Keeping good relations

February 18, 2000

In 1998-99 more than 4,000 Chinese students were in the United Kingdom, and the numbers are growing. It is hard to find anyone with a bad word to say about the new mood of cooperation.

Colin Bates, dean of science at Nottingham University, who set up a student exchange with Fudan University in Shanghai, says the university is aware of potential problems of academic freedom but has experienced none.

But the issue has emerged for Gaye Heathcote, professor of health studies at Manchester Metropolitan University. She is working with a Chinese professor on the European Commission's changing attitudes towards human rights in China. She says some of her colleague's report will probably need to be rewritten before it can be published in China. "He would assert that there is academic freedom in China and the only boundaries ... (were) where there was direct criticism of the government or party members," she says.

Jessica Rawson, warden of Merton College, Oxford, and author of several books on Chinese art and archaeology, notes that documents covered by state and security regulations are sensitive in any country.

"We are enjoying better relations with China than with many other countries," she says.

"If we were to lose that because of an American academic it would be a shame."

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