Thursday, December 20, 2007

Yale Professor Criticizes Wide Spread Plagiarism at Peking University

Professor Stephen Stearns of Yale has spent this Fall at Peking University teaching two undergraduate courses on evolution. The school, also affectionately known as Beida, is one of the most prestigious universities in China. Today, a letter by him is circulating the school's BBS and a few other web sites in China. In the letter, Professor Stearns expressed great dismay in his discovery of plagiarism cases among his students (after his explicit warning, no less), as well as behaviors of the school and the country in ignoring international intellectual rights.

What I found particularly interesting is his observation that "The fact that I have encountered this much plagiarism at Beida tells me something about the behavior of other professors and administrators here. They must tolerate a lot of it, and when they detect it, they cover it up without serious punishment, probably because they do not want to lose face. If they did punish it, it would not be this frequent."

Indeed, Fang Zhouzi and New Thread had exposed quite a few plagiarism cases involving Beida professors in the past. None of them had received any adequate punishments.

Professor Stearns has confirmed to this blog that he is in fact the author of this letter. With his permission, the full text of the letter, taken from the New Thread web site, where a Chinese translation is also available, is presented here:

To my students in Beijing, Fall 2007:
While grading papers today I encountered two more cases
of plagiarism. One was sophisticated but serious. The
other was so blatant that it was almost unbelievable.
That makes a total of three students who have failed my
courses because of plagiarism.

If I had not warned you and given you the opportunity
honestly to correct your essays, there would have been
several more. I thank those of you who were honest and
showed me what you had copied.

Plagiarism disturbs me greatly, both because it corrodes
my relationship with you as my students, and because it
tells me things about China and Beida that neither you
nor I want to hear.

It corrodes my relationship with you because I work
hard to be a good teacher, I take time to prepare good
lectures, and I spend many hours providing detailed
feedback on essays. It is hard work. You cannot imagine
what it is like to correct the details of the 500th
essay until you have done it yourself. I do that to help
you learn to think more clearly, to express yourself
convincingly, and to develop your intellectual power,
your ability to understand the world. I also do it
because I value you, I value your ideas, and I think
the world will be a better place when you can all think
clearly and behave intelligently. Later in life, some of
you will be leaders with important positions. I want you
to be competent and honest, for I have seen too often
what terrible things can happen when leaders are
incompetent and dishonest. Leadership aside, I want all
of you to be able to create value in your lives, whatever
you end up doing, and you cannot do that if you deceive.

When a student whom I am teaching steals words and ideas
from an author without acknowledgment, I feel cheated,
dragged down into the mud. I ask myself, why should I
teach people who knowingly deceive me? Life is too short
for such things. There are better things to do.

Disturbingly, plagiarism fits into a larger pattern of
behavior in China. China ignores international
intellectual property rights. Beida sees nothing wrong
in copying my textbook, for example, in complete violation
of international copyright agreements, causing me to lose
income, stealing from me quite directly. No one in China
seems to care. I can buy DVDs in stores and on the street
for about one US dollar. They cost $20-30 outside China;
the artists who produced them are losing enormous amounts
of stolen income, billions of dollars each year. China has
become notorious for producing defective products that have
to be recalled because the pose health threats to consumers.
A recent cartoon in an American newspaper shows the Central
Committee reacting to an accusation that they have violated
human rights. The response? "Wait until they see what we
put in their toothpaste next!" Corruption is a serious
problem in a booming economy. For example, in the mining
industry, about 5000 miners die each year and mine owners
cut corners in violation of the law. The social fabric
breaks when workers die because owners are greedy. The
Mandate of Heaven is lost.

