U.S. College takes on the Communist Party

Nieuws | de redactie
7 oktober 2013 | With President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on academic freedom, international university cooperation becomes precarious. Wellesley College threatens to withdraw from the cooperation with Beijing University if critical economist Xia Yeliang is sacked.

What will Wellesley College do when the Chinese government sacks it’s critical economics professor Xia Yeliang? Just recently the academic partnership between Wellesley College and Beijing University was celebrated with high-level speakers like Madeleine Albright.

Wellesley’s ‘Albright Institute’, designed to prepare women for global leadership, sent 20 female students to Beijing for an academic programme, aimed at ‘cultivating the next generation of women leaders’.

What ‘the next generation of women leaders’ will do about the increasingly contentious issue of ‘academic freedom’ remains to be seen.

Living fourty years is sufficient

For the moment, at least one Beijing University-professor is so intimidated by the Chinese government, that considers paying the ultimate price for disobedience. On CBSNews Xia Yeliang said: “I told my family and friends long ago: if I can live a valuable life, I think fourty years is sufficient. I consider my life worthwhile, so don’t worry about me.”

Professor Xia Yeliang of the Peking University School of Economics recently wrote about economic reform, institutional change and public issues in contemporary China. Recent publications are titled: The Economic Anatomy of Public Issues (2002) and the Weight that Economics Could Not Bear (2003) analyzed economic reform, institutional change and public issues in contemporary China.

Only with faculty support

His persistent defense of free speech and academic freedom brought Xia Yeliang into big trouble with the Communist Party. The faculty of the School of Economics of the Peking University was to vote on his removal in September, for ‘failing to pass his teaching job evaluation’, but thus far – we’re a month further – he seems still in function.

It might have helped that faculty members of Wellesley College threatened to withdraw from the cooperation with Beijing University and that even the Wellesley College President, H. Kim Bottomly, endorsed her staff’s position. Bottomly: “The Wellesley/PKU partnership, like most things we do, can only exist with faculty support. If Professor Xia loses his job, the faculty will have a discussion about the best way to go forward.”

What is backward anyway?

After the ‘blind lawyer’ Chen Guangcheng, professor Xia Yeliang now seems to have become the new focus of academic tension between the U.S. and China. And just like Mr. Chen, Mr. Xia seems not willing to take back any of his criticisms of the Chinese government.

Xia Yeliang: “Too many people are so obedient just like slaves, they’re accustomed to be slaves. They think to be obedient is safer.”

The government run Global Times called Xia an ‘extremist liberal’ and urged Beijing University not to give in to outside pressure. In a Chinese televised interview Xia retorted: “How can you define what is extreme and what is not? If a group is very backward, how can they judge what is advanced and what is not?”

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