Chinese students in Australia - with Wanning Sun

Guest: Wanning Sun, Professor of Media and Communication Studies, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Technology Sydney

Host: James Laurenceson, Deputy Director, Australia-China Relations Institute (ACRI), University of Technology Sydney

There are more than 160,000 Chinese students in Australian educational institutions. While their positive contributions to the Australian economy have been widely acknowledged, the media have recently focused on several incidents in which Chinese students have challenged or criticised lecturers on Australian university campuses on matters that are sensitive to Beijing. How do Chinese students react to this coverage? What are the different sources and expressions of nationalism and patriotism among Chinese students? What views are held within the Australian academic community about how cultural and political differences should be addressed? What strategies can universities implement to improve cross-cultural communication?

Wanning Sun joins James Laurenceson to discuss the challenges faced by Chinese students and their instructors in Australian universities, and how these challenges may be addressed.

The Australian media have highlighted important issues in the Australia-China relationship, such as political donations. At the same time, the quality of some of the reporting ‘leaves much to be desired’. Popular narratives of Chinese students in Australia appear largely driven by anxiety and fear in the context of China’s economic and geopolitical rise, rather than facts on the ground.

Focus groups conducted with Chinese students show they hold diverse positions and opinions on political issues, and have different experiences of living and studying in Australia. This means that depicting Chinese students as a homogenous cohort is misleading.

Nationalism and patriotism have sources other than the Communist Party and its propaganda. Nationalism is ‘big business’ and is also expressed through commercial outlets such as film, print media, and online click bait.

Both students and instructors should be prepared to engage in self-reflection on their own cultural practices, as well develop an understanding of where differences come from.

Theme music by Sam J Mitchell.

September 14 2017