and on the mid-north coast, was initiated in 2011 under inter-governmental agreements. It has long served as an important channel for Australians to learn the Chinese language as well as a bridge for cultural exchanges between the two countries.

Needless to say, for NSW residents who are still willing to learn Mandarin, the local government's decision was neither fair nor respectful. The Australian side's decision was not based on truth either.

According to Australian media reports, the NSW department's decision was made based on a review it had commissioned last year. Yet, despite admitting that the report found no evidence of "actual political influence" from the Confucius Institute program, the department decided to kill the program for fear of inappropriate foreign influence.

Naturally, the Australian move of backpaddling from cultural exchanges with China has drawn grave concerns from the Chinese side. People-to-people exchanges are an important part of the overall bilateral interaction, forming the very foundation for building mutual trust and mutual understanding between the two countries.

Deeming a normal Chinese language program as an instrument for exerting foreign interference is nothing but narrow-mindedness and paranoia. It must stem from the ill anti-China wind which is blowing in Australia.

Last year, Canberra passed laws to ban foreign interference in its politics, which was widely perceived as targeting China. Although Beijing has repeatedly said it has no intention to seek undue influence in Australia, Canberra still deems Beijing as a potential threat, not a cooperative partner.

Given this tendency, Beijing has every reason to doubt Canberra's sincerity in promoting bilateral ties, as its politicians have said it wants to do on several occasions. It is obvious that Canberra cannot shirk the responsibility of pushing bilateral ties from bad to worse.

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