November 27, 2021

China’s strategy of influence in French higher education

In ancient Chinese thought, zhong guo (the “middle country”) is at the center of the civilized world and keeps barbarism at bay. This central position is in essence the aspiration of the Chinese Communist regime, which deploys “A systemic strategy” influence on other countries, in particular France, underlines the information report of the senatorial mission on extra-European state influences in the French university and academic world and their impact, published on Tuesday 5 October.

Other countries like Russia, Turkey, some states of the Persian Gulf are also mentioned by the mission, “But none can boast of the means and the scope of the Chinese strategy, which plays on multiple tables and no longer conceals its desire to occupy a central position in international relations and to make its views prevail”, explain the rapporteur André Gattolin, LRM senator of Hauts-de-Seine, and Etienne Blanc, president of the mission, LR senator of the Rhône.

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The document relates three cases illustrating this hold. The cancellation by Sciences Po of a Dalai Lama conference in September 2016 and the maintenance by Inalco of this same scheduled visit to its establishment, despite “Letters from the embassy” and “Implied threats of stop, or even withdrawal of stock exchanges”. Then, the public questioning of researcher Antoine Bondaz, treated “Small strike”, from “Ideological troll” and finally “Mad hyena” by Lu Shaye, Chinese ambassador to France in March, as a result of his denunciation of pressure from China on senators who wanted to go to Taiwan.

The latest case, that of the live hacking of an online course, made illegible by a pro-Turkish group, while researcher Claire Mouradian presented the image of a threatened Armenian heritage monument, on December 3, 2020.

Largest student diaspora

Activism in the academic world has two objectives: first “Influence”, through the shaping of the image or the reputation of a State, in priority by the instrumentalization of the human and social sciences, in particular of the history. Next, “The capture”, inducing access to scientific data protected by intellectual property, and their transfer, in priority in the sciences linked to technology, engineering and mechanics.

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With an enrollment estimated at 47,500 students by the Chinese Embassy, ​​the Middle Kingdom is the first country of origin of international students in France. In terms of research, “The Chinese desire to forge all-out partnerships with Western research units is due to the context of catching up in which China finds itself”, frame the report. This is evidenced, for example, by the 100 Sino-French projects within the framework of the CNRS, including 26 associated international laboratories created in China, according to data from the Embassy.

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