comes with the territory
C.P. Chou takes restrictions in stride
spring the national and international press reported that C.P. Chou,
professor of East Asian studies and director of the Princeton in
Beijing program, had been told to modify a textbook used in the
program because a Chinese academic attacked it as presenting China
in an unflattering light. If Chou did not delete certain passages,
his contract with Beijing Normal University, the host for the program,
would not be renewed.
Chou told The New
York Times last May that "the changes they wanted were
extensive and not negotiable. It was basically a threat."
When PAW reported the
story, in a brief item in the July 5 issue, some alumni became angry
about what they saw as a violation of academic freedom, and they
wrote letters, two of which appeared in PAW's September 13 issue.
The letterwriters charged that if the price of continuing a program
in China was censorship, it was too high.
C.P. Chou, meanwhile,
finished his spring semester work, flew to China with new course
material, and had what he describes as an unusually successful summer.
"We've been treated
very nicely this past summer," Chou said. "More unusually
so." In fact, he added, "Li Guiling, the director of the
National Office of Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, invited
me to a dinner and tried to explain what is happening. She explained
that the article attacking our materials was entirely done by the
teacher herself, which does not represent any official standing."
It wasn't the government
that asked Chou to change the textbook, but officials at Beijing
Normal University, although it is unclear who asked them to make
sure the changes were made.
"I guess the principle
behind BNU's rules about adapting teaching materials is this: We
shall not - it's nothing in writing, it's just kind of an unwritten
understanding for everybody - select any critical comments toward
the established authority, especially in a political way. That's
okay with me. And then we're not supposed to have a different opinion
about certain issues. Like Taiwan's independence. That's not negotiable.
That's unification. Taiwan is part of China. And Tibet. And if we
try to select any human rights issues, such as religious freedom.
Things like that would not be allowed."
One thing that puzzled
Chou about the censorship is that the book was in use for seven
years, and all 14 of the articles in the book had been previously
published in the People's Daily, the official Chinese newspaper.
"The articles I
selected were I think from 1991-92, and they were from a series
of articles that were introducing the USA to the Chinese people.
Every single one of them was highly critical towards the USA. Like
say the abuse of child labor laws at McDonald's, or taking guns
to the schools, violence, and drugs."
The attack on Chou came
in an article titled "The Infiltration of American Ideology
Through Language, Through the Material of Teaching Chinese as a
Chou was unprepared
for this attack, especially since the book had been around for years.
"To my surprise that teacher who wrote that article attacking
me, said I had a very unique motivation behind all these articles,
which was to try to create a hostile attitude between the two people,
" Chou said.
But this wasn't the
first time that particular textbook had been censored. When Chou
first offered the materials for review in 1992, he said, officials
deleted the preface, the epilogue, and did not allow a cartoon and
some of the original articles. "The pages were all torn out,"
Chou said. "The books we took in were mutilated."
Chou, despite the recent
fracas, feels he enjoys more freedom as a result of the dispute.
"After this summer,
I think we actually enjoy more freedom. They were very surprised
that such a little issue - a textbook issue for such a little program
in such a huge China - could actually cause such a big discussion
overseas, especially in the U.S. I think BNU felt it was something
quite embarrassing to them. They did not like the publicity."
Chou tries to put the
difference of opinion in perspective.
"I'll try to explain
for them. From their point of view: 'We're having this program on
our campus, so we have every right to approve or disapprove what
you're going to teach.' That's how they feel. That probably sounds
totally not right from the USA point of view. But China feels they
have every right to do that. It's a different way of looking at
it. Whether there is a universal standard or not I cannot say."
The new textbook that
Chou put together for this year has two sections. The first is a
dialogue Chou wrote. The second reproduces selections from the newspaper.
"I feel that I can use pretty much what I want," Chou
says, although he did not select any articles that contained the
aforementioned taboo subjects. Had he, the textbooks would not have
been allowed on campus, Chou said.
Does that bother him?
"I wouldn't say
that it doesn't bother me," Chou said. The students would enjoy
articles with controversial topics, he added.
"My point of view
is that it is pedagogical. I always try to argue this. What I want
to do is to have some interesting articles for our students to read.
I have no intention whatsoever of starting a social reform movement.
Please, these are American students. We are not going to poison
Chinese students. So we just want them to open their mouths and
use Chinese to speak. You have to have something controversial so
they are motivated."
as well as students
The Princeton in Beijing
program not only teaches college students the Chinese language -
more than 1000 so far (300 have been from Princeton) - but it also
teaches Chinese graduate students how to teach Chinese.
Chou reported there
were 51 teachers in the program this year, with eight from America
and one from Taiwan. The rest were graduate students from major
universities in China.
"Most of them are
majoring in teaching Chinese as a foreign language," Chou said.
"They would like to learn some new techniques and also pedagogical
methods from us."
Chou is pleased with
the way the summer went, and said there are no new limitations.
"There are no further
restrictions, and they actually became more accommodating as I said.
The director of the National Office of Teaching Chinese as a Foreign
Language confirmed again and again what is called the reformed and
open policy, which is not going to change," Chou said. "China
will continue to open up and not to close down."
By Lolly O'Brien