China appears to have lost her way. Confucius said, do not
do to others what you do not want them to do to you. He
also said, a gentleman is honest. Honesty and reciprocity
are the basis of trust and community. We cannot get along
in a world filled with deceit and defection; such a world
becomes a Hobbesian war of all against all, nasty and
brutal. We cannot do science if we cannot trust what others
publish. There is no reason to try to replicate a result
if it cannot be trusted. It would not be worth the effort.
Without replication there can be no shared knowledge that
is tested and trustworthy - that is, no science. Without
science, there can be no technology. And without technology,
there can be no steady increase in productivity, economic
growth, and a better life for all.

The penalties for plagiarism that you will encounter later
in life are very serious. If you do it as a graduate
student, you can be expelled from university, and you will
not get your degree. If you do it as a faculty member, you
can lose your job. I know you may not believe that, for the
sociology professor at Beida who translated an entire book
into Chinese and published it with his name on it only lost
his administrative positions but kept his professorship and
salary. But things are not like that elsewhere. When
plagiarism is detected in the United States, it can end the
career of the person who did it. That is also true in
Europe.

The fact that I have encountered this much plagiarism at
Beida tells me something about the behavior of other
professors and administrators here. They must tolerate a
lot of it, and when they detect it, they cover it up
without serious punishment, probably because they do not
want to lose face. If they did punish it, it would not be
this frequent.

I have greatly enjoyed teaching some of you. I have
encountered young minds here that are as good as any in
the world. Many of you are brave, most of you work very
hard, most of you are honest, and some of you are brilliant.
But I am leaving with very mixed feelings. It is quite sad
that so many promising young Chinese think it is necessary
to cheat to succeed. They damage themselves even more than
the people from whom they steal and the people whom they
deceive with stolen words.

Sincerely, Steve Stearns

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

I quite agree with the Yale Professor as the Chinese way of education is learn by rote and memorisation. Although definitely a no no in the West is perfectly acceptable in Asia. In fact, China is not the only culprit, it occurs with all the twinning and 3+0 programs here in Malaysia too with British universities. Especially if local lecturers are involved and usually the British partner university or expoly takes a blind eye to plagiarism which does no good to the attraction of students in terms of money. In fact Australian unis are not immune too one with the acronym CSU keeps on charging fees until one does not know whether one has not passed or not. It is like a never ending payment to a toll collector.

Anonymous said...

My comment to the professor would be, GO F*** yourself. Who the f*** are you to lecture an entire country?

steve said...

There's brilliant discourse. Did you steal that clever response from another source or think it up all by yourself?

Yu said...

China is still a very poor developing country. At the moment, the most efficient way to catch up with the West in all disciplines is to copy the best the developed world has to offer. When the gap narrows, and copying offers less and less return, the Chinese will naturally step up and begin to innovate. I agree with the Professor's point on plagiarism, but he overreaches in tying every ill he can think of in modern China to the actions of immature students who probably do not realize the full consequences of their actions or are too overworked to care (or maybe they were accepted to Beida because their families had good connections rather than for scholastic merit... You know, like many students at, say, Yale.) In any case, I would not condemn and attempt to humiliate all the people of the United States on account of some youngsters cheating on a paper or exam at Yale. Finally, I can say that as a Chinese, I do not appreciate the condescending and self-righteous tone the Professor had unfortunately chosen to employ throughout the tract to convey his points. ''Often it is not the content of what another says that one disagrees with, but the tone in which he said it."

P.S. Complaining about having his income "stolen" seems a little boorish. Is the Yale Professor hard up on money or something?

Anonymous said...

The fact that plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty occur everywhere does not invalidate the professor's point that the scope of the problem in China, like the size of its population or the speed of its economic expansion, is staggering. In my own experience as a graduate student instructor at the University of California at Berkeley and as a former student at both Peiking University and Tsinghua, the incidence of plagiarism and fraud among Chinese students is disappointing to say the least. True, much of it can be attributed to an academic culture that allows students to quote without attribution or that encourages students to compose their own letters of recommendation when applying to foreign universities. Nevertheless, I generally accept the professor's point that such a culture not only undermines his efforts to educate his students, but diminishes the Chinese educational system and China as a whole. As for the professor's "condescending" tone - all I can say is that the truth sometimes hurts. It's difficult to examine the culture of dishonesty and permissiveness at Chinese universities like Beida without considering the larger social context. Pirated DVDs, western textbooks, and GRE prep materials are only the most obvious examples. Chinese students need to hear this message. China's poverty and status as a developing country are poor excuses for such brazen and pervasive dishonesty. Bravo to the professor for saying so.

tyler said...

