NYU, PRC, and $$$

NYU Shanghai

In August 2015, we wrote here about several major U.S. universities that have established lucrative branches in less than free countries – such as the United Arab Emirates and other lands awash in petrodollars – and that, in order to be able to operate in those countries, have felt compelled, by their sheer pecuniary interests, to make major compromises when it comes to living up to the idea of a free university.

As we noted, a number of these institutions have branches in China. And that’s not all: there are universities in the U.S. that contain so-called “Confucius Institutes,” centers for the study of China that are essentially sources of propaganda for Communist China.

Che Guangcheng

These cozy relationships between major American universities and the People’s Republic of China have many ramifications for the education of students at those universities. Colleges that play host to “Confucius Institutes” are forbidden by contract from recognizing Taiwan as an independent nation. They are under pressure not to arrange lectures or debates involving China scholars who don’t toe the Beijing line. The agreements with China also prohibit those American universities from sponsoring honest discussions of Tibet or the Tienanmen Square massacre. China scholars at U.S. institutions that have these sorts of links to the PRC dare not criticize China in the classroom or in their writings because they may find their Chinese visas revoked, which, of course, would make it impossible for them to pursue their scholarship. As we noted in 2015, one Chinese dissident, Chen Guangcheng, who had been tortured in China and who went on to have a fellowship at NYU had suddenly, in 2013, found that fellowship cancelled because the honchos at NYU were afraid of offending the Chinese leaders who had ordered his torture.

Jon Levine

On October 19, Jon Levine wrote in the New York Post about the NYU branch in Shanghai, where the fall term had begun but where “one subject that won’t be on the syllabus is pro-democracy protests sweeping Hong Kong.” Levine explained that “NYU faculty in China and New York say the issue is a third rail” and quoted an NYU-Shanghai faculty member as saying that “Everyone is under a bit of a cloud of fear…..We don’t walk around trembling like rodents, but there is a general idea that there are certain topics you don’t discuss….We all learn over time how to self-censor.” Levine noted that young people enrolled at this campus, who receive NYU degrees at the end of their period of study, are “required to take classes like ‘Mao Zedong Thought,’ ‘Introduction to the Communist Party of China’ and courses in political education routinely mandated at other Chinese universities.” This is disgusting, but none of it should be surprising to anyone who is aware that NYU, founded in 1831 and once a revered center of liberal learning and a source of American pride, has long since gotten into the habit of accepting cash from the biggest bidder, however odious.

Fortune cookies: U.S. colleges in China

ci2We’ve been looking at NYU, Yale, and other major U.S. universities that have sold their souls for Arab petrodollars. Another top source of dirty money for these schools’ ambitious, ethically challenged administrators is the People’s Republic of China, which sponsors so-called “Confucius Institutes” – centers for the study of Chinese language and culture – at around campuses in the U.S. The American host universities for these centers, as Shaun Tan has noted, “must sign a ‘memorandum of understanding’ endorsing the ‘one-China policy’ that precludes recognition of Taiwan as a state.” As Jim Sleeper wrote earlier this year, the Confucius Institutes

ci1sometimes muscle out American host universities’ own independent scholars on China, not only by offering them free Chinese language instruction but also by pressuring them to disinvite uncongenial speakers and cancel public discussions of “forbidden” topics, including Tibet, Taiwan, and Tiananmen. CI directors monitor the work and pronouncements not only of their own teaching staff but also of their nominal American colleagues, who, if they criticize China, may suddenly find it difficult to obtain visas to continue research there. The effect is to “intimidate and punish” scholars, Chinese and Western, who challenge Beijing’s agendas.

Tan recalls that when Chinese Premier Hu Jintao spoke at Yale, audience members weren’t allowed to ask questions and protesters were kept away from the site of his speech, lest he be inclined to “rethink his recent decision to allow Yale to be the first foreign university to trade on China’s heavily regulated stock market.”


We’ve already seen how John Sexton, the simpering fool who runs NYU, has kowtowed to UAE sheiks in order to establish NYU-Abu Dhabi. But that’s only one chapter in the shameful history of Sexton’s selling out. In 2013, he also presided over the founding of an NYU branch campus in Shanghai. Sexton was plainly not troubled by China’s severe limitations on academic freedom. Indeed, he seems quite happy to help enforce them not only in China but in New York: in June 2013, Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng said Sexton’s administration had yanked his NYU fellowship and his Manhattan apartment in order to placate his former torturers in Beijing.

Earlier this year, notes Sleeper, China’s Education Minister forbade the country’s universities from using “textbooks promoting Western values…in our classes” or permitting classroom “remarks that slander the leadership of the Communist Party of China” or “smear socialism.” How can any university worthy of the name operate under such restrictions?

Xia Yeliang

Then there’s the Xia Yeliang incident. In October 2013, Xia, an economics professor at Peking University (PKU), was fired, apparently in retaliation for his “outspoken” opinions. Members of the faculty at Wellesley College, which had just signed a deal with PKU, wrote a letter of protest to that university’s president, calling the dismissal “such a fundamental violation of academic freedom” that they “would find it very difficult to engage in scholarly exchanges with Peking University.” Impressive. But Wellesley, alas, was the exception that proved the rule. As Peter Ford reported in the Christian Science Monitor, almost fifty American institutions of higher education had deals with PKU at the time of Xia’s firing, but only two (the other was the University of Virginia) spoke up about it.

Susan Reverby

What does it mean for us to rent our reputation abroad?” asked Wellesley history prof Susan Reverby. “At what point does one side go over a line that the partner organization does not think should be crossed?” Sleeper, noting that Stanford University “has a $7 million center at Peking University,” quoted Stanford dean Richard Saller‘s less-than-stirring statement on Xia’s dismissal: “We went into our relationship with Peking University with the knowledge that American standards of academic freedom are the product of 100 years of evolution. We think engagement is a better strategy than taking such moral high ground that we can’t engage with some of these universities.” (Translation: ka-ching!)

And Xia himself? He told Ford that fifteen years earlier the administrators of PKU “thought they should listen to the West….But today so many famous universities want to cooperate with PKU…[that] they think they can set the rules.” On that point, the folks at PKU would seem to be entirely correct.