SFSU kills Confucius Institute Program

In May, 2019, San Francisco State University (SFSU) announced it was closing its Confucius Institute program that had been in operation since 2005.

Closure was not due to concerns about academic freedom, freedom of speech, or even any suspicion of ulterior motives on the part of the teachers sent from China.  In the SFSU case, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019 denied federal funds for an intensive Chinese language programs if a university also hosted a Confucius Institute, and SFSU has an excellent DOD funded language program.

Sure, DOD can kill Confucius Institutes.  But DOD has nothing on me. I helped kill another SFSU Chinese program ten years earlier.  That was not on the basis of politics, but solely academic rigor.

Give Me Liberty! in Hangzhou

There is a saying – with guanxi, you can do anything.  Without guanxi, you can do nothing.  Sometimes, with guanxi, you can get Liberty! in China.  A story about ordering textbooks in China.

My First Protest              February, 2015

 

We are in Jingzhou, Qing's home town in Hubei Province. 

We went out with Ben for a walk, and the Jingzhou district government compound is less than a block away.  The district is an urban subdivision, akin to a ward in Chicago, though much bigger than a ward.

The district compound is a series of small buildings, like a small university campus, some offices, some residences.  Leafy, low key, surrounded by the usual wall with three entrances, or gates.  Buildings look old, a bit decrepit, although probably built in the early 1980s. Qing says this area was pretty and clean and orderly when she was growing up.

Now, it is different. 

Life in School - and Beyond             November, 2009

 

note:  This was written more than ten years ago, when I began teaching full time in China. Some slight editing and updating.  My students were all undergrads in business, marketing, civil engineering, or urban planning.  These notes are early observations on student life at ZUST in Hangzhou.  I can't say this email feels inaccurate years later.   Life goes on, in and out of school, but the beat goes on, too - stress upon stress, and not stress of one's own making.   Smoking and environmental cancer are big contributors to early death.  But stress is also an environmental constant.

The middle class Chinese diet is full of the stuff that doctors in the US tell us we should eat- lots of fish, lots of vegetables, fruit, a little liquor (ok, maybe not a little), a little meat, nuts, grains.  But adult Chinese die at about the same rate as Americans, and now, from mostly the same causes - heart, and cancer.  Why don’t Chinese people live forever?

The National Day Singing Competition - Zhejiang University of Science and Technology, September, 2009

note:  this post is from 2009, a few weeks after I came to ZUST to teach full time and I was still awed by most everything.  As it turns out, there were no more singing day competitions. This one was part of the celebrations of 60 years since the founding of the PRC.  Still, an impressive event.

One of the emcees wore a black tuxedo with diamond -  I wanted to say rhinestone- studs along the collar and piping.   The other wore a white tux with black piping.  The women emcees wore serious prom type dresses, or serious I-am-a-grownup-take-me-out-dancing dresses- a slinky reflective gold long dress for one, a more demure white for the other. 

An Evening in Middle Class Life        October, 2009

There is a pattern in the west of seizing on negative China stories as definitive proof than revolution, or collapse, or the Second Coming are just around the corner.   Debt and moral vacuum and lack of trust and cheating.  But China is a big country, with a big middle class that is vested in ongoing stability.  This is just a dinner story from ten years ago, with government friends from Hangzhou and Shaoxing.  This is just middle class people relaxing and enjoying the holiday. 

This story is also about middle class CCP members, and such an observation seems sorely overlooked in most discussions of China's future.  I have no systematic data, but my educated guess is that a Venn diagram of Chinese middle class - however you wish to define them - would show great overlap with CCP membership.  There are about 90 million CCP members.  With some dual member households, let's speculate that comes to 60 million households.  These are the people holding nearly all government jobs, heading up non-government organizations, teaching in high schools and universities, and owning many small and large businesses.  Let's give those 60 million households one child and a grandparent or two, or four, and that is roughly the same as the size of the middle class.  CCP is the middle class, and when writers talk about emerging democracy and civil society and middle class demands for voice, we should remember who we are talking about.  The CCP is the bourgeoisie.

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