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.

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