Chinese influence ‘predominant’ in French universities, report denounces

The French university and academic world is subject to multiple interferences and foreign influences that France must better resist, estimates a parliamentary report published Tuesday, Oct.predominant, but not exclusive, place of China».

Other countries, such as Russia, Turkey and some Persian Gulf countries, are also mentioned in this Senate mission report. “But no one can boast of the resources and scope of China’s strategy, which plays on multiple fronts and no longer hides the desire to occupy a central position in international relations.», Adds the text.

The 240-page French document revisits the “brutalization of international relations», to which research and education are no exception. He describes “tries to influence“Which Are Not Restricted”more on issues of economic intelligence, but extend to academic freedom and scientific integrity».

“A Strategy of Global and Systemic Influence”

The work of the mission, chaired by Etienne Blanc (LR, Rhône), looks at a double influence. First, “shaping the image or reputation of a state, or promoting an official “story”, through the instrumentalization of the human and social sciences“. On the other hand “the intrusion and recording of sensitive scientific data (…) to gain a strategic, economic or military advantage».

«China appears to be the state most capable of leading a strategy of global and systemic influence to date», Add the authors. In particular, Beijing’s instruments include the Confucius Institutes (IC), which are present all over the world. They want to promote Chinese culture, independently or in collaboration with universities. But their mockers accuse them of being propaganda tools, threatening their partners’ academic freedom, and even harboring spies.

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For universities, the need to increase vigilance

The report highlights the dilemma facing the university, which is naturally open on an intellectual level, but which must henceforth be constantly vigilant, especially with regard to the foreign students it welcomes. The authors believe that the “vigilance thresholdFrench academia is too high, unfit for new threats and weakened by a general lack of resources. In particular, they recommend”to bring the subject of foreign interference to the rank of political priority».

The report recommends, among other things, a strategy for the whole European Union, conducting an audit of the security of university IT systems and creating a “transparency regime on the origin of extra-European project financing».

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