In a crucial step to safeguard academic freedom and research, the German government has issued a stark warning about Chinese espionage targeting its students.
According to a joint research published on the DW website in collaboration with the investigative platform CORRECTIV, China imposes a contractual commitment on its scholarship holders that contradicts the principles of freedom of opinion and academic freedom guaranteed by the German constitution.
Petina Schtark-Fatzinger, the German Minister of Education, calls for caution and vigilance regarding these risks for Chinese students who have been granted government scholarships at German universities.
Warnings in Germany regarding Chinese students
China is perceived as a formidable competitor and adversary in scientific and research fields, making cooperation with it a complex matter that necessitates careful and cautious consideration.
Indeed, Friedrich-Alexander University in Erlangen, Bavaria, responded to this warning by declaring that they will not accept holders of scholarships funded by the Chinese Scholarship Council (CSC), which is a governmental organization.
According to the joint research, students who receive these scholarships are required to pledge allegiance to the Chinese state. It is expected that students comply with these conditions, and failure to do so may result in legal consequences.
The German University maintains a permanent collaboration with the German industry in the field of research. However, it is aware of the challenges faced by Chinese scholarship holders in exercising their rights of academic and intellectual freedom due to the conditions attached to these scholarships.
This issue raises potential risks of scientific espionage and other challenges related to freedom of research and education.
Scholar Fatsinger confirms that the decision of Friedrich Alexander University in Erlangern could encourage other universities to reconsider their collaboration with the Chinese Scholarship Council.
However, the German government continues to seek a balance between maintaining investment in the Chinese market as one of the vital markets and striving to reduce significant dependence on it in the future, while considering the interests of the German industrial sector.
Despite the current challenges, Germans look forward to achieving a sustainable balance that protects the rights of science and academic research while maintaining effective trade cooperation with China. They aim to avoid any repercussions that could impact their major institutions such as Siemens, BASF chemical group, and automobile companies that heavily invest in the Chinese market, which houses over 1.4 billion people and ranks among the largest vibrant markets globally.
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