December 3, 2023

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government said that following the 2021 Integrated Review, the authorities had taken a number of steps to increase knowledge and expertise about China, which they are now seeking to develop further.

Funding to build China expertise between 2024 and 2025 will be doubled and Mandarin language skills boosted so the UK can “engage and understand China while protecting national security”.

The government says the UK has become “increasingly concerned” about the Chinese Communist Party’s military, diplomatic and economic activity over the past two years, with some politicians putting pressure on universities to cut ties with the country.

As part of the Tory leadership contest, Sunak also called for the closure of Confucius Institutes in the UK.

In a previous pilot program last year, 170 civil servants were trained in Mandarin, with 20 going to Taiwan to enroll in language programs.

Universities UK chief executive Vivienne Stern told me recently that more UK study abroad and full-time students should be encouraged to spend time in China “to learn Chinese and spend time in Chinese institutions”, but she emphasized that from other reasons than suggested. from Downing Street.

She said it was “important not to allow concerns about geopolitics to fundamentally interfere with the landscape of cooperation”.

“It is more important than ever to build understanding and interpersonal relationships”

A spokesman for Universities UK International said: “We welcome the UK Government’s funding to teach Mandarin and increase the UK’s ability to engage with and understand China.”

“It is more important than ever to build understanding and people-to-people relations between the UK and China,” Pagoda Projects founder and chief executive Jamie Bettles told The PIE.

“The renewal of the China Capabilities Program and the Mandarin Excellence Program are welcome signals that stronger links through education and cultural exchange remain a priority for the UK Government.”

Following the China-UK Business Council event on March 15, Oxford International Education Group Chief Development Officer David Pilsbury noted that the UK remains the top destination for Chinese students.

“We really don’t see the benefits of this?” he asked. “Do we really not want to do research with Chinese universities in areas of common interest like climate change, public health, sustainable technology?”

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