Charles Moore Charles Moore

Jesus College’s China problem

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Although Stephen Toope, vice-chancellor of Cambridge University, is committed to openness, it is a struggle to get information out of him about his university’s dealings with the Chinese Communist party. He has declined an interview, and when I raised questions about Jesus College’s China Centre and other China links, which he has publicly backed, he replied that ‘You cited one very specific initiative, organised by one of our 31 colleges, with a very narrow thematic focus’. I wrote back with further questions, but he says he is ‘not able to add anything to my earlier remark about Jesus College’. I also wrote to Sonita Alleyne, the Master of Jesus, who also declined an interview: she must ‘focus on the immediate needs of our community’ instead. On its website, Jesus speaks of its alumni as ‘a lifelong community’, but I discover that they, too, are not getting substantive replies. The Jesuan Sir John Jenkins, distinguished former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, wrote to Ms Alleyne to ask whether the college would be prepared to invite a senior figure critical of Xi Jinping to address it. The Master’s secretary replied: ‘The College aims to foster a community of freedom of thought and expression in which all its members can flourish. Feedback from our alumni… is always welcome. We are proud of our wide range of research partners and academic independence. Please see www.jesus.cam.ac.uk/research for more details on the work of the China Centre.’ Finally, I tried Professor Peter Nolan, the China Centre director, and a long-term admirer of Xi’s ‘national rejuvenation’. When Professor Nolan retired from his university chair, he was given a Class A fellowship at Jesus, a high privilege at that stage in life which caused resentment among his peers. He is the one with the money-producing contacts at high levels of the Communist party.

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