detectionChina and Luxembourg: the dangerous connections of the United
LUXEMBOURG – The University of Luxembourg maintains partnerships with Chinese universities classified as “high risk” in relation to espionage, while recent years have been marked by the establishment of Chinese-funded cultural institutes in Luxembourg.
Luxembourg and China this week celebrated 50 years of diplomatic relations, which have led to fruitful exchanges on an economic level and, more recently, to another equally significant dynamic: the establishment of centers and institutes dedicated to Chinese culture. .
‘A Gentle Power’, undertaken by Jing Zhang, director of the China Cultural Center, was inaugurated earlier this month after three years of work in the Luxembourg capital: ‘Luxembourg is very important in Europe. Our long-term goal is to build bridges.” A benevolent discourse, like that of Jauffrey Bareille, director of the Confucius Institute, which was launched four years ago at the University of Luxembourg and whose mission is “to transform the language and the discovering Chinese culture.
However, it is difficult to observe these institutions without mentioning the strategic interests they imply. “Politics is everywhere. It is inevitable and undeniable,” admits Jing Zhang, while channeling allegations of espionage directed at other entities of the same kind around the world. “It’s not our way of doing things,” says the director of the center, which is funded entirely by the Chinese Ministry of Tourism.
At the end of 2019, the Free University of Brussels decided to break with his Confucius Institute after its director, who was suspected of espionage, was banned from the Schengen zone. At United, Mr. Bareille assures that the institute operates completely independently and that he has “no reason to doubt the teams”. Funding comes mostly from Chinese and comes from Fudan’s partner university, which is not classified as “at risk” by ASPI, a benchmark institute for political strategy, although it is funded by the Australian government and the US Department of Defense.
Of the university’s eight active partnerships with Chinese universities, others are proving to be significantly more sulphurous. Shandong University is therefore classified as “very high risk” by ASPI for setting up defense laboratories and links to China’s nuclear program. The “high risk” designation is also associated with Southeast and Zhejiang.
The university is aware of the risks
Asked by The essential Regarding these partnerships, the university says that it is “aware of the risks” and specifies that “the cooperation aims to minimize them. These are limited to very specific issues with no military involvement. Most of the agreements relate to student exchanges.” This is particularly true in Shandong, where mobility does not take place beyond the undergraduate level. The other two are a mobility for mathematics students (Southeast) and a more than ten-year research cooperation between the departments of computer science and philosophy (Zhejiang).
“Why welcome students who become soldiers?”
Nothing to worry about? The experience in neighboring countries also in the Greater Region, urges caution. Also because the international context has become tense over the years, especially with the European Union.
Luxembourg MEP Isabel Wiseler-Lima (CSV), who was sanctioned by China last year as a member of the Human Rights Subcommittee, knows this better than anyone: “Influence has increased at all levels (…) An Australian official told me this during a trip of our delegation: “Why should we welcome students who return to China to become soldiers?””.