Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Globalization of University Education and Interference in the Domestic Social and Political Orders of States: Considering Chinese and Australian Approaches
(By Laurentius de Voltolina - The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain,

Globalization happily came to the university with the establishment of strong globalist principles at the end of the 20th Century. But the "Globalization Revolution" (like the Marxist Revolution that preceded it by a century) did not immediately result in the withering away of the state. That has produced a contradiction and a controversy, generally for the advancement of a coherent global system of norms and more specifically for the evolution of education. The contradiction arises because global values might at times conflict with traditional and national customs, norms and ways of seeing (explaining) the world in a context in which the state must effectively contradict itself in the training of its youth. The controversy arises from the use of the avenues of globalized education as an avenue for the extraterritorial projection of the education vision/mission of a state outbound into other states. Thus education globalization can serve to develop its own values consonant with the developing of norms, mores and outlooks at the international public and private spheres, it can be used to displace, challenge or develop national and traditional ways of understanding and explaining the world on which national societies are ordered, and it serves as a means to project national values outward.  Each has manifested itself simultaneously in the operation of university education systems globally. 

But now these three trends are beginning to have political effects.  This post briefly considers the glimmerings of those effects in China, and then considers the way that Australia is now contemplating regulation grounded in the protection of its sovereignty against foreign manipulation. These suggest the contradictions between a growing sentiment at international levels that education is an essential tool for managing the substantial interplay between the construction of law-based legitimacy and the control and management of the substance, and mechanisms for the development, of social and cultural norms (2017 Report of the Special Rapporteur (A/72/523), ¶ 92), the use by states of education to perpetuate their own customs, traditions and values, and the use of globalization by states to project their national values abroad through education projects. 

One has begun to see these effects in China.  On the one hand, China is increasingly internationalizing its own educational system.  Its universities compete in global prestige markets for high ranks (and thus accept to some extent the disciplining criteria of global education norms) (e.g., here, and here).  They are also increasingly opening their doors to foreign students, especially through joint venture relationships with well known foreign universities now established in China  (here).

But with globalization has also come challenge and resistance. It has been reported, for example, that Chinese authorities have grown wary of importing Western values into its globalized higher education programs (Jamil Anderlini, 'Western Values' Forbidden in Chinese Universities, Financial Times, 30 Jan. 2015). " Teachers and university professors in Beijing say they have been ordered to toe the party line on everything from history to geography, with special warnings given to those who dare to discuss “sensitive topics” such as democracy or human rights." (Jamil Anderlini, 'Western Values' Forbidden in Chinese Universities).

China is also taking greater care in the control of foreign institutional elements in its education system as well as in the educational programs offered in China through foreign universities. It was reported for example, that "The Chinese Communist party has ordered foreign-funded universities to install party units and grant decision-making powers to a party official, reversing an earlier promise to guarantee academic freedom as President Xi Jinping strengthens political control over all levels of education." (Emily Feng, Beijing Vies for Greater Control of Foreign Universities, Financial Times Nov. 17, 2017).

In all of this one sees the contradiction and challenge of globalization of education.  First there is the power of global values and approaches in the construction of an educational structure that defines and mold individuals for service at elite levels of global networks and activities. States cannot afford to insulate themselves from the educational structures (including its logic and premises) if it means to project its power and influence within those institutional structures of global interactions that have emerged in the last generation.  Investment in globalized structures enhances power and national aspirations--but at the price of the control of the shape and context of those aspirations.  That was, essentially, the deal of globalized interaction. But that a state conforms to the deal doesn't mean that it has to like it, nor that it can't seek to finds ways to blunt its effects, ways around it, or ways of using it to advance national objectives extraterritoriality. Thus, even as there is a movement toward internationalization, there is also a counter movement to purge national education of deleterious or threatening foreign influences.  And there is greater supervision of foreign elements in national education. Of course there is contradiction here, or the hope that a state can puck and chose the extent of its engagement with global values, principles, etc. But Chinese efforts abroad have also been subject to similar criticisms where it has sought to project its own approaches and contributions to global educational interactions. Thus there was resistance in the United States to aspects of foreign education imported from abroad (China-run Confucius Institutes under fire in U.S. schools, like CPS, ).