I must agree with the second commenter and Yu. This is quite the tirade/manifesto and it comes from a self-righteous Yale professor, content in criticizing an entire country for what he saw in the classroom. The fact that he lays into his students and other professors at Beida in the process shows me that he sees himself as better than them.

The icing on the cake is his complaint about lost income. This man comes off as downright pompous, and I am glad to never have set foot in his classroom.

George said...

I just want to say "thank you, Prof Stearns."

Snusmumriken said...

Yu:

National pride and scientific rigor do not go very well together. If Chinese universities do not take plagiarism seriously and clean up their own house, others will do it for them.

And Stearns is not just talking about the behavior of some individual Chinese students, but also about a more general malaise in Chinese academia.

Shi V. Liu said...

I doubt Stephen Stearns’s sincerity in fighting against violation of intellectual property right. This is because he was involved in a much greater and even more shameful violation of intellectual property.

In a 2003 publication in Science (300: 1920) which was authored by his former student Martin Ackermann, himself, and his former colleague in Switzerland he cheated the whole world by claiming that “A fundamental question about senescence has not been settled: Which organisms should be senescent, and which should be potentially immortal?” This is an outright lie because I had already published a view that all organisms (including the so-called “immortal” bacteria) are mortal and subject to aging/senescence (see more details at http://im1.biz/Aging.htm).

Due to the deception buried in that 2003 Science publication, western world has regarded Ackermann, Stearns and Jenal as pioneers in studying bacterial aging. But the truth is I was the true pioneer in this research area and has published most on this topic. Jenal (who later became a mentor of Ackermann) should know my study because he was at the same session of the 1997 ASM General Meeting where I presented my discovery of bacterial life and aging to the world for the first time. However, my publications, including a peer-reviewed and SCI-indexed publication in both English (Science in China 42: 64-654, 1999) and Chinese (Science in China 29: 571-579, 1999), were ignored (very likely intentionally) by Ackermann, Stearns and Jenal in their 2003 Science publication. I should also point out that the methodology used in that 2003 Science study was an exact “copy” of my method invention disclose in my 2000 patent application which was open to public in 2002 and granted a US patent in 2004 (US6767734B).

In August this year, I wrote to Ackermann and others (including Stearns) to ask them to do some right things for the truth of scientific history and the respect for others’ intellectual property right after I saw Ackermann et al. continued their lie to the world in another publication (Aging Cell 6: 235-244, 2007). However, none of these “scientists” have answered my criticisms or done any right things so far.

Thus, I was very surprised to see that Stearns would be so “upset” with the “plagiarism” he saw in the term papers submitted to him by the Chinese students. If he does upheld a high ethical standard, why would not he do anything moral regarding his outright lie and credit robbery?

Shi V. Liu
Eagle Institute of Molecular Medicine
SVL@logibio.com
http://im1.biz

http://im1.biz/albums/userpics/10001/SE2007V2N3A5_StopLie.htm
http://im1.biz/albums/userpics/10001/SE2007V2N3A5_StopLie.pdf

Anonymous said...

Where the hell is "Eagle Institute of Molecular Medicine"? Seems this "Shi V. Liu" is its the only member.

Anonymous said...

