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‘Chinese Students Syndrome’ in Australia: colonial modernity and the possibilities of alternative framing

Abstract

There are around 400,000 international students studying on Australian campuses in 2018, and the education of international students is Australia’s third largest export, behind that of iron ore and coal, thereby playing a significant role in the country’s economy and particularly the financial sustainability of Australian universities. Chinese international students, account for one-third in this cohort, are paradoxically both coveted as ‘cash cows’ and labelled as a ‘security threat’ to Australian society. The paper examines this particular ‘Chinese Student Syndrome’ through the lens of ‘colonial modernity’ and argues that along with the problems of Chinese firms in Australia, Chinese international students on Australian campuses, in many ways, take on the persona of China itself in Australia, and the implications associated with its global rise. At the core of this syndrome lies a deep-seated ontological framing of a historical teleology that centres the Anglo-European pathway to modernity as universal that grounds the epistemic certainty of higher education institutions in Australia and regards Chinese students as the outsider to this teleology.

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Correspondence to Xianlin Song.

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Song, X. ‘Chinese Students Syndrome’ in Australia: colonial modernity and the possibilities of alternative framing. High Educ 79, 605–618 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-019-00426-z

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Keywords

  • Chinese international students
  • Higher education mobility
  • Colonial modernity
  • Alternative critical theories
  • China threat
  • China angst