Review Article: Australia’s use of international education as public diplomacy in China: foreign policy or domestic agenda?


Bradley McConachie, Australian Journal of International Affairs
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This research utilises expert interviews to investigate why the Australian Government funds the New Colombo Plan (NCP) and the Australian Studies Centres (ASCs) as public diplomacy [JB emphasis] in China. The ASCs have grown with no increase in funding, however, the academics view themselves as facilitators of Australian Studies not an arm of public diplomacy, despite their work contributing toward positive Australia-China relations. Evaluating the efficacy of the ASC’s contribution to public diplomacy is fraught with risk. Some suggest that political activism may backfire when governments explicitly outline their soft power strategies. As the NCP has no longitudinal measurements, this research is an initial review of short-term achievements. However, the external survey with 16% return rate, and just over 50% response rate indicating an intention to act as ambassadors for the program, requires review by the funding department. The opportunity for the Government to send a positive message to China and the strong people-to-people networks fostered by the two programs’ participants have the potential to influence the nexus between Australian foreign policy, international education as public diplomacy and public engagement with foreign policy. This alone, should be sufficient to justify continued funding, or in the case of the ASCs, increased funding.
KEYWORDS: Public diplomacy, foreign policy, international education, China, Australia, scholarships
Original Article