US News: British universities must stand up to Chinese pressure - - PressFrom - United Kingdom
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US News British universities must stand up to Chinese pressure

03:35  18 november  2019
03:35  18 november  2019 Source:   ft.com

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The British intelligence services are now deeply concerned about meddling at universities by China , Russia and other autocracies. Protecting intellectual property on the commercial side is imperative — and the security services want universities to wise up . Yet in some ways, that’s also the easy bit.

The British intelligence services are now deeply concerned about meddling at universities by China , Russia and other autocracies. Operating in a global marketplace does not mean selling out your principles. As China tries to push censorship beyond its own borders, the free world must push back.

  British universities must stand up to Chinese pressure © Getty

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

Imagine you are running a midsize university, and you get a call from the Chinese embassy expressing concern that one of your professors has an annoying habit of speaking out against the Communist party. A senior politician is visiting your country next week, says the caller. It would be embarrassing if your professor made any media appearances during that time. There would be consequences.

This is ridiculous, you think. But you are rather reliant on fee income from Chinese students. So you send a message to the professor concerned. You ask him, as a personal favour, to refrain from publishing or speaking that week. Nothing is written down, nothing has changed. Except one thing. You have crossed a Rubicon. You have sacrificed academic freedom for money. And that can become a nasty little habit.

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Imagine you are running a mid-sized university , and you get a call from the Chinese embassy expressing concern that one of your professors A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2019, with the headline ' British universities must stand up

Universities have no business promoting propaganda. Operating in a global marketplace does not mean selling out your principles. As China tries to push censorship beyond its own borders, the free world must push back, writes Camilla Cavendish in the FT.

This story is not fiction. The British intelligence services are now deeply concerned about meddling at universities by China, Russia and other autocracies. So are the governments of Australia, France and the US. As is the UK House of Commons foreign affairs select committee, whose blistering new report describes co-ordinated efforts by China to influence research and to prevent discussion of sensitive subjects on campuses, including Tibet, Tiananmen Square and the plight of Uighur Muslims. Pressure is being put on Chinese students to inform on others, it states, and to undermine pro- Hong Kong demonstrations. In Sheffield, Leeds, Birmingham and London, Chinese students have claimed that they have been intimidated and harassed by pro-Beijing demonstrators. 

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Standing up !pic.twitter.com/KbcwNX3jdi. If education could be bought by China ’s money, what would be the next ? British Universities must stand up against the oppression/censorship from China .

British universities must stand up to Chinese pressure . With China ’s economy growing at its slowest in 25 years, economists say dealing with unwieldy state owned enterprises is the single most important step to restructuring the economy.

This is a concerted effort to change perceptions. Universities most vulnerable are those which rely most heavily on foreign students. One of those, the London School of Economics, has faced down demands from Chinese students to alter a huge globe sculpture in its forecourt which shows Taiwan as separate from China. It has halted advanced discussions with a vocal supporter of Beijing who wanted to fund a wide-ranging China programme, after two outraged academics insisted it would compromise the school’s values.

Former Libyan President Muammar Al-Gaddafi © Getty Former Libyan President Muammar Al-Gaddafi

The LSE has been wary of foreign donors since its then-director Howard Davies resigned in 2011 after the university accepted money from sources linked to the Libyan dictator Muammer Gaddafi. Some other institutions seem less sure where to draw the line. According to reports, managers at the University of Nottingham have pressured academics to cancel events on Tibet and Taiwan. But it has a lot at stake: it has a branch in China.

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British universities must stand up to Chinese pressure . When Taiwan last year elected a president eager to reduce the island’s reliance on China , tens of thousands of Chinese netizens attacked Taiwanese websites in a co-ordinated action that was as much a surprise to Beijing as it was

Sign up , tune into the things you care about, and get updates as they happen. The key question is do UK universities want Chinese customers (aka students)? If the answer is yes, well then you just can’t make your customers unhappy, otherwise they’ll just patronise elsewhere, simple & no hard feelings.

The UK government and higher education sector seem reluctant to acknowledge these problems. The foreign affairs select committee is scathing about the inability of either the Foreign Office, or the Russell Group of top universities, to make any meaningful contribution to their report. The Australian government has set up a task force to protect universities from foreign influence. The UK government is perhaps more concerned not to upset any potential partner with whom it will be forced to strike trade deals, post-Brexit.

Are the Australians overreacting? I don’t think so. The New South Wales department of education recently shut down another arm of Chinese propaganda: its Confucius Institutes. Financed and run by Hanban, a branch of the Chinese ministry of education, these teach a Beijing version of history. There are over 500 of these institutes on college campuses across the world. Not all of them are a problem. But there are suspicions that some may be helping to subsidise core university budgets, as well as prompting self-censorship.

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British universities must stand up to Chinese pressure . Mr McCain stands out for having stuck to his hawkish stance on Vladimir Putin’s Russia. The only realistic way Mr Trump could be removed from office is if his party turns against him.

British universities must stand up to Chinese pressure . It is time for Africans to wake up to the realities of their romance with China . Nigeria, a country with a large domestic market of more than 160m people, spends huge resources importing consumer goods from China that should be produced

  British universities must stand up to Chinese pressure © Reuters

Both Australia and Britain are benefiting from overseas students’ talent, and cash. There are now over 106,000 Chinese students studying at UK universities. Many of these students are highly able, and both sides stand to gain by building friendships. But what is needed is far greater vigilance — and co-operation with Australia and the US, to stop autocracies playing institutions and nations off against each other.

“What China is doing is not acceptable to our value system,” one academic told me, “but that’s what they do. The real issue is university leadership. If our VCs were all like Louise Richardson, who has more balls than any male VC, there would be no problem”. Ms Richardson, Oxford’s vice-chancellor, was admirably robust when threatened by the Chinese embassy with the withdrawal of Chinese students from Oxford unless she stopped its chancellor Chris Patten visiting Hong Kong. She said no.

Saying no should be easy. But the sector has form in failing to uphold liberal values. A few years ago, when some student Islamic societies were holding events which segregated men and women, I asked a vice-chancellor I respected what he thought. It was not the university’s job to get involved, he said. That seemed inadequate.

Related: World's top 50 universities of 2020 (Photos)

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British universities must stand up to Chinese pressure . An MBA at a top 100 business school is a significant investment: fees are now equivalent to 8.7 months of gross annual salary three years after graduation, up from 6.2 months in 2006.

British universities must stand up to Chinese pressure . Thus a Chinese railway through Myanmar provides a route to the sea that bypasses the pinch point of the Strait of Malacca. A new port in Pakistan provides direct access to the Indian Ocean and the Gulf.

Protecting intellectual property on the commercial side is imperative — and the security services want universities to wise up. Yet in some ways, that’s also the easy bit. Censorship is harder to spot, and to police.

The UK is a powerhouse of international research collaboration, not least because top academics know that their intellectual property and freedom of thought will be respected. For a few universities to jeopardise that reputation, in order to plug gaps in their balance sheets, is madness.

Universities have no business promoting propaganda. Operating in a global marketplace does not mean selling out your principles. As China tries to push censorship beyond its own borders, the free world must push back.

The writer, a former head of the Downing Street policy unit, is a Harvard senior fellow

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