Friday, 20 December 2013

The Elite Expands: CAS and CAE admit 103 new academicians to their ranks

Qiushi, the CCP's fortnightly magazine (published online at, has published reports on the latest engineers and scientists to be admitted to the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE, 中国工程院) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS, 中国科学院).  

In total, 103 newly minted academicians were announced, with 51 making being annointed by the CAE, and 53 rising to the upper-echelons of China's science elite through admission to CAS.  

The youngest appears to be 45 year old Professor XIE Yi of the University of Science and Technology China (USTC), Hefei, Anhui.  In addition to being very young to be elevated to CAS, Professor XIE is one of only three women selected this year out fo 53 new additions.  Professor XIE completed her PhD in Chemistry at USTC following her undergraduate studies at Xiamen University.  She held a postdoc at SUNY and is also a Changjiang Scholar (sometimes referred to as Yangzi or Cheung Kong scholar), a presitigious appointment made through the Ministry of Education and in recognition of academic excellence in her field.  Professor Xie has been a full Professor at USTC, one of China's presitgious C9 universities, since 1998, making her only 31 at the time of that appointment.  Impressive stuff and a possible future university President, or maybe even Vice Minister or Minister (MoE or MoST).  

The CAS, CAE and CASS (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) are the true elite in Chinese academic circles.  Those with academician status not only hold extremely high status within the academic field, they also move seemlessly between academia and state.  In most cases, academicians advise government and shape discourses on the development of their field, while many academicians also shape policy through their bridging of the academic and officials circles.  

It should also be pointed out that many key performance indicators set by university management will include how many academicians are currently at the institution. The China Alumni Association Report contains a ranking of universities in China, which I believe is the most accurate reflection of public opinion on the status of China's elite universities.  The measurements utilised include no. CAS, CAE and CASS academicians, no. of alumni holding senior government posts, and no. of alumni worth in excess of RMB100m.  Academicians are held in the same esteem as officials holding Vice-Minister posts and above, and as captains of industry who have made their fortunes in the post-reform era.  

But crucially, they are also essential for bringing in the mega-bucks research grants such as the 973, 863 Major and Supporting sci-tech projects funded through the Ministry of Science and Technology.  

They are the real movers and shakers of academia, capable of influencing, perhaps even setting, the research agenda through their input to government policy. 

Original language article (Chinese only):  


The Daxue -Times Higher Education Article

Today's Times Higher Education on the rise if China's HE sector by John Morgan.

Includes some info from a 2hr discussion with John in Chinese HE a few weeks back in Shanghai.

Also interviewed are Professor Ian Gow OBE (aka Dad), Philip Altbach Hong Bing and Song Yonghua.

Good coverage of different perspectives on academic freedom and China's potential to become a major global HE force.


Monday, 16 December 2013

Xiamen Malaysia Campus - Update

The China Education News (中国教育报) today reported on the continuing development of China's first overseas branch campus.  

Chinese Original Language Source: 

Xiamen University, one of the prestigious Project 985 universities announced in January 2013 that they would establish a full-research would establish a branch campus in the city of Salak Tinggi.   Salak Tinggi is the capital of Sepang District, Selangor, Malaysia and lies approximately 40km to the south of Kuala Lumpur.  

As reported in back in January of this year, this is the first instance of a Chinese university establishing an overseas branch campus operation.  

In that last report, available here  I argued that this was part of a range of policies aiming to utilise Chinese HE as the vanguard of a soft power strategy, which itself falls within the CCP and PRC strategic scope of China's Peaceful Development (中国和平发展), an idea central to China's development ethos in the 21st century.  These "going out" (走出去) strategies are coupled with "inviting in" (请进来) initiatives to build greater understanding of China and between China and other nations.  

Today's announcement goes into further detail as to the development plan which is receiving full financial backing from the highest levels of the Chinese government.  The Xiamen University Malaysia Campus is to be fully funded by the China Development Bank (国家开发银行), one of the three main policy banks under the direct control of the State Council.   The China Development Bank (CDB) is the most important of China's infrastructure and industrial policy institutions.  CDB Governor Chen Yuan (陈元) holds government rank equivalent of a Cabinet Minister and reports directly to the State Council.  Chen has held the position of Governor of CDB since 1998, and is himself the son of one the CCP's 8 Immortals, Chen Yun (陈云).  The CDB has been repsonsible for all the key infrastructure projects in China in the modern era, including the Three Gorges Dam.  In fact, it would not be an overstatement to say that the CDB has been and continues to be the central pillar of China's industrialist policy at home and increasingly abroad.  It has loans in excess of double that of the World Bank.  

XU's Malaysia plan aims to establish a campus covering in excess of 600,000sqm (150 acres) with over 300,000sqm in constructed facilities on that campus and capable of facilitating 10,000 students.  

The plan aims to recruit students at the undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral level, with a first intake of 500 students to take place in 2015.  The first phase will see the following schools developed:

School of Chinese Linguistics and Culture
School of Oceanic and Environmental Studies
Business School
Medical School
School Computer Science

Phase II will see the further introduction of:
School of Chemical and Energy Engineering
School of Electronic Engineering
School of Biological Engineering
School of Materials Science and Technology
School of Cultural and Creative Animation

In addition to the CDB full financial backing, it is reported that RMB200m has been donated by Malaysia's richest man, Kuok Hock Nian, for the construction and establishment of the library at XU Malaysia.  

Furthermore, Xiamen University has some excellent advantages in this region. Firstly, it was established by Tan Kah Kee (Chen Jiageng 嘉庚) as the University of Amoy (Amoy being the old name of Xiamen). Tan was a wealthy and famous Fujian-Singaporean philanthropist and is extremely well-known and revered in SE Asia. Secondly, along with Tan, most of the Chinese diaspora in SE Asia are descended from Fujian immigrants and speak the Fujian dialect or a slight variation on it (known as Hokkien throughout the SE Asian region). This gives an incredibly strong connection to Fujian and Xiamen amongst a great deal of the Chinese population in Malaysia. In fact, knowing how the Chinese HE sector is so strategically controlled, it is impossible to see this as an internal Xiamen initiative. The cultural suitability of Xiamen for this project is such, and when considering the high level ministerial approval needed, that it can only really be viewed as a national-strategic initiative to kick start Chinese HE as a major regional power in the Asia Pacific.