torsdag 18. juli 2019

The Great Firewall of Chinese Academia

On June 21, former Peking University Law School professor Gong Renren published an essay on the prospects for official plans to lift China’s universities into the global top tier. While massive financial investment may enable this in the fields of science and technology, he argued, the ever-tightening political environment works in several ways to thwart it elsewhere: “History has repeatedly demonstrated that in an environment lacking free speech or one in which true academic independence is absent, even though certain fields in the sciences may advance rapidly, the humanities and social sciences will remain seriously constrained. […] They will also hold back our society as a whole and the very civilisation that it professes to support.” 

The essay has been translated in full at China Heritage by Geremie Barmé, who described it in his extensive introduction as “nothing less than an indictment of China’s academic culture, an accusation of mediocrity and a critique of a cowed and compliant intelligentsia,” as well as “a caution to all international university cum-businesses that have so eagerly enmeshed themselves with China’s People’s Republic.” One key aspect of the current constriction, Gong argues, is the politically motivated exclusion of foreign influence which has escalated in recent years in the academic, legal, and other spheres.