On China’s campuses, scholars battle ideology and red tape

Jun 8, 2015 by

More academics say their work is coming under a cloud that has Mao-era features as President Xi Jinping tightens the screws on independent thought.

By Verna Yu –

In the two years since China’s Communist Party put forth a sweeping new ideological edict, a deep chill has settled among many intellectuals and scholars.

New restrictions on freedom of thought at Chinese colleges – havens of relatively open expression – are taking hold. Scholars are experiencing an increasingly stifling academic environment.

Professors, especially in law and the humanities, describe a loss of academic freedom. They speak of new prohibitions against teaching the concepts behind human rights law, or debates arising out of democratic “color revolutions” and the Arab Spring, to name a few, topics that would be found at most colleges around the world.

“If I’m not allowed to [even] talk about citizens’ rights, civil society, judicial independence,” says Chen Hongguo, former associate law professor at Northwest University of Politics and Law, “then what qualifies me to teach in the law faculty?”

The outcry by academics comes even as many economists in Asia argue that China needs greater openness to develop an economy that relies on innovation and knowledge.

Yet party officials are cutting or constraining trips to academic conferences and travel deemed professionally important, scholars say. Student reading lists are being vetted for ideological content; the range of approved research subjects are narrowing; and large swaths of “Western” intellectual inquiry are being characterized as “hostile” pursuits.

Universities are part of a new “ideological battleground” in China, says Willy Lam, adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. President Xi Jinping, says Mr. Lam, is trying to restore core Mao-era communist values and ideals across Chinese society and wants to colleges to fall into line.

Source: On China’s campuses, scholars battle ideology and red tape – CSMonitor.com

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.