Senior university figures have lined up to praise China’s president, who is currently in the UK on a state visit.
In a video posted last night by a Chinese website, Michael Arthur, president of University College London, says that Xi Jinping “completely understands the power of education”.
Mr Xi’s trip to the UK – during which he is set to visit Imperial College London, UCL and the University of Manchester – has drawn fire from human rights organisations, who say that the British government is failing to raise concerns around a lack of freedom in the country.
Amnesty International said today that under Mr Xi, who came to power in 2012, China has experienced its “most intense crackdown on human rights for years”.
Since the end of last year, reports have suggested the emergence of a campaign to suppress dissent in China’s universities, with Mr Xi calling for more “ideological control” of the academy.
In the video, figures from across British higher education, politics and business are asked what they think of the “Chinese Dream”, a slogan put forward by Mr Xi that is seen as encapsulating a number of social, environmental and economic goals for the country.
In the video, Professor Arthur says that “of course it would be a very good thing for China”.
“What inevitably lies at the heart of a statement like that is education, so to me, my interpretation of this was that President Xi completely understands the power of education and the sort of education system and the educational attainment that will be necessary to deliver that dream,” he says.
Also interviewed is Nobel Prize winner Sir Paul Nurse, currently president of the Royal Society. He responds: “I think he’s saying that everybody has to have aspiration and ambition, they need their own personal dream about how they can improve themselves and the world around them.”
“We all need such dreams and I think it’s a very nice thing for him to suggest that everybody in China thinks about their own personal dreams.”
Craig Calhoun, director of the London School of Economics and Political Science, also makes an appearance.
“I think Chinese young people have many dreams and being encouraged to dream is important,” he says.
“I would add that President Xi’s statement is that not that we have one big dream for the Chinese people but every Chinese person should have a dream, and this is also an important recognition that people are different and that they should have the freedom to pursue their own dreams,” Professor Calhoun continues.
The video was posted by the Chinese site "People Television".