Teaching political science at Tsinghua University

May 5, 2006, [MD]

A fascinating article about Daniel A. Bell who works as a professor of political thought at Tsinghua University in Beijing, one of the most prestigious universities in the country. Having also tough in Singapore, he offers some very interesting perspectives.

He writes about the problems he encountered in the one-party state of Singapore, where his teaching contract was not renewed, and compares with China: “In comparison, China is a paradise of academic freedom. Among colleagues, anything goes (in Singapore, most local colleagues were very guarded when dealing with foreigners). Academic publications are surprisingly free: there aren’t any personal attacks on leaders or open calls for multiparty rule, but particular policies, such as the household registry system, which limits internal mobility, are subject to severe criticism. [...] More surprisingly, perhaps, I was not given any explicit (or implicit, as far as I could tell) guidance regarding what I could teach at Tsinghua. My course proposals have been approved as submitted.”

He mentions topics that he has discussed in class, such as humanitarian interventions, and how they are linked to Chinese national politics. His students “are no slouches: it’s probably harder to be admitted, statistically speaking, into Tsinghua and Beijing University than into leading American universities. My students are supposed to be leaders of society: I’m told that the Communist Party student members at Tsinghua prepare the educational curriculum for all the young Communists in China. They are intellectually confident and often well versed in the Chinese and Anglo-American (if not French and German) philosophical traditions.”

Go read it. Although he teaches mainly in English, he has a deep appreciation for Chinese culture, as well as his own subject. He was clearly hired because of his standing in the field, not because he was a foreigner who was willing to go to China (which was the case in my example). I continue to be interested in foreigners teaching in Chinese universities, especially when they do it in Chinese, which for example Ruth Hayhoe has done at several occasions.

Stian\ Here is a paper written by Bell:\ Do Asian Values Deter Popular Support for Democracy

Stian Håklev May 5, 2006 Toronto, Canada
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