A history of gaokao essay questions

Source: Sup China (6/7)19
From Propaganda To Pollution To Smartphones: A History Of Gaokao Essay Questions
For many Chinese high school students, today marked the beginning of three days of Hell.
By Tianyu M. Fang

No other assessment test has been taken by more people than the gaokao, China’s national college entrance examination. Almost every Chinese college graduate you’ve met has at least taken it once, twice, or maybe three times (as was the case with Jack Ma, founder of tech giant Alibaba). What that means is, hundreds of millions of Chinese have gone through the experience of cramming for the test, memorizing materials (up to 60 pieces of ancient Chinese texts), and stressing about whether Lu Xun really meant what he wrote.

It’s no wonder, then, that each year’s gaokao essay questions — which are subjective and often open to interpretation, if not outright confusing — become topics of public scrutiny and debate: because everyone has experienced, to a certain extent, the bewilderment of seeing a question such as, “Write a poem about ‘circle.’” Continue reading

Nicholas Clifford, 1930-2019

In Memoriam: Nicholas Clifford, 1930-2019

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Middlebury today mourns the loss of Nicholas R. Clifford, who, as a scholar, professor, administrator, trustee, and driving force behind the study of Chinese language and East Asian studies at the College, has left a lasting impact on the institution he so dearly loved and served for more than half a century.

“He was, quite simply, one of the most admirable and beloved members of the widespread College community,” said John D. Berninghausen, the Truscott Professor Emeritus of Chinese Studies. “A real junzi [Chinese for ‘gentleman’ or ‘cultivated person’], Nick was a man of honor and integrity, personal as well as professional. He was one of the wisest, fairest, most judicious, and intelligent people I have ever met.” Continue reading

How a journal censored my review on Xinjiang (6)

Source: Inside Higher Education (5/20/19)
X-ing Out Xinjiang
By Elizabeth Redden
A China studies scholar says a journal editor censored him by striking out a section of a book review critical of the Chinese government’s policies in Xinjiang. The editor denies it was censorship.

Courtesy of Timothy Grose

In yet another case of alleged censorship in the China studies field, a scholar says a journal editor censored his book review by requesting the deletion of an opening paragraph that contextualized the book in light of Chinese Communist Party policy toward members of the Uighur ethnic minority group in the region of Xinjiang. Human rights groups estimate that China has detained as many as one million Uighurs in camps as part of a mass “re-education” drive aimed at forcing the assimilation of Uighurs and other Muslim-majority groups.

The scholar, Timothy Grose, an assistant professor of China studies at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, says the requested deletions — and the refusal over multiple months to publish the piece after he did not consent to them — constitute an “open-and-shut” case of censorship, and he has noted that the editor in chief of the journal is on record defending Chinese government policy in Xinjiang. Continue reading

How a journal censored by review of Xinjiang (5)

May I chime in as an Uyghur scholar?

I don’t think to hold a person accountable for restricting academic freedom is attacking. We should hold Brill accountable for their lack of communication and oversight but the person who is responsible for censoring the content is at fault from the beginning. Maybe it is my personal experience and feelings as an Uyghur are clouding my judgment, but at least my view comes from a desire for academic freedom, which I never had before coming to the US. If calling out Han Xiaorong for not respecting academic freedom is “attacking” him, well, count me in! I’m “attacking” Han Xiaorong for attempting to censor Dr. Grose’s review. It also is irresponsible of us if we solely put the blame on Brill, and would only perpetuate this kind of abhorrent behavior further.

Mirshad Ghalip <mieralif@iu.edu>
Department of Anthropology
Indiana University

How a journal censored my review on Xinjiang (5)

Recently a suspected case of censorship in one of Brill’s journals came to our attention, involving a book review written by Timothy Grose for our new journal China and Asia: A Journal in Historical Studies.  We have heard about the case on 7 April through Timothy Grose’s posting on social media and have acted immediately by contacting him. During the last weeks we were in a process of gathering information about the case. We have received a report from the author and copies of the correspondence between the author and editor. On 16 May we have received a report from the editor describing his perspective of the events. We will review this information to decide whether our publication ethics have been breached. As publisher we are never involved with editorial decisions and our editorial boards enjoy complete academic freedom. However, if our publication ethics have been breached, we will not hesitate to take appropriate action. Censorship or any other bias to race, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief, ethnic origin, citizenship, or political philosophy of the authors would be a clear breach of our ethical standards and are not acceptable.

