Australia’s China illiteracy has dangerous consequences

Australia’s China illiteracy has dangerous consequences | East Asia Forum

Yun Jiang is the AIIA China Matters Fellow.

2023 report published by the Australian Academy of Humanities highlighted the steady decline in China studies in Australia, especially in universities. Students are increasingly ‘[choosing] to study China as a factor in international affairs, rather than the substantive China content that helps us understand China on its own terms’. At one university in particular, more post-graduate students had ‘chosen to study China in the context of international security studies than [had] chosen to study China’s history, politics, language, or culture combined’.

This should not be surprising. After all, Australia has moved away from the ‘Asian Century’ to the Indo-Pacific. The Australia in the Asian Century White Paper, released in 2012, emphasised the need to seize opportunities to engage with Asian countries such as China. The Indo-Pacific, on the other hand, is a distinctively security-focused term. It defines the region in terms of maritime flashpoints. Instead of opportunities and cooperation, the focus is instead on threats and competition. As a result, Australia sees China through a security-only lens, with China often portrayed as the enemy in the national security community.


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