Good position for further cooperation with China

Compared to other Swedish universities, KTH has a special relationship with China, thanks to investments over a 15-20 year period to establish close cooperation with leading universities in the country. This almost two decade partnership with students moving in both directions and joint research projects, puts us in a strong position for further partnerships in China.

I returned from an intensive tour of China about a week ago. The programme included a visit to Shanghai Jiao Tong University in Shanghai, one of KTH’s key partner universities. While there, I also gave a lecture to some 200 students on the subject of the Swedish model with regard to education, research and innovation, and attended an event arranged by the Shanghai alumni chapter. From there, I headed to Hangzhou where I visited Zhejiang University, another KTH key partner university and also took part in the official opening of Westlake University, the first private university in China.

China, along with Southeast Asia in general, is making enormous investments in knowledge and as part of this, in universities and colleges. Several universities in China have moved up the international rankings very swiftly in a short period of time. Within areas such as AI, China is the world leader, alongside the USA. This has helped persuade internationally active researchers and teachers to return. The newly opened Westlake University is looking to recruit 300 people for faculty services in the next few years. There is a clear strategy that also means major investments in education and research infrastructure.

A report published recently ( https://www.regeringen.se/artiklar/2018/10/sverige-och-kina–starkt-samverkan-for-en-hallbar-framtid/) describes developments within research, innovation and higher education in China and presents proposals for how Sweden can strengthen cooperation with China. One point that was raised is that Sweden needs to build up know-how about China at all levels and that long-term relationships are important. The report also says that there should be a specific focus on cooperation concerning sustainable development and Agenda 2030. This puts KTH in an excellent position for continued relationships as we have gained a good reputation over our two decades of cooperation, where KTH alumni have proved splendid ambassadors. The KTH pillar of sustainable development integrated into education and research creates a good foundation for continued development in partnership with China. Cooperation ought to be both open and mutual, while never forgetting the benefits for the development of KTH and Sweden.

To summarise, I can say that I was struck by what an open and friendly reception I received during my visit and that the core academic values are clearly in place, even though it is incredibly difficult to assess the political dimension. The other day, I read an article in http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20181101082011396that paints a different picture of academic reality, however.

This, in turn, made me pause to reflect on the importance of Swedish universities in general needing much better knowledge of conditions in a country or region and the challenges (as were named in the report I mentioned above), and that we need to take a common stance on when we should cooperate and when we should not do so. Academic core values are worth defending and if KTH and Sweden can contribute to positive development in the world, this would be good.

However, now and then, it is important to bear in mind that Sweden is a small country in northern Europe, so our penetration and our visibility do not always coincide with our self-image, perhaps?  As such, strategic alliances that enable us to punch above our weight on the world stage, are very important.