May 22

A Canadian professor and his Tsinghua students

Written by admin on Thursday, May 22nd, 2008 at 12:10 am
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Tsinghua University is one of the most prominent universities in China. Current President Hu Jintao and former premier Zhu Rongji are both Tsinghua alumni. So it’s naturally intriguing to know what current Tsinghua students are like, since they are probably China’s future leaders. Daniel Bell, a Professor of Political Philosophy and Ethics at Tsinghua University in Beijing, provided an insider’s view today at The New York Times.

China’s Class Divide.

As tragic as the Sichuan earthquake has been, perhaps it can do some good by helping dispel a widespread myth: that the new generation of Chinese students are materialistic and selfish.

… …

I’m hoping events can dispel another false impression: that young Chinese are xenophobic nationalists who cheer for their country, good or bad.

Readers may also want to check out another article by him at the Guardian last month.

Badmouthing Beijing

China is far from perfect, but the west is demonising it just when the country is making the most progress

Daniel Bell is the author of East Meets West: Human Rights and Democracy in East Asia (2000), Beyond Liberal Democracy: Political Thinking for an East Asian Context (2006), and China’s New Confucianism: Politics and Everyday Life in a Changing Society (2008).

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6 Responses to “A Canadian professor and his Tsinghua students”

  1. Tsinghua Student Says:

    As a Tsinghua student I applaud Professor Daniel Bell’s efforts to challenge his students. His thoughts of how his students responded to some specific questions are insightful but not complete. I also notice another Tsinghua teacher’s comment on his article, which is also insightful but incomplete again.

  2. Buxi Says:

    I believe Professor Bell’s description of Tsinghua students is much closer to the truth I know than the second professor.

    But I appreciate seeing both opinions. This just goes to show, yet again, the importance of different voices and communication. The same events can be interpreted in very different ways by two very intelligent people, both American professors at Tsinghua… that should all tell us something.

    My bias will show through here: but I believe the second professor is far less open-minded than he thinks he is. I, and many other Chinese, can give him a very good explanation of why religious freedom “according to law” is exactly what China (and many other societies) truly desire and deserve.

    But he believes this philosophy is enough to prove that we’re all xenophobes who will love China “right or wrong”… in my opinion, that just goes to show how closed his own mind is.

  3. overseaschinese Says:

    Actually, your discounting of the second professor’s statement shows how closed your mind is. “Oh, this did not sit right with me… must be wrong!” I thought that this was supposed to be a debate, not random character assassination without evidence?
    To be honest, as an overseas Chinese who has spent time teaching in the PRC, I have seen the images portrayed in both professors’ essays. The question is: which is dominant? As a result of the biased gongfei media, my own experiences in classroom settings suggest that the second is more common. Of course, the people who run this website will contest this, and ask whether I truly have the interests of “the Chinese people” in mind. However, I do have the interests of the Chinese people in mind, in that the denial of information creates a biased and indeed warped view of the world in mainland culture. Since when is the defense of an authoritarian regime that denies the right of open debate to its people “patriotic”?

  4. Tsinghua Student Says:

    To overseachinese:

    oops, if Buxi’s personal experience with tsinghua students didn’t constitute the “evidence” to discount the 2nd professor’s argument, then your own experience didn’t constitute the “evidence” to “suggest that the second is more common” either…
    the 2nd professor’s opinion of the chinese education system and its impact on students’ lack of independent thinking and international perspective is certainly appealing to me, however when s/he encountered students’ in-line-with-ccp arguments, s/he failed to seek a more fundamental reason other than education system or propaganda, not to mention his dishonest example of the lecture and bbs thing.

    The problem with the 2nd professor is that he fails to put himself into a chinese perspective , he make his judgement based on his standpoint, which is quite different from his students’. That’s why he cannot understand us students’ argument, thus not further understand the thinking way of us students. Therefore “close-minded” is applicable to him to some extent.

  5. Buxi Says:


    and ask whether I truly have the interests of “the Chinese people” in mind.

    I think that’s always a fair question to be asked of *anyone* commenting on China. I don’t expect to pass judgment on you or anyone else… as I said before, I’ll leave it to your own conscience to decide whether your position is based on what’s truly best for the Chinese people.

    Since when is the defense of an authoritarian regime that denies the right of open debate to its people “patriotic”?

    I’ll happily tell you my answer. And I’m not speaking for the Chinese people here (many of whom disagree with me), or even the other people who write for this blog (who may also disagree with me), but only myself.

    I think the above is patriotic when I look at the fate of other developing countries with economic and social demographics similar to that of China. This world is filled with developing democracies, all with the open right of debate. I see nations like India and Mexico embroiled in constant conflict and meaningless political debate, never able to implement the massive changes and reforms needed to push themselves forward on the development path.

    This isn’t intended to be blanket protection of the Chinese government. I believe China benefits from having greater space for public supervision of government, for public discussion of policies. I also believe China is overly paranoid about what constitutes “dangerous” speech.

    But I do firmly believe that the Chinese government does need to make its priority (for at least the next 20 years) that of one-minded economic + social reform, and debate + speech should not be allowed to disrupt that critical process. And yes, I say this with a clear conscience.

  6. snow Says:

    “I believe the second professor is far less open-minded than he thinks he is.”

    You are right. The argument made by this second professor may well likely be the one who commented on another web site i visited claiming to have lived in China teaching for a few years. His views on Chinese reaction to the 3.14 Lahsa riots and many other related China issues were biased, igorant and arrogant enough to be called cultural imperialistic.

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