You may have spotted the large and inflammatory headline on the front of the paper. I hope that you are not expecting to see academics dragged out of their labs and pelted with vegetables on Queen’s lawn. As entertaining as I am sure it would be, I think it is unlikely.
I will tell you what will likely happen instead. No academics will be found to have contravened the Export Control Order 2008, no one will go to prison.
The episode will likely fade into the background, another ignoble episode in our time at Imperial that entertains, horrifies and is completely true to form.
Back in 2019, Australian universities were warning the rest of the world what the consequences of not standing up to Chinese power projection in tertiary education. A third of Australian foreign students were from mainland China and were worth around £18.5 billion a year to the Australian economy. Accusations of intellectual property theft and the misuse of commercial donations to gain access to sensitive research, including research used to identify ethnic Uighurs complelled Australia to pass laws to limit Chinese influence. This came 14 years after a whistleblower warned Australia about the extent of Chinese tertiary eduction infiltration.
How quickly times change.
This year global education provider Navitas has warned that rising geopolitical tensions between the two countries means that as many as 80% of Chinese education agents telling their student customers to avoid Australia due to border restrictions and geopolitical posturing.
Here in the UK we pride ourselves on being an open nation. We pride ourselves on welcoming academics from around the globe and statements from Imperial often refer to the publication of research in open journals that can be perused by anyone in the world, thereby adding to the total sum of human knowledge.
Keeping that spirit alive at Imperial is vital. However, at the same time, the Imperial College and Union leadership should not be naive. We have the freedom we have due to the nation we are living in. If it becomes apparent that the CCP threatens this freedom, we must be resolute in condemning it.