by Jeanne Smits, LifeSite News:
February 22, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — An increasing number of expensive independent schools in the U.K. have been bought by Chinese investors whose objectives are far from being merely economic, according to an investigation by conservative British tabloid Daily Mail.
While the trend has been visible over the last four years, with seventeen deals being put through by Chinese companies, many of them linked to high-ranking Communist Party officials, it is expected that further “hundreds” of schools are presently being targeted, as many face a substantial shrinkage of their revenue due to COVID-19 restrictions, including lockdown. According to the Daily Mail, the new Chinese owners are in some cases using their position to foster a positive view of Chinese politics and commercial initiatives.
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Fall of assets was caused by a decrease in enrollments, but also in fees, as children remained at home because of lockdowns, bringing down the amounts charged for boarding and on-the-spot tuition: 20 percent less for day-pupils and up to 35 percent less for boarders. At the same time, tuition expenditures could not be slashed because the schools needed to continue giving classes to “online pupils” and to welcome children of key workers who could not follow school from home.
Bringing schools onto the market is a corollary of the fact that they can be “for profit” companies with high tuition and boarding fees seeking the patronage of the wealthy and powerful. They are often designed to cater to the offspring of an actual or perceived elite, both British and from abroad, offering their academic excellence to help pupils achieve enrollment in the most desirable universities in the U.K. and in the U.S.
This means that the kind of education they give will ultimately express itself in the private or public careers in which their students hope to succeed – leaving their mark on the world inhabited by lesser mortals.
The Mail on Sunday’s latest edition — the Sunday edition of the Daily Mail — began its story with a dire warning: “The British schools selling out to Beijing: Not only are private institutions being bought by Chinese firms but some are giving communist-approved lessons that are a threat to free speech.”
It added that “experts anticipate a ‘feeding frenzy’ as firms, including some run by high-ranking members of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, seek to expand their influence over Britain’s education system.” The newspaper’s investigation revealed that “nine of the 17 schools” already under Chinese control “are owned by firms whose founders or bosses are among China’s most senior Communist Party members.”
One of the key companies buying up schools in Great Britain is Bright Scholar, which acquired Bournemouth Collegiate School, St Michael’s School in Llanelli, Carmarthanshire, and Bosworth Independent College in Northampton in 2018 and 2019. Its owner is Yang Huiyan, the richest woman in Asia with a reported net worth of almost 30 billion dollars, and heiress of the business founded by her father, Yang Guoqiang, a member of the Communist Party’s highest-ranking advisory council, revealed the Mail.
Bright Scholar is one of the largest “education providers” in China and is also listed on the New York Stock Exchange; its aim is “to educate the future leaders of China as well as the future backbone of Chinese society.”
A Financial Times story in 2019 showed that the group was already gaining revenue from its international acquisitions and that these are also aimed at offering foreign students, many of which come from China, a better chance of entering the best universities in the U.K. and the U.S. Its schools in China are operated in full concord with the communist authorities and the mandated teaching curriculum.
Two further independent schools, Bedstone College (the equivalent of an American high school) in Shropshire and Ipswich High School (where famous author Enid Blyton was educated) are now owned by Chinese Wanda Group, the Daily Mail notes. Wanda was founded by Wang Jianlin, a former People’s Liberation Army soldier whose fortune is estimated at some $15 billion. He is a member of China’s senior Communist Party advisory council.
Other communist party officials quoted by the Daily Mail include senior members on the board of China First Capital Group (CFCG), whichs owns Kingsley School in Devon and Heathfield Knoll School in Worcestershire. CFCG specialized in the automotive parts business until 2014, when it expanded its main activities to financial services.
Two years later, the Group “continued to diversify its business, with a mission of ‘Finance Empowers Education, Education Lights Up Future’ and to establish a trinitarians [sic] interactive business mode, which capitalised educational investment as base and both educational management service and educational financial service as cradles. The Group aspires to become ‘a globally influential financial services group focusing on education,’” to quote its own company overview.
This overall Chinese influence on British education is set to grow as schools in England face financial difficulties linked to lockdown and hyper-rich Chinese groups have the wherewithal to help them bridge the gap to better times.
It should not be forgotten that lockdowns as a response to COVID-19 “originated on the order of Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, and were propagated into global policy by the World Health Organization with little analysis or logic,” according to a noteworthy analysis by a group of lawyers and politicians who believe that “China tricked the world into committing economic suicide.”