Chinese student visas for US at pre-pandemic levels

Source: SupChina (8/24/21)
U.S. granted Chinese student visas at pre-pandemic levels in June
The U.S. issued nearly 34,000 F1 visas in June for Chinese students, about the same level as 2019. It’s not yet clear if the total number of Chinese students for the fall semester will be higher or lower than before the pandemic.
By Lucas Niewenhuis

An education expo in Beijing

An education expo in Beijing in 2018. Photo from Oriental Image via Reuters Connect.

For the approximately 370,000 Chinese students attending school in the U.S., the summer of 2020 was marked by a series of towering hurdles:

Continue reading

Chinese influence in higher education

Another example of corrupting Chinese influence in higher education, in democratic countries — this time from Switzerland:

A tweet cost him his doctorate: The extent of China’s influence on Swiss universities

A Swiss Ph.D. student tweeted critically about China. Afterward, his professor at the University of St. Gallen wanted nothing more to do with him, worried that her own ability to get a visa would be at risk. Larissa Rhyn, Katrin Büchenbacher (text); Christoph Fischer (illustrations) Neue Zürcher Zeitung, August 4, 2021.

See linked article for multiple illustrations.

posted by: Magnus Fiskesjö, nf42@cornell.edu

Fudan’s storm in Budapest (1)

Nice article, But, it’s dubious that “Shanghai’s Fudan University is one of China’s leading universities, ranked 70th in the world and third in mainland China according to the 2021 Times World University Rankings, after Tsinghua University and Peking University.”

That’s only if you believe the Times rankings, which are deeply flawed. We should not circulate such rankings, which ignore the key factor of academic freedom, which must obviously be a factor in ranking global universities. Fudan, Tsinghua, Beijing U, etc. suffer heavy censorship as they are policed by the Communist party (which admits this and promotes this state of affairs), so these universities of course don’t belong at the top.

There is now a better alternative … the new global Academic Freedom Index (AFi). We should use that, and avoid the flawed rankings from Times Higher Education, QS rankings, and the Academic Ranking of World Universities (aka Shanghai), etc. which fail to take these primary basics into account.

For more on this, see f.ex.: “Why university rankings must include academic freedom.” Robert Quinn, Janika Spannagel and Ilyas Saliba, University world news, 11 March 2021.

And: “Free Universities: Putting the Academic Freedom Index Into Action.” By Katrin Kinzelbach, Ilyas Saliba, Janika Spannagel, and Robert Quinn. Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi), 26 Mar 2020.

ps. We should also do more to prevent our own universities from becoming anything like Fudan, Tsinghua, Beijing U. For some ideas, see f.ex.: “Academic freedom is paramount for universities. They can do more to protect it from China’s interference.” By Yun Jiang. The Conversation, June 30, 2021.

Magnus Fiskesjö <nf42@cornell.edu>

No regrets for telling the truth

Listen to “No Regrets for Telling the Truth.”
Free to Think Podcast with Dr. Jo Smith Finley, July 25, 2021.
Also available at Scholars at Risk.

Episode Description

Free to Think talks with Dr. Jo Smith Finley, a reader in Chinese studies at Newcastle University, UK. In March 2021, Dr. Smith Finley, among others, was sanctioned by the government of the People’s Republic of China, including a ban on traveling to China, a freeze on assets, and a ban on collaborating with Chinese counterparts, whether in China or abroad.

The sanctions were in retaliation for Dr. Smith Finley’s research about reported human rights violations in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. These include the forced internment of over one million Uighurs, a largely Muslim ethnic minority, in what some have labeled an ongoing attempted genocide. By targeting the careers of scholars outside of China, the sanctions represent a dramatic escalation in the Party-state’s campaign to censor information that is contrary to the official national narrative, and a threat to academic freedom everywhere.

yrs. sincerely,

Magnus Fiskesjö

Fudan’s storm in Budapest

Source: China Media Project (7/13/21)
Fudan’s Storm in Budapest
As plans by Shanghai’s Fudan University for a new international campus in Budapest’s ninth district meet staunch local opposition, with fears the project is a Trojan horse, it is unclear what lessons the university’s efforts in Hungary will have for the global future of Chinese higher education.
By Fulop Zsofia

