Madness and Peking University: A Review of Insanity in the Age of Harmonious Society
Written by ANTONY OU
Sunday, 03 April 2011 16:00
The students of Peking University today (as well as Tsinghua University) are as brilliant as the students in 1919. The university has been the cradles of CCP leaders and big corporate chairmen. Nonetheless, the two universities—the Chinese equivalent of Oxford and Cambridge in the UK— are vastly different today.
Comparing to the students of 1919, the majority of students may be much happier, because there is a considerable number of grills and bars at Wudaokou near the two universities. Moreover, joining a Peking/Tsinghua university Putonghua summer camp is a “perfect getaway” for most of the foreign exchange students. Share a taxi by “gang of four”, pay around 100RMB (£9.5) in total to Worker’s Stadium at Chaoyang District, arrive at Vics Club or Mix Club, 10pm; then get drunk and wasted with the local oriental girls. When they get back to their apartments, Zijing International Student Apartment at Tsinghua for instance, their provided towels are all printed “Tsinghua Property”. The rooms are cleansed every day by the diligent female workers. They are always doing their best to serve their customers.
“A Chinese cartoon depicting radical students are like cactus that should be abandoned.”
Like any gigantic corporations in the 21st century, universities are expanding both in terms of sizes and investments. The students are understandably more anomic and less enthusiastic to politics and social affairs. They are trained to be technocrats rather than romanticists and idealists. Quantity and efficiency are the norms for any “successful” universities. In these senses, Peking University and Tsinghua University are just like any other universities which embrace the virtue of global standardization.
What makes Peking University different, is that an infamous proposal attempting to examine and categorize “problematic” students shocks most of the school members and alumni. The university has designed a list of ten categories which denote “suffering” students of various kinds of predicaments. According to the university press release, there will be individual consultations (会商), organized by the university and its medical centre, for students who are “in need”. The students will be analyzed in depth and taken care of by related departments. They will be given plans to follow and eventually eradicate the problems. The new policy will begin in May this year. The ten-point checklist is as follows:
- Learning difficulties
- Radical thoughts
- Psychological fragility
- Atypical student statuses
- Independent way of living
- Internet addiction
- Employment difficulties
- Intractable illnesses
- Violating regulations and punishment
Cha Jing, deputy head of the university’s student affairs office, insisted that the proposed program was not intended to control and punish students. Rather, it would help the students who could not finish their degrees for various reasons. Yet, the university was also concerned about the students with “radical thoughts” who might exaggerate their complaints. For instance, according to Cha, some students would protest for a 20-cent rise of canteen food prices.
Students and academics were shocked and outraged by the proposal, condemning the authorities for having brought back the haunting memories of the Anti-Rightist Movement (starting from 1957) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Once a student is labelled with any of those “problems” on the checklist, they will automatically become the “untouchables” at school and even have his/her career jeopardized.
Peking University has opened up a new chapter in Chinese history of insanity in the age of harmonious society. It attempts to objectify and externalize the ten student categories, with the convenient help of science and medication. The “radical” students, together with the poor and ill ones, will be classified as the mad people. For the ones who once enjoyed of being “radical” to express their grievances are now keeping silent. They are afraid of being problems of the others. It is not necessary to set up a physical “great confinement”, since eventually, everyone can confine themselves perfectly.
I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to Miss Eva Leung for her editing of my script. Usual disclaimer applies.
* Antony Ou is a PhD Researcher of University of Sheffield, the China Review editor of Political Reflection Magazine, and the China Representative of CESRAN. His monograph, Just War and the Confucian Classics: A Gongyangzhuan Analysis, has been published and is available at amazon.com.
Sina Weibo: http://t.sina.com.cn/ouantony
© Copyright 2011 by CESRAN