Dr. Xia Yeliang, invited speaker at the March 2015 CCS Annual Meeting, described increasing repression on Chinese academic institutions under President Xi Yinping. Arrests, spying by students, politicized funding of the humanities, all show a determination by current authorities to prevent any influence in China of Western democratic ideas on students.
Dr. Xia Yeliang is a visiting fellow at the Cato Institute for Global Liberty and Prosperity in Washington DC. At Cato, his work focuses on institutional change and policy reforms China needs to become a modern, free society. Previously, Xia was a professor of economics at Peking University, where he had been teaching since 2000. He was dismissed in 2013 because of his advocacy of constitutional democracy, the rule of law and institutional change in China. He has held visiting scholar positions at Stanford and the University of California. In introducing Dr. Xia, Sophie Cook mentioned that his dismissal occurred over protests by CCS and others, particularly Wellesley College’s faculty, based on the college’s long-standing relationship with Peking University and raising the issue of academic freedom in similar relationships between US and Chinese universities.
Xia Yeliang Archive
Dr. Xia opened his remarks by thanking CCS for its public appeal on his behalf. The pressure on intellectuals in China such as himself is now more comparable to what it had been forty years ago under the Cultural Revolution, he said. The new President, Xi Jinping, admires Putin and Mao as examples and focuses on competing with the US.
Ten years ago, China was learning from Western experience. Now it is very confident and setting new rules for itself. Under Hu Jintao, there had been some suppression and persecution of intellectuals, but now it is getting much worse. During the past two years, there have been 1,000 arrests.
Xia is the first of persecuted individuals to leave Peking University and his case is symbolic because of Xia’s prominence. (Note: for an example of a case that followed, see the letter by CCS protesting assistant law professor Zhang Xuezhong’s firing, on concernedscientists.org). The authorities spent five years preparing the case against Xia. There are now video cameras in classrooms and students are hired by the government to spy on teachers. They may be rewarded by opportunities to study abroad, where they continue to be spies for their government. This, by the way, is also true of the offspring of national Communist Party leaders who are studying in US universities – contrary to the belief that they will be converted to democratic values by their studies. At branches of US universities that have been established in China, the Chinese students are lectured after the regular classes to make sure they don’t endorse any democratic values that are being taught in other contexts.
Xi Jinping considers universities to be battlefields in the struggle against the importation of Western values into China. There are ”seven taboos” in this campaign, including the prohibition on discussing the history of the Communist Party (CP) and of Mao’s errors. The latter, Xia said, were ignored by the West, although they were responsible for the death of an estimated 85 million Chinese, of whom about 45 million occurred as a result of Government induced famine. In Xia’s opinion, Hitler and Stalin’s crimes pale besides Mao’s.
While China spends huge amounts of money on scientific research, there is no academic freedom. The agency in charge of funding humanities programs is directly under the Communist Party’s propaganda department. Anyone going against “Marxist ideas” is denied funding and investigated. In Xia’s view, many science projects that are funded by the governments with “no questions asked” are fake projects and the recipients spend the money on banquets, etc., without scientific results. Xia concluded by urging the US not to compromise its values and to emphasize human rights in its dealing with China.
Discussion with Board members following Xia’s talk focused on how CCS could help other Chinese academics and how it could gain the assistance of other Chinese academics such as Dr. Xia. In order to further this goal, Xia’s email address was forwarded to all of the attendandees.
In Spite of Protests, Peking University Expels Respected Economics Professor (concernedscientists.org)
- Highlights of 2014 Cases (concernedscientists.org)
- 2013 Annual Report (concernedscientists.org)