The Australian government is seeking additional information from the higher education sector after it was claimed that taxpayers are funding university research that is boosting China’s military.
In an article published in The Weekend Australian, Clive Hamilton and Alex Joske, from Charles Sturt University and Australian National University respectively, claim that Australian universities are helping China to obtain “the technological leadership…it craves” in advanced military and industrial technology, “beneath the radar”.
They add that the Australian Research Council’s (ARC) linkage programme is the principal funding mechanism for this research, with the scheme aiming to “encourage national and international research collaborations between university researchers and partners in industry or other research centres, in this case with Chinese military scientists”, The Australian reported. Last year, the ARC awarded a A$400,000 (£236,646) grant to the University of Adelaide for a research partnership with the Beijing Institute of Aeronautical Materials, part of the government-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China, which is a major supplier of military aircraft to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force.
Simon Birmingham, the Australian education minister, said that the government took these reports “extremely seriously”.
“While safeguards are in place to ensure sensitive and strategic technologies are handled appropriately, I have sought additional briefing on this matter,” he said.
The Australian reported that a spokesman for Adelaide said that the project was funded “entirely within the rules” of the ARC, and the university “maintains ownership of the intellectual property”.
It was also reported that the University of New South Wales benefited from ARC funding for a joint project with Chinese personnel, while the University of Technology Sydney had recently announced a partnership with China Electronics Technology Group Corporation CETC, primarily a military research organisation and a crucial cog in China’s defence industry.
Therefore, Professor Hamilton and Mr Joske said, some of Australia’s “foremost scientific and technology organisations”, which include those with defence and intelligence responsibilities, were “working hand-in-glove” with researchers “closely linked to PLA research centres”.