I taught a class of 77 at a top 100university in the south of China last summer. A majority of the students were curious, sweet and honest. On the night of the final exam however, 99 showed up to sit the exam, leaving me puzzled, since I had been given no formal class roster. Finally going back to an attendance list from the first night, my class monitor allowed the 77 who had attended that night to remain on the final night, while 22 usurpers were dismissed, much to their displeasure,as they had expected to memorize lecture notes, score at least a 60, and get easy credit without attending. Of the 77 who sat the exam, I had to continually monitor about a dozen who insisted on openly trying to cheat. I wondered later: What was the culture of these two groups of young people (the non-enrolled and the cheaters) that would lead them to so openly cheat and test my integrity and their own unversity's Records systems? My class monitor (a tiny sophomore who faced down and dismissed at least two big bullies who demanded to sit them exam) told me this behavior is so common at the mid-level universities. She told me it is tolerated and even fostered by some faculty who engage in their own dishonesties. It left me sad and disillusioned until I thought of those bright and honest students who attended, studied, discussed, and honored me with their best. I can only keep those students in my heart and memories, and dismiss the others from my mind and my past, in the same way I do those dishonest students in my own university.

Anonymous said...

Well done Dr Stearn. Tell it how it is. To all the self absorbed nationalists who cannot bare to hear a word said against their beloved China, well, get used to it. This is how the real world works. You deceive - you get caught - you get humiliated. Europe and America are not going to allow the bullshitting from this mammoth country to go without harsh comments. They cannot afford to. They have too many vested interests in China and would like to see the place become a more honest and accountable market and society. We will just keep chipping away, drip, drip, drip, and like the rest, the Chinese will change without even realizing it. Study the cultures of the western world carefully, Chinaman, and you will learn that the secret to power is not what you think, it is how you think.

dezza said...

I'd just like to thank Yu for his/her rebuttal of Professor Stearn's.

They go to show the outlandish thinking that goes on in many Chinese when confronted with scathing-yet correct- criticism of China's rise.

None of them make any iota of sense:

"Is the Yale Professor hard up on money or something?" Can thieves use that as a defense in court after robbing banks? RIDICULOUS.

Anonymous said...

I would like to comment the situation of plagiarism from the view of a PhD student of International Management at National Cheng Kung University in Tainan, Taiwan. I will do this with one sentence only:

Never, never, in my whole professional career (>22yrs), have I seen anything , that comes close to the amount of cheating and plagiarism (covert and public) as I have seen here!

Anonymous said...

Has anyone looked at this issue from a cultural perspective? I mean, have you spoken with experts in the academic expectations in countries that might do things differently than done in the US?

Why do Americans always come across so arrogantly - as if the way we do things is the only way... As an ESL instructor, I have come across this issue many times before. One explanation is to consider the differences between assignment expectations - In the US, there is heavy focus put on individual ideas and contributions along with assigning credit to ideas in papers of others. In other cultures, this emphasis on the individual and individual ideas is not as stressed. For students, the goal may be to simply integrate the ideas of others to show professors that there is an understanding of the ideas in a certain field. There is no need to cite where all the ideas come from because the goal of the assignment is not to show individual achievement (look at all these great ideas I thought of or was able to explain) but, I have a good general understanding of the important points of a topic. It is understood that the ideas are not the student's ideas, simply because he/she is a student. Students are not saying that the ideas in the paper are their own ideas... again a Western perspective - the promotion of th eindividual.. Now this would be very different when later in their careers, as they publish in journals, scientists are putting in work that is not their own... but if I understand correctly, you are talking about students... Take a moment to consider that perhaps the circumstances and goals of an assignment may be very culturally different from the Western view...

Lao Wai said...

I heard alot of the, "cultural difference" defense of plagiarism - the cutting and pasting of large blocks of text without citation, during the years I taught in the Republic of China (Taiwan). The unreflective acceptance of this arguement/excuse may be condescending at best.

Dilin Liu, author of "Plaigiarism in ESOL Students: Is cultural conditioning truly the major culprit" published in _ELT Journal_ volume 59/3 July 2005, posits that cultural difference might not be as big as well-intentioned western academics think.

