The Book of the Week is “The Dragon’s Pupils” by Kenneth Starck, published in 1991.
Starck was a professor from the University of Iowa’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He visited China to teach journalism to Chinese graduate students in the 1986-1987 academic year. He detailed his experiences of the culture. Due to the ravages of Communism, the country had resumed its academic degree system only five years prior to his visit. In December, there was student unrest. In the 1980’s, “only 5% of each year’s 10 million high school graduates were admitted to universities. The country had 1,016 universities, about 1 for every million people. In the United States, there were 1,875 colleges, 1 for every 123,000 people.”
The author distributed the book, “The Best of Pulitzer Prize News Writing” (published in 1986) to his students. It had a story from the Korean War of 1950 and a quote that was an ethnic slur on the Chinese. The author lectured on historical context, explaining that at that time, the United States did not have good relations with China.
Under Deng Xiaoping, China was moving toward a more capitalistic society, but the government was resistant, because “There is loosening of family ties and the placing of individual self interest above community interest.” There was still censorship in higher education. Cadres (government officials) were charged with making sure students were appropriately schooled in political and ideological matters. Their titles ranged from ” lecturer” to” professor,” even though they were just party hacks. In May 1988, the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party Central Committee and the Central Committee of the Communist League co-founded the Youth Ideological Educational Research Center.
Read the book for more examples of the disturbing state of affairs in China in the late 1980’s, and her progress (or lack thereof) in terms of freedom of the press and the freedom of her people in general.