Australia is now following a  similar path. In Internationalization and Engagement: How Foreign Students May be Reshaping What is Taught at Global Universities, I offered reflections on recent well publicized controversy within Australian academic circles centering around the relationship between the knowledge offered in Australian universities and the narratives preferred by some of its principal end users--Chinese students enrolled in Australian universities. Flora Sapio considered this in her essay, "On the Ideal Models of the University."
The federal government is concerned about Chinese influence in Australia, particularly on universities. While we don’t know exactly how deep this influence runs, we do know quite a bit.

Financially, many Australian universities depend on international students from mainland China. It was recently suggested that 16% of the University of Sydney’s revenue comes from these students. Over the past two decades, this rapid change has made universities look and feel different.

From a financial perspective, it didn’t really matter if universities changed; the more enrolments the better. From a social perspective, university administrators suggested that the presence of Chinese students would create mutually beneficial cross-cultural communication and exchange. Academics initially thought that while it might take a while, Chinese students would “adjust” to Australia.

More recently, academics have come to a more pessimistic conclusion: Chinese students in Australia inhabit a “parallel society”, in which they engage with Australian society only rarely.

The combination of these factors — Australia’s financial dependence on China, the increasing Chinese presence in Australia, the disconnection of mainland Chinese students from Australian society and culture, and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) increasing global assertiveness — has begun to create conflict. (Jonathan Benny, How should Australia respond to China’s influence in our universities?, The Conversation, 29 Oct. 2017).
That concern has now produced discussion of changing legislation--not about education but about interference with the sovereignty of the state by foreign powers. "The Chinese government was also accused of peddling its influence through the Confucius Institutes opening up across the country, mobilising Chinese students for political purposes, and pressuring Australian universities and publishers to suppress publications critical of China."  (Wang Xiangwei, Why Australia’s cure for Chinese influence is worse than the disease, South China Morning Post, 8 Jan. 20178). And the legislative response may come in the form of amendments to the Australian National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference)  Bill 2017. The Website of the Australian Parliament states that on "8 December 2017 the Attorney-General, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, asked the Committee to inquire into and report on the National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017. Information about the Bill, which was tabled in the Parliament on 7 December 2017, can be found at this link." The summary of Bill 2017 provides:
Amends: the Criminal Code Act 1995 to: amend existing, and introduce new, espionage offences relating to a broad range of dealings with information, including solicitation and preparation and planning offences; introduce new offences relating to foreign interference with Australia’s political, governmental or democratic processes; replace the existing sabotage offence with new sabotage offences relating to conduct causing damage to a broad range of critical infrastructure that could prejudice Australia’s national security; introduce a new offence relating to theft of trade secrets on behalf of a foreign government; amend existing, and introduce new, offences relating to treason and other threats to national security, such as interference with Australian democratic or political rights by conduct involving the use of force, violence or intimidation; introduce a new aggravated offence where a person provides false or misleading information relating to an application for, or maintenance of, an Australian Government security clearance; eight Acts to make consequential amendments; the Crimes Act 1914 and Criminal Code Act 1995 to replace certain existing, and introduce new, offences relating to secrecy of information; 20 Acts to make consequential amendments; the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 to amend the definition of a ‘serious offence’ to include the offences provided for by the bill; and the proposed Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Act 2017 to amend the definitions of ‘electoral donations threshold’, ‘general political lobbying’ and ‘political or governmental influence’. (Australian National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference)  Bill 2017. )
Like their counterparts in China, Australian officials are both eager to participate in educational globalization, wary of the effects of that globalization, and even more wary of the use of globalization as a mechanism for projections of foreign national interest to subvert Australian national political culture. It is not clear whether there is a happy end to this  movement.

Certainly to the extent that globalization in education is discredited as politics by other means--as a form of projection of power at the soft underbelly of a society through the education of the young, then it may be more difficult to continue to move toward global consensus on a number of important points of societal organization and operation.  It may also make interaction that much more difficult.  Suspicion is hardly a way to foster interaction.  And yet that suspicion is not necessarily unfounded.  But the solution?

