Sunday 27 January 2019

Bull from the China Shop

Here's an interesting story from last week:  Oxford University has decided it's not going to take Chinese money, specifically from Huawei who are not exactly flavour of the month in the West just now.
Chancellor Patten noted Oxford’s extensive involvement with the Chinese government: “We have quite a few Chinese benefactors. Now we have a huge number of Chinese alumni because we have got over 1,300 Chinese postgraduate and undergraduate students at Oxford - more than most universities - and about 240 academic staff. This is a subject that we are really live to.” Patten hinted that universities would be under greater financial pressure to accept foreign donations post-Brexit. He also highlighted the importance of donor transparency in countering such influence. Patten described Confucius Institutes, Chinese government-funded cultural institutes attached to foreign universities, as “an offshoot of the propaganda department of the Communist party.” He said: “If the Confucius Institute is working on a university campus as a contributor to Chinese language instruction, to understanding about the spectacular Chinese civilisation, that is fine. If it is trying to shape the curriculum, or shape students’ attitudes to Tibet, or Xinjiang, or free speech, or other issues like that, it is not acceptable.”
As it happens, I can tell you there is a specific admin department in Oxford that monitors this kind of stuff very carefully, China top of their list: they are determined not to allow a re-run of the notorious scandal of Gaddafi money buying influence at the LSE.  All very well for Oxford, you may say: they can afford to be choosier than most**.

Yes, there are many who find it hard to turn away cash from, well, almost anywhere.  You don't need to google very hard to find reams of stuff on how New Zealand has been bought and sold by Beijing; and how concerned the Australians are about the activities of their biggest 'trading partner'.

Confucius Institutes are springing up all over.  As well as being a neat echo of (e.g.) the Goethe Institut network - with all the cachet the Chinese sage carries worldwide - the name has political overtones in China itself.   During Mao's Cultural Revolution, Confucius became a dirty word.  His subsequent rehabilitation was symbolic of the Deng regime that eventually followed and was the bedrock of the China we face today.  

So what's the party line now? 
A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy told Cherwell that the Confucius Institute “is a joint venture between a Chinese university and a foreign host university upon the latter’s application. The Chinese university respects the host’s right to make their decision in running the Institute and never interferes in academic freedom. “The Confucius Institute is strictly for public good, focusing on mutual exchange and providing people with an opportunity to learn the Chinese language and culture, to strengthen educational and cultural cooperation, and to build friendships. The Institute has never participated in any activities in the host country that are political or religious in nature, and will not do so in the future.”
Yeah, right.  Keep googling re NZ etc for other views on that.


** Some would raise an eyebrow at the £££ Oxford accepted from 'Len' Blavatnik - but then again, he's Sir Len, isn't he ...?


Swiss Bob said...

May I suggest another asterisk for Oxford with the Said Business school? Mr Said is a financier and arms dealer whose deal between BAE, the UK government and Riyadh has long been of interest to the SFO.

DJK said...

I can do no better than quote a commentator (Mercury@ZH) replying to a similar story on ftalphaville:

"So, our (US & UK) Left-leaning, ultra-progressive college and university systems, which have never uttered a peep about skyrocketing tuition costs over the last three decades (smell that egalitarian Progress!) now have to rely more and more on rich foreigners to keep their bureaucratically bloated, self-serving, freedom-of-thought crushing rackets moving forward? Hold on, I need to find my hankie...

Really, this couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people.
Gee, I wonder what will give in the struggle between money and academic criticism of the Chinese communist party? Is that supposed to be a cliff-hanger?

The American college and university system (probably UK's too) is rotten to the core and they can't die fast enough. Their final act will be to pollute the hard sciences with Social Justice politics which will then render them completely useless for any and everything.

The next (and most well-deserving) internet billionaire will be the person who develops a widely accepted accreditation system academic degrees earned online and outside of the traditional college and university system.

God, I can't wait."

In reply to another comment he added:

"I WISH that colleges and universities would come to their senses and stop putting so much effort into undermining their own civilization, and, you know, maybe concentrate on serving their local, state and national communities instead of leveraging their institutional legacies to turn their diplomas into international luxury products - which their make-believe fairly land virtue-weighted "Diversity" theme park bullshit doesn't quite make up for."

Raedwald said...

I am pleased to pass on this circular letter from the Vice-Chancellor of Steeple Bumstead University:-

"Dear colleagues

I will report on my time in Davos following my attendance at an important academic conference in Val d'Isere which will continue until the next European semester at the end of February.

Progress on the Kim Jong Il Centre for Peace Studies is good, with completion forecast by the Summer. We will then recruit for those tenured academic posts also so generously funded by North Korea, including the Torquemada Professorship of Conflict Resolution and the Snoop-Dog seat in Vernacular Linguistics.

On a personal note I am also happy to report that the North Korean ministry of Culture have additionally funded the renovation of Steeple Bumstead Hall, the home of the late 16th earl and a long underused part of the university's portfolio, and the building's conversion to modern academic use as the official lodging of the Vice-Chancellor. Work includes sauna, solarium, heated pool and wellness centre. I expect to host here representatives of our benefactors on official visits. The student welfare, health and counselling services that were previously using the building have been relocated to the basement of the Ernest Bevin block.

I note there has been some comment in the press at mt salary and remuneration package having passed the seven figure mark. To those detractors I would say this; I have turned Steeple Bumstead into a net exporter, earning millions in revenue for UK plc. As such, we VCs should be compared against the chairmen of the FTSE100, not the spinal points of the Hay scale.

Onwards and upwards. I met in Davos with many keen backers of our newest venture - the Huawei School of Defence Electronics, and the university rugby club offers a potential site for the complex. More on my return .."

Sackerson said...

@Swiss Bob: no sooner Said than done?

visc said...

What nasty insuation is there that an American-Jewish-Ukrainian with strong links to Benjamin Netanyahumight be buying infuence at Oxford.

James Higham said...

The watchers need to be watched.