Germany pushes review of student exchange programs with China

In an interview with Mediengruppe Bayern, the Minister declared China a “systematic rival,” noting its increasing competitiveness in science and research.

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German Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger has proposed a review of student exchange programs with China, citing concerns about potential scientific espionage from Chinese students studying in Germany.

In an interview with media company Mediengruppe Bayern, the minister referred to China as a “systematic rival,” highlighting its increasing competitiveness in science and research.

Stark-Watzinger commended the Friedrich-Alexander University in Bavaria for its decision to reject scholarship applications from Chinese students solely funded by the China Scholarship Council, a state institution that often collaborates with the German industry on research projects.

“The FAU decision should prompt other institutions to revisit the terms of their cooperation with the CSC,” she said.

Reports

According to local media reports, Chinese students receiving primary funding from the Chinese state are required to sign contracts obligating them to avoid engaging in activities deemed harmful to China. Violations of these contracts could lead to legal consequences, as reported by Deutsche Welle.

In July, Germany adopted a firmer stance towards China, releasing a 64-page strategy in response to what it described as an “assertive” Beijing. The document outlined guidelines for security policy, economic cooperation, and scientific research, following months of internal debate over how to handle relations with China. The move elicited a response from China.

In a press briefing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin warned of the consequences of competition and protectionism in the name of “de-risking” and reducing dependence. He argued that this approach would only generate the opposite effect, creating man-made risks. Wang also expressed that such tactics run counter to “the trend of the times” and will only lead to greater divisions in the world.

Despite the challenges posed by China, Germany’s Federal Foreign Office called for continued efforts to seek and strengthen exchanges with the country. In a statement on July 13, it emphasized that China remains an essential partner in areas such as climate change mitigation, resolving debt crises, fostering food security, and ensuring global stability.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz tweeted that Berlin’s response to China’s assertive foreign policy involved reducing its economic dependence on Beijing in critical areas. This move garnered criticism from China, which warned of increased “man-made risks” and greater global divisions.

Trend

Notably, last year, Japanese universities were also asked to investigate international students, particularly those from China, to prevent potential espionage. The directive required universities to research students’ backgrounds and connections to specific organizations.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands has recently drafted legislation to evaluate potential security threats posed by international students intending to study in technical fields, according to a spokesman from the Education Ministry.

The screening measure is part of a series of actions taken by institutions and the government to prevent Chinese students and businesses from accessing Dutch technology.

Nathan Yasis

Nathan Yasis

Nathan studied information technology and secondary education in college. He dabbled in and taught creative writing and research to high school students for three years before settling in as a digital journalist.

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Nathan Yasis

Nathan Yasis

Nathan studied information technology and secondary education in college. He dabbled in and taught creative writing and research to high school students for three years before settling in as a digital journalist.

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