December 6, 2023

So begins the agreement of one Chinese scholarship board, according to a 2020 translation by Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technologies. Students are required to sign this prior to travel to assume their scholarship roles.

However, in 2023, universities in Sweden found that the agreement was not only about how they had to study the field they had originally chosen and only stay for a certain period of time.

One of Sweden’s leading newspapers revealed in an investigation that some Chinese students had signed so-called “loyalty pledges” to the Chinese Communist Party and that the guarantors – often the students’ parents – would face serious financial consequences if any part of the agreement was reneged on.

Two universities – Lund and Uppsala – have already ended their business with CSC, and KTH is also negotiating with a non-profit organization to get to the bottom of the allegations.

This is not the first time that universities have cut ties with CSC. In 2020, a scandal arose when the University of North Texas abruptly ended its relationship with the organization and sent researchers home amid the pandemic.

“UNT took this action based on specific and credible information following detailed briefings by federal and local law enforcement,” the university’s vice president for brand strategy, Jim Berscheidt, said at the time.

“These are people doing international research here, and if we can terminate their visas, what does that say about my position?”

The move has alarmed the university’s student council, with one of them saying no information about it was given until the last minute.

“There’s this idea of ​​’these are people who are doing research here internationally, and if we can terminate their visas, what does that say about my status as an international student?'” Council President Tiffany Miller said.

This came at the same time that the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, led by Donald Trump, issued a staff report which claimed that the CSC “requires recipients to pledge allegiance to a Marxist-Leninist authoritarian regime”.

“The 2020 application guidelines for the three CSC programs examined in this all-staff report insist that applicants “support the leadership of the Communist Party and the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics; love the country; have a sense of responsibility to serve the country, society and people; and to have the right world view, view of life and value system,” the report reads.

Stefan Östlund, vice president for global relations at KTH – the institution that is reviewing its involvement with CSC – explained PIE News that while the “pledge of loyalty” is strong wording, it is not uncommon.

“It is not uncommon for international scholarships to have specific requirements. In the case of China, this usually means loyalty to the country.

“As we know, this is an agreement between the scholarship provider and the student. The student would never have received this scholarship otherwise. There are a large number of CSC students around the world at various universities in North America, Europe and Asia,” said Östlund.

CSC students are all over the world, and even though they are few, there have been incidents that have raised suspicions among universities and governments.

As recently as January 2023, a Chinese engineer who went to the US to study electrical engineering at the Illinois University of Technology was sentenced to eight years in prison for espionage.

In addition, US-based dissident Jie Lijian cited some strikingly odd behavior by Chinese students at USC following the October 2022 Beijing Sitong Bridge protest against the CCP government in China.

Some posters put up by Chinese students in support of the protests were subsequently torn down by other students allegedly loyal to the communist regime.

Lijian said the students were even “proud to report the rebels” to the Chinese police – so they could even risk arrest upon returning to China.

EUR in Rotterdam also issued a statement ending its relationship with CSC in August 2022, claiming to have identified language similar to pledging loyalty to the CCP and veiled threats of financial ruin to guarantors if students did not behave as they saw fit. regime.

A page dated 2022 on the CSC website appears to confirm, via translation, that this language is used in the core articles of the agreement.

So what about the countless universities around the world that have agreements with the organization?

PIE contacted a number of universities whose websites document previous or active agreements with CSC. Although an official list of partner universities around the world is not available, just one Google search shows how many still have agreements.

“It is not uncommon for international scholarships to come with specific requirements”

Of the institutions in the UK, Canada, Australia and the US, only three wrote off – one from Canada and two from Australia.

The Australian National University, which had an employment agreement with CSC until May 2021, said it was “currently in discussions about possible future arrangements” with CSC, almost two years after the memorandum of understanding expired.

“ANU has a robust process to prevent foreign interference, which includes a group of senior staff who review all potential partnerships. No international partnership can be entered into without the consent of this group,” a spokesperson told The PIE.

It has not been confirmed whether these discussions have been ongoing for this time or if they have been restarted after some time.

The University of Melbourne drew a similar line. Although she has an active agreement with CSC, she said students must follow the institution’s student charter wherever they come from. She also insisted that “all of her scholarship programs” are subject to due diligence.

In the UK, the University of Reading also confirmed to The PIE that its agreement with CSC is still active.

“We offer two joint PhD scholarships to CSC students each year and the same applies to entry in 2023,” the spokesperson said.

Like the ANU, the university has assured it offers “assistance and support to all international students in applying, funding and studying on their course” as appropriate to their “individual circumstances”, they said.

While universities have been noticeably reluctant to offer more about their agreements with CSC, with so many different universities around the world it is clearly a benefit to both universities and students, with hundreds still traveling around the world to study at the institutions.

However, whether some universities know what is being signed behind closed doors remains an unanswered question.

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