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Walking the line

Walking the Line - UK and China

In a quirk of timing, the UK foreign secretary, James Cleverly, used a major speech (reported on here by the BBC) to call for the UK to have a more constructive but robust relationship with China in the same week that the EAIE featured on its blog an article (by Dr Janet Ilieva and me) on the relationship between the UK and China.

(Our article is one of many interesting articles in the EAIE’s Spring 2023 Forum magazine, whose theme is ‘Risk and Response’.)

Although coming at this from quite different angles, we both propose that taking an isolationist stance towards China would be a huge mistake.

According to the BBC, Cleverly argued that ‘the UK must engage with Beijing to tackle “humanity’s biggest problems”’ and that isolating China ‘would be a betrayal of our national interest and a wilful misunderstanding of the modern world’.

The higher education dimension

In our article, Janet and I describe the careful line that universities tread to maintain academic relationships when geopolitical tensions run high. We spell out the reasons for – and the extent of – the UK’s reliance on China: for student recruitment, doctoral researchers and research output (particularly in STEM subjects).

Having highlighted some specific political challenges, we note that a balanced response is needed, which ‘supports international engagement while respecting the tensions that exist and operating within a fluctuating policy context’.

If we are to support engagement with China (in the spirit of the core academic mission of pursuing knowledge across borders), the UK needs to improve its China literacy and take active measures to boost mutual understanding, as advocated in the 2021 report ‘The China Question’.

Here is a pdf copy of our article along with Forum’s contents page and Dr Douglas Proctor’s editorial.

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