Prime Minister Scott Morrison has refused to bite on a Chinese attack against Australian universities.
China’s ministry of education has accused Australian universities of providing low quality teaching and skimping on investment in programs run in partnership with Chinese institutions.
The inflammatory comments have fanned fears China’s trade war with Australia could spread to education.
“I’m not going to bite on every piece of bait,” Mr Morrison told 3AW radio on Friday.
“These sort of things have been said before.
“Australia has outstanding education, we all know that, and that’s why we have so many students who want to come here and use our educational institutions. The quality of those institutions is not in question.”
The prime minister was thrown another piece of bait when asked about China banning the BBC.
“Do you think they’ll ban the ABC, or are they too Maoist?” radio host Neil Mitchell asked, eliciting a hearty laugh from the prime minister.
“Oh, that’s wickedly enticing to answer Neil but I think I will exercise diplomacy,” Mr Morrison replied.
BBC World News was banned from airing in China after the broadcaster published a report detailing accounts of alleged torture and sexual violence against Uighur women.
The ban also came a week after the British media regulator withdrew the license of Chinese state-owned broadcaster China Global Television Network.
‘We are disappointed that the Chinese authorities have decided to take this course of action,” the BBC said in a statement.
“The BBC is the world’s most trusted international news broadcaster and reports on stories fairly, impartially and without fear or favour.”
The BBC was already largely restricted in China, appearing mainly in international hotels and diplomatic compounds.
The channel was regularly cut off when airing content deemed controversial.