Challenges to authoritarian states’ control of language can be so complex that they exceed the states’ ability to manage them all. Electronic expression of resistance and increasing embrace of non-Mandarin linguistic varieties reveal powerful linguistic insights in China, which are evident too in the so-called Umbrella Revolution that took Hong Kong by storm (hah!) in fall 2014.
While a controlling state wishes to limit expression, citizens creatively employ every possible communicative modality—music, video, images, Arabic numerals, puns, Chinese characters, Roman letters, foreign words, writing, speech, sound, vision—and choose among varieties of speech and writing at their own discretion. The resources they employ reveal limits to the officially enforced boundaries—linguistic and conceptual—of China.
Just after the 2013 gaokao, Chinese parents in one small city complained, rioted, saying, "We want fairness. There is no fairness if you do not let us cheat."
Also posted on Huffington Post
After his James Bond-like escape from house arrest with a broken foot in the dark last spring, self-trained blind Chinese lawyer Chen Guangcheng slipped to the US embassy in Beijing. Stealthy arrangements, including a deal brokered by Gary Locke, Hillary Clinton, and others, got him a passport—hard to get in China—and special arrangements through Jerome Cohen took him to asylum at NYU Law School. And now Chen is being asked to leave NYU.
[Originally published in China Daily, November 9, 2012]
If the goal of scholarship is to get published, rather than to contribute in a meaningful and substantial way to the growth of knowledge, then any method is acceptable. Academic life is not usually so lucrative that people enter it to get wealthy. Usually people have some drive to know and learn.
Until this has been accomplished in China through a combination of structural and cultural changes, the fight against misconduct and corruption will remain with us.
The Chinese winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Mo Yan, has been surrounded by controversy: he is too cozy with the Communist Party. He spoke up once about Liu Xiaobo but did not use his platform to do so in his acceptance speech. He did, however, address the controversy, by telling stories.
So is he simply a party hack and stooge?
[Also posted on Huffington Post]
Claims have been made recently that China is a meritocracy, not a democracy, because its leaders have risen through examinations and testing.
But like in the US, where SAT and college admission to elite universities tracks almost completely with socioeconomic status, in China the well-off have the means to pay the bribes that ensure school success all along the way.
(Also on Huffington Post)
Among students in higher education the dominance of women is undeniable, with women constituting 55-60% of students on most campuses. But things are completely different in China.
We can keep calling for morality, but just as arguments to share the ball don’t make any sense in football, the stakes of the education game compel students and faculty and administrators to compete win in the perceived zero-sum game.
Also published in Huffington Post
For most of the twentieth century, students were revolutionaries. New ideas originated with them, or at least intellectuals spread their ideas to students, who took to the streets. In China this happened in 1919, in 1966, in 1989. In much of the world this happened in 1968.
In 2011 it began to happen in the US, with the many Occupy movements.
Expect more action.