Among the 23 sub-districts of Budapest, the ninth district, Ferencváros, has been called a “rustbelt” – a former industrial area now in decline that is awaiting revitalization. But for me, a resident here, Ferencváros is a vibrant place. Not far from the center of Budapest, it edges up to the Danube. The central area has beautiful old buildings, museums, universities, and one of Budapest’s largest and oldest markets. The place teems with young people, bars and a rich nightlife. The residential area on the outside of the district is equally rich in character, and the building I live in, named for the Hungarian poet Attila József, is green and flowery, drawing together a tapestry of young parents, pets and older retired people.

If you open up Google Maps and scan across the ninth district, you will notice certain changes: several streets here have suddenly had their names changed. On June 2, four streets along the Danube in the ninth district underwent sudden name changes. You can now find “Dalai Lama Road,” “Uyghur Martyrs Road,” “Liberate Hong Kong Road” (a reference to the slogan used during the 2019 protests in Hong Kong) and “Bishop Xie Shiguang Road” (referring to a bishop of the underground Roman Catholic Church in China who died in 2005). Continue reading

Meritocracy and Its Discontents–new publication

Meritocracy and Its Discontents: Anxiety and the National College Entrance Exam in China
BY ZACHARY M. HOWLETT
Cornell University Press, 2021

Meritocracy and Its Discontents investigates the wider social, political, religious, and economic dimensions of the Gaokao, China’s national college entrance exam, as well as the complications that arise from its existence.Each year, some nine million high school seniors in China take the Gaokao, which determines college admission and provides a direct but difficult route to an urban lifestyle for China’s hundreds of millions of rural residents. But with college graduates struggling to find good jobs, some are questioning the exam’s legitimacy—and, by extension, the fairness of Chinese society. Chronicling the experiences of underprivileged youth, Zachary M. Howlett’s research illuminates how people remain captivated by the exam because they regard it as fateful—an event both consequential and undetermined. He finds that the exam enables people both to rebel against the social hierarchy and to achieve recognition within it.

In Meritocracy and Its Discontents, Howlett contends that the Gaokao serves as a pivotal rite of passage in which people strive to personify cultural virtues such as diligence, composure, filial devotion, and divine favor.

Latest target of HK crackdown: children’s books

Source: NYT (7/22/21)
The Latest Target of Hong Kong’s Crackdown: Children’s Books
A story that portrayed the police as wolves helped lead to the arrests of five leaders of a speech therapists’ union.
By Austin Ramzy and Tiffany May

A hooded suspect led by a police officer during the arrests of five leaders of a speech therapists’ union in Hong Kong on Thursday. Credit…Vincent Yu/Associated Press

HONG KONG — The fluffy white sheep were constantly harassed by wolves, who tore down their houses, ate their food and even sprayed poison gas. It became too much, and 12 sheep who had tried to defend their village were forced to flee by boat. But they were captured and sent to prison.

That story was told in a children’s book published last year in Hong Kong. The sheep represented 12 activists arrested at sea while trying to escape to Taiwan. The wolves were the Hong Kong police.

On Thursday, the police arrested five leaders of the group behind the book, a speech therapists’ union, accusing them of instilling hatred of the government in children.

With the arrests, the authorities expanded, to the most elementary level of printed materials, a crackdown on political speech aimed at stamping out the dissent expressed during mass protests in 2019. Continue reading

How China bought Cambridge

Source: The Spectator (7/10/21)
How China bought Cambridge
Ian Williams

One of the first places Professor Stephen Toope visited as Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University was the Chinese embassy in London. He posed for photographs with ambassador Liu Xiaoming and the two men discussed furthering the ‘golden era’ of China-UK relations. Shortly after that 2017 meeting, Toope told Xinhua, China’s state news agency: ‘There will be more opportunities to engage actively with China, a country with an extraordinarily growing influence which a university like Cambridge must pay attention to.’

Fast forward three and a half years and the shine has come off the ‘golden era’. But word has been slow to reach Cambridge, where Professor Toope continues his headlong pursuit of Chinese money. China is adept at directing funding towards areas of research which it sees as strategically important and it has targeted a range of British institutions. Few have allowed themselves to be so comprehensively compromised as Cambridge.

