China looks to Western classics

Source: SupChina (1/13/22)
China looks to the Western classics
By Chang Che

Illustration for SupChina by Alex Santafé

As American universities reevaluate the role of Western classical education, Latin and Greek courses are proliferating in China, where students see the Classics as a wellspring of wisdom that remains relevant regardless of hemisphere.

A block east of Tiananmen Square, in a classroom last July, Chinese school children were singing the nursery rhyme “Old McDonald Had a Farm” in Latin: “Donatus est agricola, Eia, Eia, Oh!” The students, aged 11 to 17, were taking an introductory Latin class with Leopold Leeb, a professor of literature at the prestigious Renmin University.

Every weekday during the summer, from nine a.m. to noon, Leeb holds a public class in a marble white church just a stone’s throw away from Beijing’s central government. On the day I attended, Leeb had given each student a Roman name. There was a Gaius, a Flavius, a Monica, and two sisters, Amata and Augusta. The sisters came from Changping, a two-and-a-half-hour train ride away. They sat in the front row and took naps during the 10-minute breaks.

In the halls of China’s elite universities, Leopold Leeb is sometimes known as “the legendary Austrian.” His friends affectionately call him “Leizi” — Lei from his Chinese name Léi Lìbó 雷立柏, and  (子) an ancient honorific reserved for esteemed Chinese intellectuals, as in Confucius (孔子 Kǒngzǐ), Mencius (孟子 Mèngzǐ), and Lao Tzu (老子 Lǎozǐ). For Leeb, a pioneer of Classics education (the study of Greco-Roman antiquity) in China, the sobriquet is apt: Leeb’s textbooks and dictionaries form a rite of passage for nearly all Chinese who wish to embark on Western Classical study. He has written several monographs on Greek and Roman history, 13 Classics dictionaries, nine textbooks, and over two dozen comparative works, giving Chinese readers access to Western ideas and texts. At 54 with no family and no hobbies, he displays an almost religious devotion to his work. “Obviously,” one colleague wrote of him recently, Leeb is “more concerned about China’s yesterday, today, and tomorrow than many Chinese.” Continue reading

Struggling for historical truth

Source: China Media Project (12/20/21)
Struggling for Historical Truth
By David Bandurski
Late last week, Song Gengyi, a journalism teacher at a vocational college in Shanghai, was fired for making “erroneous remarks” on the number of victims of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre. Her firing prompted a fierce struggle online between those who saw her as a lacking patriotism and those who believed she was treated unfairly. But online censorship seems to have given the first group the upper hand.

Song Gengyi, a journalism instructor who was fired from her job at Shanghai’s Aurora College on December 16.

The firing on Thursday of a teacher at a vocational college in Shanghai who, according to state media made the “erroneous remarks” on the number of victims of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre, has prompted a fierce struggle online over the right to explore historical truths. But censorship by the authorities has effectively silenced voices in support of the teacher, sending the message that nuance about CCP orthodoxy on history will not be accepted – and that teachers should beware of student informants in the classroom.

The storm began on December 15 as a short video circulated online – apparently shared by a student “informant” – of a lecture in which Song Gengyi (宋庚一) questioned the 300,000 official number given by the Chinese government for the number of victims in the Nanjing Massacre, a tragedy that unfolded on December 13, 1937, as the Imperial Japanese Army captured the capital city of Nanjing during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Song made the remarks during her December 14 “News Interview” (新闻采访) course at Shanghai’s Aurora College, held the day after nationwide commemoration of the massacre’s anniversary.

On the afternoon of Thursday, December 16, the official Weibo account of the People’s Daily, the CCP’s flagship newspaper, weighed in on Song’s remarks. The tone of the post, which called the 300,000 number “iron-clad fact” (铁证如山), was severe. It said that Song was “errant as a teacher” (枉为人师) for “questioning historical truth,” and that she was “errant as a compatriot” (枉为国人) for “forgetting hardships and denying the evil deeds of another country.” Continue reading

Purdue president responds to Chinese student’s harassment

There’s been an important statement from Purdue University’s president regarding harassment of Chinese students by pro-regime ultranationalist students: reacting to the recent ProPublica report on such harassment, Purdue University President Mitch Daniels sent a message to Purdue students, faculty and staff:

My comment on his statement, also posted on Twitter:

Good. Just one thing: Don’t blame just the Chinese pro-regime harassers, on our campuses. They’re often instigated by the regime, via their nearest consulate. Those officers need to be told off, and closely monitored for violations.

Also, Chinese “education” consular officers should not be allowed to infiltrate and dominate on-campus Chinese student associations for spying purposes, like they have long been doing, with impunity, all over.

The failure to stop the long-running ultranationalist pro-regime political harassment of Chinese students, is a great betrayal of all those Chinese students who thought they’d be enjoying some freedom of speech, and thought, for a while.

