The Corner

Education

American Universities and Their Ugly Relationship with China

Count on American university officials to go ballistic over any real or imagined violation of rights in this country. Reports of a noose on campus? Close down for a day or two of healing and reflection! But when it comes to China, you’ll hear comparatively little (if at all) from those officials about that nation’s gross authoritarianism and widespread violation of human rights. That’s because they have come to depend on China for students and money.

So argues Christopher Balding in this Martin Center article.

He writes, “Long the vanguard of liberal change, the American university now leads the appeasement of a hardened authoritarian China. The interest in promoting a broader community of scholars has given way to a toxic combination of business interests, the inability of college leaders to recognize their failure in influencing Chinese education, and their unwillingness to see the reality of a new China.”

Our university leaders pride themselves on their devotion to liberalism and justice, but they won’t risk offending the Chinese government. Sometimes they even go so far as to try to silence critics of China’s abhorrent policies. As Balding says, “Universities — believing in their mission to spread liberalism — fail to grasp the fundamental problems they face when dealing with China. Defensive at any critique of their many degrees, university leaders and professors lack the same interest in holding the powerful to account. To professors and universities, activism is a virtue in America, but a vice in China.”

Balding concludes, “Universities should not pursue engagement at all costs. Instead, they should pursue principled engagement that predicates any cooperation with China on values like the discussion of democracy, Chinese history, and the ability to criticize the Great Leader. Engagement without principles is not worthy of the great mission before American universities.”

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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