He has the advantage of being able to read Chinese texts in the original, - and as a culutral insider - his point of view is worth considering.

Of note: 1) Chinese texts on composition do state that copying others without giving credit is unacceptable 2) the process through which western teachers have come to the "it's an Asian thing, we just don't understand. Plagiarism is OK over there" point of view is flawed; it (the POV) comes from interviews with students caught cheating. People caught cheating are comfortable being dishonest - and have an interest in avoiding responsibility.

Eddie Cheng said...

Thanks for the comments. I have written a new post addressing anonymous' question on the cultural perspective:

http://fangzhouzi-xys.blogspot.com/2008/01/is-there-cultural-perspective-in.html

Another Professor said...

As a non-Asian professor teaching at an Asian international university I have also been fascinated by the different attitudes toward cheating, in all of its forms. I applaud Prof. Stearns for his clear and concise articulation of the situation. His letter represents one person’s experience, and also a collective experience. I have had the same conversation with many of my colleagues, and the same conversation is reiterated every time a new faculty member arrives from Europe or North America. We even have a likelihood of cheating scale based on the student’s country of origin. A student’s response when confronted is also somewhat predictable based on their nationality. Cheating among students in Europe and North America is certainly a significant and growing problem; however, I experienced more cheating in many diverse and creative forms my first semester here than my previous nine years of university teaching before coming to Asia.

Yet, I have remained here for years, and plan to remain here for many more years. Many of my students here are among the very best I have ever encountered: intelligent, disciplined, eager to become something better and greater than they currently are, and, many of them, honest. I prefer to foresee them as the future leaders in Asia and the world. I do not believe the current leaders – university administrators, politicians, etc. – will change, especially under the influence of external pressure. Thank you professor Stearns for doing your part to change the world by giving your students an education.

Anonymous said...

As a Chinese, I feel so offended to saw someone making "cultural difference" an excuse for plagiarism in their comments here. As far as I remember, there has not been a single word in Confucius's or any other respected Chinese thinker's instructions that plagiarism is an allowed practice. My parents did not tell me that either.

Well, yes, plagiarism has been around in China since the 7th century when exams became hot in China. But as far as I know, those who were caught were never excused. The list of appicable punishments started with denial of career and ended with beheading.

In those stories I had read, a lot of cheaters were not poor. And most poor students dared not to cheat, because those exams were the only place where they could find some sort of "fair opportunity". So, Mr. Yu, being poor is not a valid excuse for being a cheating student, as I understand.

As a student who had gone through the 12 years of chastity in primary and middle school, I was quite shocked by the loose attitude of my department towards cheating in exams after I had spent two years in my university, which securely ranked top 20 and sometimes boasted number 7 in the whole county. And our department was argubly one of the best department in the university.

I saw with my eyes plenty of cheating in the 4 years as an undergraduate. There are some professors who will hint or tell the students to cheat and provide adequate assistance. Some others will help some of their favorite students to change their marks afterwards. In my 3 years in the same school's Master's program, I saw two graduate students cheating in their qualifying exam by asking an undergraduate student to write the exam essay for them. They were caught because of obvious identity in the essay and, subsequently qualified into the phD program.

I wonder if I was just being unlucky, but some one from another school did offer to pay me if I can took an national English exam for him.

I am not trying to be a saint. I cheated once in a course called "Deng Xiaoping's theories". But I am still quite annoyed when other people cheat in the courses that I do not bother or more often, dare, to cheat.


But anyways, I do not think you people outside of China should spend so much energy on blaming China or Chinese students/professors. It just won't help - unless you just want to find some pleasure ... or a reason to stay away from the Chinese.

The only thing I would suggest the warm-hearted people in US or EU or JP to do, is to spend some time in China if you can, help to give some courses, and be aware that anyone may cheat.

And if you are taking students from China, why not give the applicants an assignment and ask them to give you an 500 word essay within 2 days?

