Chinese universities cancel entrance exams for foreign students

Move seen as response to closures of Confucius Institutes abroad

CNA photo

CNA photo

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Universities in China have started canceling entrance exams for international students, saying the move is a response to Wuhan coronavirus fears.

Peking University, Renmin University of China, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University have scratched exam requirements for foreigners, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported.

“To protect the health of the majority of candidates during the coronavirus pandemic ... the University has taken the decision to cancel the written examinations for international students applying [for undergraduate programs in 2020],” Peking University said on its website. The school will instead conduct remote interviews for students who meet their qualifications, according to CNA.

The change will make it easier for overseas students to gain admission into these institutions and could be linked to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) continued propaganda efforts abroad, RFA cited analysts as saying. The decision is likely in response to recent closures of Confucius Institutes over growing concerns that China's influence is negatively affecting freedom of speech on campuses around the world.

According to Chinese education specialist Shi Dajun, a Peking University graduate, “Now that the Confucius Institutes are running into obstacles, we are seeing them take a new direction.” The goal is to have foreign students studying in China take the CCP’s message back to their own countries to help spread Beijing’s narrative, Shi said.

A retired professor from Lanzhou University surnamed Cai told RFA that attracting overseas students to China is part of a long-running strategy for the CCP, which uses education as a form of soft power.

Students who study in China under its Belt and Road Initiative enjoy generous stipends for living expenses and no tuition fees in addition to free accommodations, Cai said, adding that the idea is to train the next generation of pro-China people and to develop friendly ties with their countries.