In that context it might be useful to contrast the submissions of  Joseph Cannatuci, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy (PDF 105 KB)  with that of Clive Hamilton and Alex Joske (PDF 387 KB). The Special Rapporteur sough to draw "the attention of the Australian Parliament to the importance of situating such laws within the evolving international debate on national security and human rights. In this context, it is important to emphasize that any new national legislation will not operate in a vacuum internationally."    Messrs Hamilton and Joske sought to draw attention to the way in which education and the surveillance of students can serve as a cover for projection of foreign influence designed to serve foreign interests.  The  Australian Human Rights Commission (PDF 409 KB)
acknowledges the legitimacy of the Bill’s overarching objective, which might be summarised as protecting against the undermining of Australia’s sovereignty and system of government by foreign entities. Nevertheless, the Commission considers that this objective could be achieved without impinging so significantly on human rights. Specifically, the Commission is concerned that the secrecy provisions in the Bill may limit the right to freedom of expression to a degree that has not been demonstrated to be necessary and proportionate to a legitimate objective.
The  Law Council of Australia (PDF 13055 KB) supported the objectives though neither the form or methods of the Bill, particularly if the provisions were to be broadly construed. These submissions suggest the tenor of debate--both about protecting the advantages of global engagement but also increasingly suspicious of the way in which such engagement can also open a back channel to subversion.  In this Australia and China appear to share the same view--though their objectives might be adverse as against each other.

And yet there is something of a bit unreality to the entire discourse.  What emerges from much of what is transpiring is a sense of fear--mostly fear of the loss of control, and fear of an inability to understand emerging knowledge, the values that come form them, or to control their direction and focus.  That is, the discourse, in the end, reduces itself to one of two things--first an effort to manage ort control the process, shape, content and sources of knowledge production and disseminate; second, the fear that such ability can be weaponized and, sufficiently controlled and targeted, can be used like any other weapon to undermine competitor states, or worse, to undermine the social, political or religious order (including its core principles) of the targeted state. Most fearsome is the fear that the content and trajectory of knowledge (and its social, political or religious effects) are controlled by someone else (and thus not entirely controlled by institutions in power).

And so the issue becomes one of useful knowledge and of the utility of knowledge.  Useful knowledge can be technical, social, political and religious, as long as it advances the objectives for which it is identified and used to socialize target populations.  That again requires a measure of control and a willingness to separate knowledge into "good" and "evil" in accordance with national characteristics and the fear of threats form others; that is the process of utilizing useful knowledge. But that exercise is itself now undertaken under conditions of fracture.  One sees that well in the knowledge challenges facing Australia (a Western liberal political order) and China (a Marxist Leninist order).  Knowledge and learning as objects of consumption for economic activity tends to be most valuable when globalized.  But even here it is difficult to separate facts from the underlying ideologies that gave them form and meaning (e.g., here).  And knowledge itself has morphed from commodity to data, and from data to the means to manage values through the higher knowledge of the algorithm.

We move quickly, then, from a "thing" (knowledge and learning) to values, interpretation, management and ideology.  We move from the collection and deployment of data bits to (1) power (who determines what may be learned; and what is taboo),  and (2) form (what may be learned; the form does this knowledge take).  But this is an ancient problem--in the West from the time of Socrates (corruption of youth and impiety) and in China from the Qin (焚书坑儒)--and one on which states are apparently operated still. And, of course, there are also times when people have a sense of the materials with which they want to fill their heads.  All societies are full of useful and useless knowledge; they are full of knowledge that is forbidden to all, or sometimes to all but a few.  The interpretation and utilization few knowledge is as much a matter of politics as it is of anything else. And when knowledge touches on culture, social relations and conclusions about the form and legitimacy of the organization of society then we move quickly from the production and dissemination of knowledge to the management of knowledge well beyond its own character.  And states, religions, social groups--and academics--have been seeking to do for any number of reasons  since we emerged from the state of nature to that of the social institution. 

For those interested in interacting with Australian authorities the following information may be of interest:
The Committee has extended its public consultation period for the review of this bill and will accept additional submissions by Thursday 15 February 2018.
To facilitate extended consultation, the Committee will now report on 23 March 2018.

Committee Secretariat contact:

Committee Secretary
Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security
PO Box 6021
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Phone: +61 2 6277 2360
Fax: +61 2 6277 2067

Text of bill

Word Format PDF Format HTML Format

Explanatory memoranda

Word Format PDF Format HTML Format
The submissions received to date are particularly worth reading for a sense of emerging consensus in Australia relating to the issues--and the Bill.

No comments:

Post a Comment