Anonymous said...

I was about to leave a very different comment when my eye was caught by the comment by Shi V. Liu and the question "who is this guy?"

It only took a few minutes with Google to locate some salient facts:

1. It seems that Liu works or worked in some respect for the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) in the Midwestern USA; see www.epa.gov/heasd/emrb/staff/liu.htm
So it seems he is a botanist and microbiologist by training who is also an M.D. (Many biomedical researchers, at least in the U.S., earn a medical degree in addition to a Ph.D.)

2. Liu claims to have founded at least one "research institute" (I also conclude the staff of this "institute" consists of himself), and he claims to have founded at least two "journals"; see "Scientific Ethics" at
http://im1.biz/se/index.html
and "Logical Biology" at
logibio.com/
As far as I can tell at a glance, these "journals" publish only writings by Liu himself, and both the logibio.com and im1.biz domains are registered to him.

3. The real purpose of these websites, "institutes", "journals", and postings by Liu seem to be to promote his view that he has originated numerous ideas which are being ignored by mainstream science; see
im1.biz/Liu_Discovery_English.htm

In Liu's own words (from a post at
http://www.asm.org/microbe/index.asp?bid=33829):

"To promote logical reasoning and judgment in biological research, I launched an Internet-based journal called Logical Biology
(http://logibio.com). I published most of my unique observations on single bacteria and novel hypotheses of microbial life there, along with some critical reviews and logical and historical analyses on microbiology."

As anyone who has examined "fringe science" knows, there are a dozens (hundreds?) of disgruntled scientists out there (with academic credentials ranging from genuine to entirely fraudulent) who feel that mainstream science is "censoring" their "revolutionary" ideas. (The rest of us call this "peer review"!) Since I know little about the fields in which Liu is making strong priority claims, I cannot assess these on their merits, but I can say that his activity appears very similar to dozens of other disgruntled former academics who have reacted to rejection by mainstream journals by founding their own "journals" and "institutes".

In summary, I conclude that Liu's charge that Stearns is himself guilty of some kind of misconduct for failing to mention Liu's claims is ludicrous.

Anonymous said...

OK, back to the real point. I am an American who has not taught in China but I have taught students from China in the U.S. (at the graduate and undergraduate level), and since the Turkish plagiarism ring scandal broke in the arXiv, I have followed the issue of plagiarism and scientific misconduct generally. Thus, I am aware that regions such as China, the Indian subcontinent, and the Middle East, seem to be plagued by an elevated rate of blatant cheating, plagiarism, scientific fraud, and other kinds of serious academic and professional misconduct (none of which are unknown in the U.S., of course--- oh, I could tell a tale or two of things I've witnessed here!) Fortunately, while the problem is severe, there are people in each of these regions, such as Fang Zhouzi, who are struggling to curtail it, and I applaud and support their efforts!

(American academics, sad to say, often prefer to turn a blind eye to similar if somewhat less common problems in our own universities.)

The cultural issue which some other commentators discuss above is not new to me; nationalist apologists in India and in the Middle East often express similar sentiments. I agree with the conclusion that given these very real cultural differences, or rather, genuine differences in pre-university education, Chinese students are not entirely to blame for their (common but not universal) failure to recognize the serious and unacceptable nature of plagiarism, cheating, and other academic misconduct.

But I also agree with the remark that this doesn't alter the fact that endemic cheating/plagiarism in China is a very serious problem which needs to be vigorously addressed (by the Chinese government, by "grass-roots" movements in Chinese universities and "watchdogs" such as Zhouzi, by Western journals which don't do enough to autoscan submissions for blatant plagiarism*, and so on). It seems possible, even probable, that one major feature of scientific history during the 21st century will be the emergence of China in place of the U.S. as the dominant leader in science. But science cannot function unless its practioners are honest and free of extrascientific interference (again, not something unknown in the U.S.). Thus it seems to me that it is in the interest of the entire world to support the efforts of campaigners like Fang Zhouzi to combat scientific and academic misconduct and pseudoscience in China, as part of an on-going effort to combat these problems worldwide (including the U.S.)

