Sunak hasn't 'thought through' policy on China says expert
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Professor of Modern China History and Politics Rana Mitter rejected Rishi Sunak’s plan to close all 30 Chinese Confucius Institutes in the UK as he explained the country “desperately needs more people who read and understand Chinese to deal with every issue from national security to trade”. He defined the proposal as “not very thought through” and stressed “we desperately need this expertise in Mandarin across the country, particularly if China, as Rishi Sunak says, is going to be this major obstacle in terms of national progress”.
Mr Mitter told Times Radio: “China actually has been a subject of some equity within the Conservative party for the last two or three years, particularly since the pandemic.
“What I am unsurprised by, but a bit unimpressed by, is that the proposals that have been out forward actually don’t seem very thought through.
“The statements from the Rishi Sunak’s side suggest that the idea is to abolish these Confucius Institutes, some language training centres which are sponsored by the Chinese government.
“You can quite see why they would want to of that in terms of the connection with a foreign power that they don’t trust.
“What hasn’t been put in there is any acknowledgment that this country, the UK, desperately needs more people who read and understand Chinese to deal with every issue from national security to trade.
“If these institutes are basically abolished overnight, the question of where missions of pounds are going to come from, presumably education budget to replace this funding at very short notice hasn’t been addressed at all.”
He added: “On the other side, you have Liz Truss who under the Foreign Office has recently, at least it’s been reported in The Spectator and elsewhere, may be abolishing the Great Britain China Centre.
“It is one of the few politically neutral non-Chinese connected UK-connected centres that actually does low key research and liaison on China to keep the public and private sphere informed.
“All in all, there’s a much more complex debate about how to inform ourselves about China.
“This leadership frae doesn’t seem to be it.”
He concluded: “There’s a huge amount of pressure on British universities to provide the kind of services like teaching Mandating and national security and trade, a hugely sensitive language in that sense.
“The universities are not teaming up with Confucius Institutes because they’ve suddenly developed some great enthusiasm for the People’s Republic of China.
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“They’ve done it because there isn’t enough money in the system for an expensive, intensive and highly technical set of language training programmes.
“Basically, what we’re coming back to is we desperately need this expertise in Mandarin across the country and much more of it.
“Particularly if China, as Rishi Sunak says, is going to be this major obstacle in terms of national progress”.
The comments came as Rishi Sunak promised to close all 30 of China’s Confucius Institutes in the UK.
Referring to China, Sunak defined the country as “the biggest long-term threat to Britain” and accused Beijing of “stealing our technology and infiltrating our universities”.
He said: “I will stop China taking over our universities, and get British companies and public institutes the cyber-security they need.
“I will work with President Biden and other world leaders to transfer the West’s resilience to the threat China poses”.
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