The Government support numerous initiatives to promote closer partnerships with China. Following the Prime Minister’s initiative, more than 50,000 Chinese students are currently studying in the UK. The UK-China partners in science initiative identifies potential areas of research collaboration and funds networking between scientists. The research councils will shortly open their first overseas office in Beijing. Our relationship is highly productive. In 2005, this country published more papers jointly with Chinese authors than any other European Union country.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that, on the Select Committee’s recent visit to universities in China, we found a great willingness to engage in serious participation, both at student level and, much more seriously, involving partnerships that really add value for both sides? One senior president of a university told the Select Committee that we could double the research budgets of British universities through closer collaboration and greater emphasis on senior and progressive work.
I am interested in my hon. Friend’s reflections on his visit. I shall be going to China myself at the end of October to help to promote links between our universities and those in China. There are already more than 150 collaborative projects in place between universities here and in China, but if the scope for expanding those links is as great as my hon. Friend suggests, we must clearly do everything that we can to take advantage of them.