Jasmin Lange <langej@brill.com>
Chief Publishing Officer, Brill

How a journal censored my review on Xinjiang (4)

I do not believe it is fruitful or correct to focus on Han Xiaorong or any one person. I do believe Brill, as a publisher and as a business that purports to work in the academic world of free inquiry, needs to take responsibility for its attempts to play all sides of a very fraught issue. It cannot be an honest broker without honesty. Brill needs to be held to account. The attacks on Han Xiaorong need to stop. In my opinion.

Rebecca Karl <karl.rebecca22@gmail.com>

How a journal censored my review on Xinjiang (3)

No one ever openly and proudly admits that they are engaged in censorship. I get it. Even the Propaganda Department would like to be known as the Publicity Department.

And yet, like the famous quote about obscenity, when it comes to censorship, I know it when I see it. And despite Han Xiaorong’s attempts to explain away what happened at the journal China and Asia, this seems to me to be an extremely clear-cut case of censorship.

Han claims that the reference to Xinjiang’s concentration camps at the beginning of Grose’s review is “political” and thus somehow inappropriate. But as someone who writes a fair amount of book reviews, I’ve never encountered an editor who was resistant to linking a book review to pressing current affairs. This applies even to journals focused on history. Books are, after all, read in the context of the world as it is today, and I find it frankly impossible to read Cliff’s book without thinking about the ongoing tragedy in Xinjiang. Continue reading

How a journal censored my review on Xinjiang (1)

My Response to Timothy Grose’s “How an Academic Journal Censored My Review on Xinjiang”
Han Xiaorong
Department of Chinese Culture
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

As the editor-in-chief of China and Asia, I was solely responsible for selecting reviews for the first issue of our journal, and none of our advisers or editorial board members was involved in the selection process. In other words, Tim was on target by focusing his criticism on me.

Due to miscommunications between our book review editor and me (for this I offer my sincere apology to all parties involved), we acquired two book reviews (one was from Timothy Grose about Xinjiang, and the other reviews a book about the Chinese Communist revolution) that were not directly relevant to our journal’s central theme, which is China’s historical relations with other Asian countries. This is why I did not include these two reviews in our first issue. For the list of works published in the first issue of our journal, please click here.

Each piece in that issue deals with China’s historical interactions with other parts of Asia, specifically between China and the Indian Ocean world and between China and Korea. Continue reading

How a journal censored my review on Xinjiang

More Brill malfeasance. How sincere is the publisher about not bowing to pre-emptive censorship? Or was the Frontiers mea culpa all window dressing, as I now suspect it was.–Rebecca Karl

Source: LARB China Channel (5/13/19)
How an Academic Journal Censored My Review on Xinjiang
By Timothy Grose
A squelched review of Oil and Water by Tom Cliff – Timothy Grose

On January 1, 2018, I received a request from China and Asia: A Journal in Historical Studies, a new journal sponsored by the academic publisher Brill, a respected Dutch publishing house with some 275 journals under its aegis, which claims “over three centuries of scholarly publishing.” The request from the journal was to review Tom Cliff’s book Oil and Water – an ethnography about Han settler experiences in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. I agreed, and the review had a generous November 2018 deadline as the journal would publish its first edition in early 2019. The journal’s book review editor is a trusted friend, and I was pleased to read China and Asia’s mission statement: “Its purpose is to promote communication and exchange among the global Asian studies community, especially among scholars based in Asian countries.” Continue reading

3 more universities close CIs

Source: Inside Higher Education (5/1/19)
3 More Universities Close Confucius Institutes
By Elizabeth Redden

Three more universities are closing their Confucius Institutes, bringing the total number of universities that have announced closures of the Chinese government-funded centers for language education over the past 15 months to at least 15.

