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 have, 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.
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.
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.