At an institutional level, this explanation by Stefan Collini of the commercial hollowing out of higher education and this account of Xia Yieliang, dissident prof at Peking University fired for pungently expressed opinions about CPC rule, have quite a bit in common.
After all, if education is a commodity, it is going to be sold in international markets. And if it is sold in international markets it is going to adapt itself to conditions in those markets. In the international educational commodities markets the question of human rights and democracy does not arise in China in the same sense the question of selling burgers made out of beef does not arise in India for MacDonalds. Both are fine commodities, unsuited for specific markets. There was at least a bit of disquiet among Peking U’s various international partners about Prof Xia’s impending sacking*, but I think Beijing knows that in overall policy terms the relevant decisions have already been taken.
And this, I suppose, brings us back to George Osborne’s decision to rely partly but substantially on Chinese investment to upgrade Britain’s communication and transport infrastructure. Lord knows I’m not a China basher but I find my thoughts taking an increasingly autarkic turn here. For one thing, I’m not entirely confident that the money will turn up, if only because of the absence of top-ranking Chinese pols on George’s tour. He was treated as a person of not much consequence, and that may well go for the deals he’s involved in. But more generally, I kind of prefer having opinions about China from a country which doesn't depend on China to keep the lights on. I also think you should have a choice about whether you want to pay the Chinese state every time you do that.
*it may be that Prof Xia is angling for a US fellowship through brinkmanship. If so, you can't really blame him. If he wants to stay home, he's going to have to shut up. If he wants to speak up, he's going to have to get out. The metric here is if any of the colleges associated with Beida feel able to give him a post, given their contacts with the university. Of course, after the CGC affair, they may be generally less inclined to do that.