The university has begun work on a new home for the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership. It is retrofitting the city’s old telephone exchange at 1 Regent Street, turning it into the ultimate low-energybuilding at a cost of £12.8 million. The building is called Entopia (a play on ‘energy’ and ‘utopia’), a name coined by Lei Zhang, a Chinese billionaire, whose opaque Shanghai-based renewable energy company, Envision, is providing just under half the funds. Continue reading

Science journal editor quits over China boycott article

Source: The Guardian (6/30/21)
Science journal editor says he quit over China boycott article
David Curtis says publisher of Annals of Human Genetics blocked call for protest at treatment of Uyghurs
Matthew Weaver, The Guardian

A Chinese flag flying over a mosque in the Xinjiang region. Photograph: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

The editor of a long-established academic journal has said he resigned after his publisher vetoed a call to boycott Chinese science in protest at Beijing’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.

Prof David Curtis, from University College London’s Genetics Institute, says his resignation as editor-in-chief of the Annals of Human Genetics is an issue of freedom of speech in the face of the science community’s increasing dependence on China.

The Annals was one of five prestigious academic journals, including the Lancet, the BMJ and the Journal of the American Medical Association (Jama), that refused to publish an article [pdf] suggesting that academic journals should take a stance against China’s human rights violations in Xinjiang.

The journals involved have defended rejecting the piece and claimed that a boycott against China would be unfair and counterproductive. They have also denied being unduly deferential to China. But both the Annals publisher, Wiley, and the Lancet did suggest that publication of the letter could pose difficulties for their respective offices in China, the authors claim.

Curtis co-authored the article but said he was prevented from publishing it in his own magazine. He handed in his notice last September in protest and then stood down with immediate effect after rejecting submissions from Chinese academics. Only now has he revealed his reasons for quitting. Continue reading

HK philospher taught life’s meaning, now he visits students in jail

Source: NYT (6/30/21)
Hong Kong Philosopher Taught Life’s Meaning. Now He Visits Students in Jail.
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
Chow Po Chung pushed his students to participate in public affairs — idealism that he worries could cost them their freedom.
By Li Yuan

Chow Po Chung, who teaches at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, has been deeply involved in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

When taking a group photo with college students from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan in 2012, Chow Po Chung, a prominent political philosopher, joked that he hoped none of them would end up in jail in 10 years.

The group erupted in laughter.

Mr. Chow, who teaches at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, had the mainland students in mind. He never expected that it would be two from Hong Kong who would end up in jail nearly a decade later.

A year after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the territory to crush opposition to the ruling Communist Party, visiting friends and former students in prison has become part of his routine.

A best-selling author and a public intellectual whose passionate books and speeches have influenced many young Hong Kong pro-democracy activists, Mr. Chow said the security law had turned his life upside down. Continue reading

China will regulate private tutoring industry

Source: SupChina (6/16/21)
China creates dedicated department to regulate private tutoring industry
Will a renewed crackdown and a new government department specifically to regulate commercial education companies kill the booming industry?
By Jiayun Feng

liaoning students

Students gather on the playground, attending a ceremony to celebrate the new semester at a local primary school, Shenyang city, northeast China’s Liaoning Province. Image from Reuters.

For most of this year, the Chinese Ministry of Education has been cracking down on China’s $120 billion after-school tutoring sector, a lucrative business that has grown rapidly over the past few years as the country’s education system became increasingly cutthroat. Yesterday, the ministry unveiled a new department specifically tasked with further tightening regulatory screws on the industry.

According to a statement (in Chinese) released by the ministry yesterday, the main responsibilities of the new regulator, named the Department of Supervision of Off-Campus Education (校外教育培训监管司), include managing private tutoring services that target middle and primary school students, providing guidance on Party building in private tutoring companies, and drafting policies to regulate the market. Continue reading

The scholar speaking out on China’s crackdown

Source: The Australian (6/20/21)
The scholar speaking out on China’s crackdown on intellectuals
By AFP

Wu Qiang was fired from the prestigious Tsinghua university shortly after he conducted fieldwork at the Occupy Central protests in Hong Kong. AFP

In a small, book-strewn apartment in Beijing’s outskirts lives one of the last Chinese academics who refuses to be silenced by the ruling Communist Party’s relentless crackdown on intellectuals.

