Monday, April 28, 2008

Cheating In the Party School

No, not any party school. The Party School of the Central Committee of C.P.C. (中共中央党校) is not an ordinary school, the unfortunate English translation not withstanding. It is a school specifically designated to train the next generation of high-level cadres of the Communist Party of China. It is a ritualistic milestone for any person's advancement in a career in the party apparatus and the government leadership.

With a stake thus high, not to mention the fact that candidates have been carefully selected for their characters, one would not expect blatant cheating in this school.

And one would be surprised.

The Party School published a bulletin on April 7, detailing some of the cheating cases it had caught during its graduate school exam this year.

In one case, they intercepted wireless communications between an exam-taker and a helper outside. In two other cases, they found the exam-takers are not who they are supposed to be. They are hired guns. Yet two more cases involve exam-takers smuggling cheat sheets into the exam.

The bulletin indicated that all the above personals have been disqualified. It also mentioned many occasions that exam papers have been illegally marked (presumably to provide a hint to graders). Those are also disqualified.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Rao Yi: Chinese Culture Lacks Professionalism

During an interview with the newspaper Science Times (科学时报), Professor Rao Yi described his experience after returning from overseas and his vision for Peking University.

When asked about difficulties and challenges he had encountered in China, Rao Yi observes:
Chinese culture lacks professionalism [Rao used the English word here]. There is no formal translation for this word, because there is not yet such a concept in Chinese culture.

There is also a lack of intellectual [again, Rao used the English word here] atmosphere in China's academia. This word ["intellectual"] has been mis-translated in Chinese for a long time. The reason is also that there is no such concept in Chinese culture. It ["intellectual"] should be an activity that is higher than knowledge itself. [In China,] people work on science purely for the purpose to be better than the next person, to publish more papers. They don't exchange ideas and talk about their research only when they are ready to publish. It is not only being selfish (小家子气), but also an indication that they are not doing as an intellectual pursuit. There are also people who never come to scientific discussions. For them, research is clearly just a job, not an intellectual pursuit. This is very common in China.
Perhaps fearing for controversy, Science Times deleted this paragraph when it published this interview. However, the complete version of the interview is also widely available on internet in China.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Fang Zhouzi Will Defend Against CEB Rice Case

As reported earlier, CEB Rice has sued Fang Zhouzi for defamation. The lawsuit was filed at Beijing's Western District Court (北京西城区法院). CEB Rice is asking for 20,000 RMB ($3,000) in damage and a public apology.

According to China News, CEB Rice accused that Fang Zhouzi has been openly questioning the company's core technology and caused grave damage to the company's operation. The company's Chief Scientist Nie Xiaomei (聂晓梅) provided a copy of certification from the Wuhan Branch of the Chinese Science Academy in 1991, which certified that her research was an innovation that was "a first both at home and abroad", which had opened up new research areas.

Fang Zhouzi announced on New Thread that he had authorized his lawyer to accept and defend this case, because the publicity of such a case will help raise awareness of consumers on the truth behind the "super-expensive rice". In a brief note, Fang clarified that his criticism of the rice was entirely on the product, not the technology. The technology itself had existed abroad long before its "discovery" by the CEB Rice scientists anyway.

Fang also pointed out that the "certification" is meaningless if it is not backed by publications in international journals.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Book Drive Needs More Donation

The book drive to donate Fang Zhouzi's book to local libraries in China has so far received some $1,700. It is still far short of the goal of $5,000.

If you could help, please make a donation here. Make sure to enter "book donation" in the "purpose" field.

Thank you very much!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Super Rice Is Not Just Super Expensive

There is a new kind of rice on market in China. It is claimed to be super healthy. It is packed with superxoide dismutase (SOD) that consuming a cup of this rice results the equivalent of taking 4000 Vitamin E pills! It is also super-expensive: it is selling at a price of 30 times of that of regular rice.

The manufacturer of this rice, CEB Rice (德润生), advertises its product as a technology breakthrough that was originated in China and unique in the world. Their technology is called Cell Endophyte Bacteria (CEB), a microbe that live within a cell of plant. The company was able to create a new kind of rice, whose cells contain rich CEB, which in turn contains large quantity of SOD. The company claims that every kilogram of its rice contains 300,000 units of SOD.