[*How hard can it be to write a script to google the text of the abstract of each submitted paper before sending it out to a referee?]

Some commentators mentioned the differences between an Asian education (which at the grade school level often features such classroom activities as rapid-fire drilling in elementary mathematical computations) and an American education (which at comparable levels, is more likely to feature activities with colored blocks intended to develop student's abilities to engage in independent reasoning). Students and teachers in China might be interested (or amused) to learn that one feature of endless warring among academics in the U.S. over how to prepare the next generation of American students is the claim pressed by some teachers that Chinese style drilling is more appropriate at the pre-university levels than American style "exploratory activities". So I can't agree with the suggestion by a few commentators above that Americans assume they have nothing to learn from Asian ways of doing things--- from my own experience, this is not true at all.

Without minimizing cultural differences, academics and educators in all countries need to recognize that cheating, plagiarism, and scientific misconduct are serious problems which pose a real danger to society. Unfortunately, history suggests that the struggle against attempts by unethical individuals to obtain a short-term individual advantage in a competive and demanding scholarly arena will never end in a complete victory. We need to regard this as an on-going struggle. I think the best strategy in this struggle is to erect well-planned technological barriers (such as autoscanning submissions, which is already standard practice in the arXiv and which should be standard practice by all scholarly journals), to introduce mandatory ethics courses in our schools, and to introduce criminal sanctions for scientific misconduct, which (particularly in biomedical research) can literally have fatal results.

Anonymous said...

China, If you do not want to listen, then you do not want to learn.

The Chinese nation has some distance to cover and the world they are uniting and competing with with tries to show where they can improve. Retorts of "arrogance" is a simple symptom of too much confidence and pride. This is terrible character for the pupil.

How low is their gratitude?
what would their family say?

But as for the cheating, cultural? I think largely this is just a simple issue of humanity. After all, is the history of expansion for America or Europe any cleaner and honest?

but China, the worlds history is not an excuse.

Some of you try to reflect the judgment to shade their guilt, but this simply will do nothing.

Anonymous said...

Could people seriously think about Dr. Liu's comments? Why nobody question the Yale Professor's sincerity. Why nobody propose a face-to-face debate between Dr. Liu and the Yale professor?

Anonymous said...

Integrity is hard, ambiguity is easy. Modernity is still very much new to the majority of Chinese. My friends with masters degree from Harvard and Yale can't talk straight in English. That doesnt seem to make them shy away from showing off their shiny titles to others. When I took the GRE test in 1989 in Beijing Economy and Trade Univeristy, I was one of the only two in the room who didn't cheat. The other being a foreigner holding a green passport. The rest of the class simply discussed and copied each others answers in the open! Surprisingly, I later on learned that I got the 2nd highest score on that test site. Probably there's a lesson to be learned somewhere in this. Short cut doesn't always make one's journey short... or does it?

Anonymous said...

The Chinese drivers used to like to drive in the middle of the lanes, even on two lane highways. Over the years, I've noticed fewer are doing this now, at least on the east coast I visited. Could it be that many of these middle of the road drivers are dead or crippled because of the jump in traffic volumn? We Chinese will learn to obey the rules when: obeying the rules is beneficial, and the opposite has deadly consequences. It'll take a while before that happens unfortunately.

By the way, the western univerisities weren't all that honest when they first started either. Just that they are a few hundred years ahead of the game.

I was once told that Violin doesn't always sound so beautiful like it is today. It was once just as humble and coarse like Erhu. But it evolved. Do we Chinese have the brain and gut to evolve as well? Sorry to report that we didn't in the first couple of thousand years. Now we do have a chance. Dr Fang here certainly is doing his share. Kudo to that!