Wu Qiang, 50, once had an enviable career as political science lecturer at the elite Tsinghua University.

“This caused shockwaves at Tsinghua. I was cut off and they thought I was a troublemaker,” he said, adding that the university instead gave an “obscure technical reason” for his dismissal.

He also filed a labour lawsuit against Tsinghua earlier this year.

“It is very important not to stop speaking out. You need to comment on politics and society; that’s how you participate in it,” he said. Continue reading

Nanjing University under fire for using sex to sell school

Source: SCMP (6/9/21)
Top Chinese university under fire for using sex to sell school
Nanjing University published photos online of beautiful women holding signs with sexually suggestive text. The school removed the photos after an immediate backlash online.
By Phoebe Zhang in Shenzhen

Nanjing University was blasted online for publishing sexually suggestive photos to recruit students, like this one that reads, “Let me be part of your youth”. Photo: Weibo

Nanjing University was blasted online for publishing sexually suggestive photos to recruit students, like this one that reads, “Let me be part of your youth”. Photo: Weibo

One of the top universities in China is under fire for using women to lure applicants in a sexually suggestive online advertisement, with critics saying the college is objectifying women.

Nanjing University (NJU) posted the advertisement on Weibo on Monday, the first day of the gaokao exams, China’s national college entrance tests.

The advertisement featured six photos of current students holding up signs in front of different parts of the campus.

Two of the photos attracted the most criticism. One included a pretty woman holding up a sign that read, “Do you want to live at the library with me, from morning till night?” and the other said, “Do you want me to become part of your youth?” Continue reading

Critical China Scholars statement on the “lab-leak” investigation (3)

Ah, I was actually secretly hoping the statement was an aberration, a mistake, and that it would be retracted!

As I said the main problem is that we now already know the Chinese regime has made it clear there will be no further international investigation.

As with Xinjiang, they won’t allow any real inquiry — it’s who they are, it’s how their system works, especially when they are hiding too much, in the case of Covid, not just embarrassing mistakes but intentional wrongdoing — and we can compare the massive historic crimes the same men are committing in Xinjiang, where the international demands for a UN investigation also have long passed their best-before date (See my “Michelle Bachelet should not go to Xinjiang on Chinese government terms“).

We know this about China: On Covid, as elsewhere, they are protecting the set narrative of the infallible great leader who won’t be contradicted and who only allows parrots. They believe absolute thought control is priority #1, to keep the power elite in place. This is why the regime has gone so far as to humiliate the WHO, the international organisation that should have been handling this on the world’s behalf. We now know a lot about how WHO officials and professionals have been seething with frustration over this treatment.

In this situation, when the WHO has been disabled, there is no alternative to other countries opening their own investigations as best they can, and we should applaud that, for the sake of the millions who died. This is serious business that can’t wait for the Chinese regime’s approval. Continue reading

Academics continue China research while targeted by China sanctions

Source:  University World News (6/2/21)
Academics continue China research – while targeted by China sanctions
By Yojana Sharma

After China targeted academics and a research centre in Europe for its first ever sanctions against foreign researchers in March 2021, many feared it would have a wider impact on academic research on China.

But speaking some weeks after the imposition of sanctions on 22 and 26 March, imposed in part due to their work on China’s Xinjiang region, researchers said their work has hardly been impacted by Chinese sanctions as it was already hampered previously by unofficial restrictions and harassment.

However, some feared that sanctions could be widened to more academics as part of much wider geopolitical tensions, affecting China-related research globally. It could also impact on other areas where China sees it has leverage, such as sending international students to universities.

In March China sanctioned Joanne Smith Finley, a reader in Chinese studies at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, for what the Chinese foreign ministry called “maliciously spreading lies and information” about Xinjiang; Björn Jerdén, director of the Swedish National China Centre at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs in Stockholm; and Adrian Zenz, a German expert on Xinjiang who is currently senior fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in the United States. Continue reading