San Francisco State University, the University of Oregon and Western Kentucky University all announced within the last two weeks that they would close their Confucius Institutes after the Department of Defense declined their requests for waivers that would allow them to continue to operate both a Confucius Institute and a Defense Department-funded Chinese Language Flagship program. The National Defense Authorization Act signed into law last August prohibits universities that host Confucius Institutes from receiving Defense Department funding for Chinese language study. The Pentagon declined all requests it received for waivers to that prohibition, according to Newsweek. Continue reading

Sent-down youths revisited

Source: Daily Mail (4/12/19)
China plans to send millions of students from cities to the countryside to ‘develop’ rural areas amid fears that Mao’s Cultural Revolution is making a comeback

  • 10 million Communist Youth League students will be sent to ‘rural zones’ by 2022
  • They will help villagers ‘increase skills, spread civilisation and promote science’
  • Plan raises fears of a return to methods of Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution


Students of the China Young Pioneers, an organisation run by the Communist Youth League, salute during a ceremony held for International Children’s Day at Qiyi Primary School on May 31, 2009 in Beijing. The CYL has promised to despatch more than 10 million students to ‘rural zones’ by 2022 to ‘increase their skills, spread civilisation and promote science’

China is planning to send millions of youth ‘volunteers’ back to the villages, raising fears of a return to the methods of Chairman Mao’s brutal Cultural Revolution of 50 years ago.

The Communist Youth League (CYL) has promised to despatch more than 10 million students to ‘rural zones’ by 2022 in order to ‘increase their skills, spread civilisation and promote science and technology,’ according to a Communist Party document. Continue reading

An Open Letter to Tsinghua University

An Open Letter to Tsinghua University
Dr. Qiu Yong
President, Tsinghua University

Dear President Qiu,

Tsinghua University, one of the most highly ranked universities in the world, has suffered severe damage to its academic reputation as a consequence of the university’s punishment of Professor Xu Zhangrun.

As members of the international academic community, we urge the university to restore Professor Xu’s normal status in the university, including his teaching and research duties, and to refrain from any further sanctions against him.


To sign this letter, please email your name and affiliation to: ProfXu2019@gmail.com

This letter is open until April 19, 2019, after which it will be sent to Tsinghua University. It will also be made public.

Initial signatories:

Geremie R. Barmé, The Australian National University
Jean-Philippe Béja, CNRS/CERI-Sciences-Po (Centre de Recherches Internationales)
Ian Buruma, Bard College
Steven I. Levine, University of Montana
Perry Link, University of California, Riverside
Andrew J. Nathan, Columbia University
Orville Schell, Asia Society

Institution names are for identification purposes only.

Professor demoted over in-class comments

Source: RFA (3/29/19)
University in China’s Chongqing Demotes Professor Over Comments Made in Class

Tang Yun, a deputy professor at the Chongqing Normal University, in undated photo.

Tang Yun, a deputy professor at the Chongqing Normal University, in undated photo. Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

A university in the southwestern city of Chongqing has barred another professor from the classroom as the ruling Chinese Communist Party wages ideological warfare on the country’s campuses.

Tang Yun, a 56-year-old deputy professor at the Chongqing Normal University, was stripped of his rank and teaching credentials after he made “comments injurious to the country’s reputation,” an official directive issued by the school said.

Tang, who penned the university’s anthem, was also accused of being “abad influence” on staff and students at the school. Continue reading

J’accuse, Tsinghua

Source: China Heritage (3/27/19)
J’accuse, Tsinghua University!

On 21 March, the same day on which President Bacow of Harvard delivered a powerful lecture at Peking University in which he extolled the virtues of academic inquiry, independence of thought and the pursuit of excellence, ‘next door’ on the campus of Tsinghua University, Professor Xu Zhangrun 許章潤, a noted scholar of law with an international reputation, was formally notified that henceforth he was banned from all teaching activities. Xu was also told that, on Monday 25 March, the university would launch formal disciplinary action against him for his recent writings, some of which have been translated and published by China Heritage (for a list of these, see below). Xu was to be taken task for exemplifying the very qualities that President Bacow advocated when addressing his audience at Peking University.

On hearing of Xu’s suspension, the celebrated independent writer Zhang Yihe (章詒和, 1942-) published a short note in which she expressed outrage and demanded answers from Tsinghua University. In her comments Zhang listed eight major essays that Xu Zhangrun had published in recent years, unique in that they publicly question the country’s rulers and the political direction of the nation. Meanwhile, Geng Xiaonan 耿瀟男, a film critic and publisher, declared in an online post that Xu’s essays were:

直擊七寸, 劍指廟堂。
Blows directed at their Achille’s Heel;
A sword pointed at their Sacred Heart. Continue reading