Magnus Fiskesjö,

Even on US campuses, China cracks down on students who speak out

Source: ProPublica (11/30/21)
Even on U.S. Campuses, China Cracks Down on Students Who Speak Out
By Sebastian Rotella, photography by Haruka Sakaguchi, special to ProPublica

Students and scholars from China who criticize the regime in Beijing can face quick retaliation from fellow students and Chinese officials who harass their families back home. U.S. universities rarely intervene.

The campus of Brandeis University. An online panel sponsored by the school about atrocities against Uyghurs was disrupted last year.

On the bucolic campus of Purdue University in Indiana, deep in America’s heartland and 7,000 miles from his home in China, Zhihao Kong thought he could finally express himself.

In a rush of adrenaline last year, the graduate student posted an open letter on a dissident website praising the heroism of the students killed in the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

The blowback, he said, was fast and frightening. His parents called from China, crying. Officers of the Ministry of State Security, the feared civilian spy agency, had warned them about his activism in the United States.

“They told us to make you stop or we are all in trouble,” his parents said.

Then other Chinese students at Purdue began hounding him, calling him a CIA agent and threatening to report him to the embassy and the MSS. Continue reading

Schools impede women from entering male professions

Source: NYT (10/21/21)
As Chinese Women Seek to Crack Male Professions, Schools Stand in the Way
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
In China, some academic programs accept only men or cap the number of female applicants, who often must test higher than their male counterparts.
By Joy Dong

A graduation ceremony at Renmin University in Beijing last year. Credit…Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

When Vincy Li applied to a prestigious police academy graduate program in China, she knew her odds of success were low. After all, the school set quotas, typically capping the number of female students at no more than a quarter of the student body.

But her chances were even lower. When the school released admissions results earlier this year, just five out of 140 students who had tested into the program — less than 4 percent — were female, even though more than 1,000 women had applied. And the lowest-scoring woman to get in did 40 points better than the lowest-scoring male applicant who was admitted, according to the school’s admission data.

For Ms. Li, the message was clear: Women weren’t welcome.

“Female students were totally shocked,” said Ms. Li, who had spent more than a year preparing for the exam. “I don’t understand why they don’t even offer those academic opportunities to us.” Continue reading

Citizenship and Education conference–cfp

Call for Submission: Citizenship and Education in Contemporary Chinese Societies: Contexts, Perspectives, and Understandings
International Interdisciplinary Virtual Conference, January 2022

This international conference will explore the varieties of citizen-making embedded in the socio-educational transformation of Chinese societies. ‘Citizenship’ is a new construct in the modern Chinese context. Since the Republic of China period, scholars have been concerned with the practice of citizenship education and how to indigenise it in Chinese societies. The discursive construction of ‘citizens’ in modern China is intertwined with two opposing ideologies (Guo, 2014). The first is statism, which emphasises the building of a powerful nation-state by shaping the civic consciousness of the Chinese people, while downplaying citizenship rights. The second is individualism, which deviates from Confucian tradition and embraces the Western culture of citizenship to build a more liberal nation-state. While the socialist regime has overwhelmingly emphasised statism and collectivism, individualisation and a consequent rise in individual consciousness of citizenship rights have emerged in post-Mao China (Yan, 2010). Continue reading

U of Kansas MA program


The East Asian Languages and Cultures Department at the University of Kansas (KU) is accepting applications for its Spring 2022 and Fall 2022 Master’s degree program!


Fall priority—February 1*
Fall final—May 1
Spring final—December 1

*If you want to be considered for FLAS and university scholarships/fellowships, you need to submit all application materials for Fall matriculation by December 1.

Why Do an MA in Our Program?

The M.A. in EALC program gives you the best training in three of the world’s most commonly spoken languages. We have an expert faculty who can give you the best guidance possible, and we link with other departments at KU to provide you with opportunities in many fields.

The University of Kansas is an awardee of the Department of Education’s Title VI grant to support students’ language acquisition and tuition waiver through Foreign Language Acquisition Scholarships (FLAS). There is possible financial support not only in FLAS but as a GTA for courses in EALC. Continue reading

HKU on the frontline of a battle for democracy

Source: CNN (9/18/21)
One of Asia’s most prestigious universities is on the frontline of a battle for democracy
By CNN staff


Hong Kong (CNN)Students and lecturers at Hong Kong‘s most prestigious university returned from summer break this month to a very different institution.

The Democracy Wall at the University of Hong Kong (better known as HKU) — a pinboard where students once shared political thoughts — is gone. The student union, which once advocated for students, is all but defunct, with four of its members facing charges of advocating terrorism.

Although many students and academics were happy to be back on campus — many for the first time since the start of the pandemic — a political chill hangs over the university that some staff say is influencing how they teach.

While the Hong Kong government told CNN the city’s universities “continue to enjoy academic freedom,” four current HKU staff who spoke with CNN on condition of anonymity said they are more cautious about what they say in class, afraid that their own students could report them to authorities.

The self-censorship began after June last year when Beijing imposed a controversial and sweeping national security law on the city. Since then, more than 140 people have been arrested under the law, including activists, journalists, politicians and educators, and, of those, 85 have been charged. Continue reading

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,

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 <>

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
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