Chinese International Students, Where Are You?

Source: ABC

Last week, the first charter flight carrying 63 Asian international students, majority Chinese, arrived in Darwin, the capital of Australia’s Northern Territory. It is the first group of international students entered Australia since the strict border control imposed in March due to the pandemic. News outlets in both China and Australia reported on this event.

ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) published an article “International students to arrive in Australia for first time in nine months under pilot program.” The detailed story of a Chinese international student on the flight at the beginning gives me the perception that the report will have an overly hopeful tone. Still, comments from another student whose flight was canceled, opinion surveys from international students, and critics from a migration agent quickly convinced me this is a complete story. My own experience as an international student and with other peers resonates well with this article. We can see universities (in Australia and the States) are trying hard to get us back on campus. Many news is desperately saying that the loss of Chinese international students would hurt the financials of higher education and other relevant sectors. The governments seemed to remain indifferent about the struggles of international students. ABC’s article is pessimistic about how this “first flight” would help bring back Chinese international students.

Global Times, a China-based international news outlet, also reported on this event. Again, I found Chinese international outlets tend to have an official tone, and fewer voices would be presented. Comments selected from interviewed students are majorly on their feelings (mostly negative) toward the federal government’s attitudes regarding entry policies and how those students were debating about the choices to study in other countries. In addition, while Australia based news all stated clearly that prior planned charter flights were canceled or delayed due to the resume of COVID cases in the destination areas, and priorities are given to returning Australians, Global Times cited that flights were postponed due to “some unknown reasons.”

It is very ironic that, with a similar negative tone in the report, the Global Times’ piece’s overall presentation seems to be very uplifting. It is titled “Australia welcomes its first batch of Chinese students after the epidemic.” The photos featured were all happy group photos with welcome signs, smiling faces, and happy emojis. If I were just scrolling down my screen to read this article, I would assume it positively.

Photo featured in Global Times

Photo featured in Global Times

Under this report, two comments especially caught my attention: one from an apparent Chinese user, saying sarcastically that he thinks the government does not want Chinese to go to Australia and hopes this is the last flight. Another one is from a seemingly Australian user, explaining the government’s attitude is different from the nation’s perspective, and the Chinese government should stop discouraging students from choosing Australia.

Source: ABC

As a Chinese international student myself, I cannot end this topic without reflecting on my feelings reading those sources. I never imagined how much the pandemic would teach me about my cohort’s role in global politics and economics. China is the top sending country of international students, so changing visa status and travel restrictions in receiving countries directly reflect those countries’ relationships with China. The eager call for attracting Chinese international students after the hit of COVID in media overwhelmingly depicts my group as the primary source of income (if not cash cows) in higher education and relevant sectors. Where am I? On the checkerboard of international politics, or the supply chain of universities’ finances? Hopefully, on a safe campus and in a welcoming classroom.

Written by: Echo Xu


  1. Bang Xiao. (2020, 29 Nov). “International students to arrive in Australia for first time in nine months under pilot program” Accessed from ABC on Dec 6 2020.
  2. Xu Yelu and Zhao Juecheng. (2020, 7 Dec). “Australia welcomes its first batch of Chinese students after the epidemic.” Accessed from Global Times on Dec 6 2020.
  3. Echo Xu. (2020, Nov 29). “Parent-School Tensions in China, Why and How: Local and International News Compared.” Accessed from Four Continents One Blog on Dec 6 2020.

Published by Echo Xu

Echo Xu is from Henan, China. She is a passionate believer in citizenship education and community empowerment in rural China. For the past two years, she has been designing and organizing art workshops to encourage the youngsters in rural Hainan to re-discover their land and culture’s beauty and value. Through this work, she has also learned the importance of educating young leaders in the community to participate and lead local development while increasing outside companies are entering this isolated village.

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