Get out of the diplomatic freezer: Bring back the Chinese students

by Melissa Conley Tyler and Allan Behm

The Australia-China relationship is at a low point. China has made its displeasure with Australia clear through a freeze on ministerial contact, trade import restrictions and criticisms of Australia’s human rights record. Beijing is waiting for Australia to make a move to improve the relationship, while Canberra has said that the ball is in China’s court.

A circuit-breaker is needed – and there is one in plain sight.

It has been estimated that nearly 65,000 Chinese students studying at Australian universities are currently stuck overseas. Many students have shown great commitment by continuing their studies online. It is taking a toll, however. With no easing of border restrictions, new enrolments are in free-fall, with applications declining by 23 percent. If nothing is done, the higher education sector is facing a massive fall in income and extensive job losses.

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