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German Universities Fail To Mitigate Threats To Academic Freedom From China, Study Finds

October 31st, 2021 10:09

The Inter­na­tion­al Jour­nal of Human Rights, an aca­d­e­m­ic jour­nal, has pub­lished a study on aca­d­e­m­ic free­dom in Ger­many. The study argues that Ger­man state, uni­ver­si­ties, and schol­ar­ly soci­eties have so far failed to prop­er­ly iden­ti­fy and mit­i­gate threats to aca­d­e­m­ic free­dom ema­nat­ing from state and non-state agents under the con­trol of the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty (CCP). Accord­ing to the study’s abstract:

Octo­ber 21, 2021 The authors probe whether or not the ecosys­tem of organ­ised acad­e­mia in Ger­many pro­vides suf­fi­cient aca­d­e­m­ic auton­o­my for schol­ars to con­duct their research with­out fear or favour. Despite con­sti­tu­tion­al guar­an­tees of aca­d­e­m­ic free­dom, aca­d­e­mics face mul­ti­ple threats from pop­ulist politi­cians, dubi­ous third par­ty fund­ing, unciv­il soci­ety, and mis­guid­ed devel­op­ments with­in Ger­man acad­e­mia itself. These domes­tic threats are exac­er­bat­ed on the inter­na­tion­al stage by the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty’s (CCP) glob­alised cen­sor­ship regime, dubi­ous par­ty-state fund­ing from Chi­na, the weapon­i­sa­tion of infor­mal Chi­nese social net­works, and an unhealthy depen­den­cy among West­ern Chi­na schol­ars on ‘offi­cial Chi­na’. The authors reveal that the Ger­man state, uni­ver­si­ties, and learned soci­eties have so far failed to prop­er­ly iden­ti­fy – let alone mit­i­gate – threats to aca­d­e­m­ic free­dom ema­nat­ing from state and non-state agents under con­trol of the CCP. They argue that while Ger­man par­ties have large­ly abdi­cat­ed polit­i­cal lead­er­ship, Ger­man uni­ver­si­ties exhib­it short­com­ings in terms of their eth­i­cal lead­er­ship. Draw­ing on an in-depth analy­sis of a con­tro­ver­sial state­ment by the Board of the Ger­man Asso­ci­a­tion for Asian Stud­ies (DGA) the authors argue that lead­ing Chi­na schol­ars also seem unwill­ing or unable to exer­cise intel­lec­tu­al lead­er­ship. The arti­cle con­cludes with pol­i­cy rec­om­men­da­tions to rem­e­dy this problem.

Read the full study here.

The study details how the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment influ­ences Ger­many’s acad­e­mia through infor­mal social net­works, par­ty-state fund­ing of Ger­man uni­ver­si­ties, and the depen­dence among some Ger­man Chi­na schol­ars on ‘offi­cial China.’