Fang Zhouzi and others have been quick in criticizing the various claims of CEB rice. In a recent radio interview, Fang pointed out that CEB was not originally discovered in China, as the company literature has claimed. It was first discovered near the end of 19th century and then in the mid-20th century, all abroad. The two scientists in CEB rice, credited for their discovery, are both unknown in scientific community. CEB has been studied for fertilization and drug purposed, but never as a nutrient. There is no scientific literature on CEB's effect as a nutrient.

SOD, on the other hand, is a type of protein. As all protein, it loses its potent after being heated, which is essential when consuming rice. Proteins are also digested and cannot maintain their original effects.

If the company's claims were true that consuming a cup of this rice is equivalent of taking 4000 Vitamin E pills, then the result would be terribly, as Vitamin E overdose is very dangerous.

Facing the criticisms, CEB Rice has been unusually quiet. But as the sale of their expensive rice starts to decline, they are taking legal actions. Beijing Youth Daily reported that CEB Rice has sued Fang Zhouzi in court. The company spokesman is quoted as saying: "For so long, Fang Zhouzi has been judging our product based on his own knowledge. He has criticized us in many media outlets. He has also published these irresponsible words in his blog. We have been collecting the evidences and are ready to solve the problem with legal means."

Meanwhile, Fang Zhouzi claims that he has not learned about the lawsuit. He will decide whether to respond it based on the content of the suit. "If it will benefit the fraud-busting efforts, I will respond and defend myself."

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Making Of A Presidential Paper

The Journal of Shanghai Jiaotong University (上海交通大学学报) published an article titled "Reflections on Energy Issues in China" in its most recent issue. From the look of it, it is just like any other academic paper published in the journal, with an abstract (both in Chinese and English), key words, lots of data, figures, footnotes, and references. There was only one thing missing, however, the author only provided a name. There was neither a byline for the author's institute nor any contact information for the author.

The author's name was Jiang Zemin. It should be widely recognizable throughout the country. He is the ex-President of the People's Republic of China. The 81-year old Jiang is also a proud alumnus of the Shanghai Jiaotong University.

In an subsequent article, an editor of the Journal, Gong Hanzhong (龚汉忠), recalled how this "special" paper was published.

Near the end of 2007, at the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Jiang's graduation from the school, school leaders contacted Jiang and asked him to write something for the school journal. It would also make a special presentation to the 112nd anniversary of the school itself this April. Jiang agreed and submitted his paper to the Journal at the end of February.

According to Gong, the editors at the Journal immediately went into a frenzy of excitement. They worked past midnight the night they received the paper and thought the paper was extremely significant and special. In subsequent days, Gong said the editors burned midnight oil for many nights. They made many revisions and produced five or six versions of the manuscript.

There was also no mention of any peer-review process for this manuscript. Although Gong emphasized that the editors were strict and thorough and produced records showing their editorial marks, the only example he gave was that they changed the term "carbon-dioxide" from its Chinese name to the format of the Journal convention.

It is of course impossible to verify whether Jiang actually authored the paper itself. But Gong indicated that, during the revision process, they received galleys full of Jiang's own handwritings.

Meanwhile, immediately after the publication of the paper, the National Energy Bureau organized a study session for the paper. The attendants include all the "heavy weights" of the nation's energy community.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Making of First-Rate Universities in China

Following Rao Yi, Shi Yigong (施一公) has recent become another high-profile professor who had permanent returned to China. Shi has been the Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor of molecular biology at Princeton University and is now a Professor and Associated Dean of the College of Bioscience and medicine at Tsinghua University in China.

The two of them, Shi Yigong of Tsinghua University and Rao Yi of Peking University, just published an article in the newspaper Guangming Daily (光明日报), on the making of word first-rate universities in China. This of course has been a very hot topic in the Chinese academia. But the article of Shi and Rao does show a degree of candidness and reality that has been remarkably missing in the discussion.

For example, Shi and Rao frankly pointed out that the current universities in China has yet a long way to go before becoming first-rate: "In most cases, the academic level of the average full professor in China is lower than that of the assistant professor of a first-rate university." It is a strong verdict indeed.

To make progress in this area, Shi and Rao said that China's universities must change their management philosophy and style, adopting the international standards and creating a new system that could attract both the top researchers and the young post-docs and assistant professors from around the world.

While providing a new voice on the issue, the article, however, did not contain any concrete ideas in how to achieve such lofty goals.