Flying Off to Hong Kong

This year, China had 17 top scorers, or zhuangyuan (状元), on the national college entrance examination from various provinces who opted for Hong Kong universities over China’s elite institutions, Peking University and Tsinghua University. Traditionally, China’s top universities have aggressively courted these top test scorers, seeing them as an important measure of their elite status. When asked why they had opted for Hong Kong, the students responded that they wanted to experience a different approach to education. In this cartoon, posted by artist Kuang Biao (邝飚) to his blog, an old-fashioned Confucian school master, symbolizing the backwardness of China’s higher education system, reaches for top testers depicted as potted plants flying off into the sky on golden wings. For background on standardized testing in Chinese higher education, see CMP fellow Zhang Ming’s article, “Top testers a distraction for China’s schools. ”

In the past, before universities in Hong Kong had entered the competition for top scorers, top scorers from various provinces generally went to Tsinghua University or Peking University. In recent years, as Hong Kong universities have stepped into the game, Chinese institutions sense a real danger that top scorers will be lost, and the media have also jumped on this story about the threat to the excellence of Peking University and Tsinghua University. This is why we’re seeing this situation now . . .

The University of Hong Kong is a mirror on ourselves that is less distant that other elite universities. Because the admissions and enrollment capacity of HKU is limited, there is no way it can run off with all of our top-scoring students. But this mirror brings our own maladies and deformities into sharp relief. If we do not address our shortcomings, and if we do not wipe away the stains that blacken our own face, but rather respond only with more robust efforts [at the same sort of game], then there is really no way to save us.

8 Comments to “Flying Off to Hong Kong”

  1. Frankie Fook-lun Leung says:

    The trouble with many mainland academics is that when you advocate the institutional value of western scholarship, they accuse you of trying to import into China western ideas whole-scale without understanding the Chinese conditions. They don’t seem to reflect many of the Chinese conditions are impediments to changes which will bring forward a better system. The Chinese academics’ cliche is that China must undergo a process but they don’t seem to push themselves to go through such a process. A process is only an excuse or a force of inertia. In the USA, I rarely come across any one talking about going through a process. If Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mike Zuckerberg have to wait to go through the process, I think we still live in the caves.

  2. Frankie Fook-lun Leung says:

    The highest point of the respect China had for Hong Kong was before 1997 when Hong Kong was not part of China. Tell you a real story. I have a friend who was a big shot with the Hong Kong professional lawyers group. Before 1997, when the H K professional lawyers group paid its first visit to China, they arrived at the Beijing airport. They received red carpet treatment. The Chinese held out a banner: Welcome Hong Kong Compatriots. Then they made the next visit, after Hong Kong was announced it would become part of China, they visited China again . Their host sent one guy at the air-port to receive them. No banner. No band. Just one poor soul. After 1997, Hong Kong lawyers came to visit China as a group. Their reception was non-existent. What do those Hong Kong lawyers want from us, the Chinese counterparty asked. This is how the Chinese Communist Party look at Hong Kong. One Taiwanese business man who did business in China said he did not want to see Taiwan reunified with China, because by then Taiwanese people would be treated like dirt like their Hong Kong brothers. Take note.

  3. Frankie Fook-lun Leung says:

    If the Chinese like the reform-minded scholars, they should make Liu Xiao Bo the President of Peking University instead of putting him in jail. How many Chinese has won a Nobel Prize in human history?

  4. Frankie Fook-lun Leung says:

    Many in China still uphold the Ching Dynasty’s concept of “Chinese knowledge forms the core, Western knowledge is for its utilitarian value”. Remember what Deng Xiao-ping said: western politics need not be learned. I don’t believe those institutional vices in china like corruption can be eradicated so easily. I am not at all impressed by the contemporary Chinese intellectuals or so-called scholars.

  5. Frankie Fook-lun Leung says:

    Hong Kong presents to China a lot of headaches. On the surface, there is the smooth running of the one country two systems. However, one system is trying to influence the other system and vice versa. Look at the hostilities between the Mainlanders and the Hong Kong folks. Those who benefit from the economic benefits of the reunification keep their mouths shout. They could see the dollar sign whenever the Mainlanders flock into their shops. For those who are not benefited at all, they see their maternity wards occupied by Mainlanders who take away their benefits without contribution. I fear that more social unrests of different scales will take place in both Hong Kong and China. Many of the chinese magazine critical of the Chinese government and the community party are sold in Hong Kong. Who buy them at the newsstands? Mainlanders. Liu Xiao Bo wrote quite a few in some of them. At least those books written by Yu Jie, Liu Xiao Bo and many others have found a market.

  6. ltlee says:

    @Frankie Fook-lun Leung
    “…their freedom to invite unorthodox individuals to express their views and teach on campus.”

    Please give some examples of these unorthodox individuals.

  7. Frankie Fook-lun Leung says:

    An Hong Kong identity is a kind of embarrassment to China. Let me illustrate. I visited the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. The leader of that institution asked me at short notice to attend a one-conference on American and Chinese think tanks the next day. I showed up. The seating arrangement of the speakers was such that the five American speakers were seated facing the five Chinese speakers resembling an international negotiating meeting. The administration did not know how to place me since although I was from the USA but I looked Chinese and had a Hong Kong background. They did not think it right to put me among the five American participants and they feared my views expressed there might not reflect the Chinese position. They placed me at a small desk sitting by myself with a label Hong Kong. I felt what the Taiwanese athletes must feel when they carried a board of “China Taipei”or something like that entering the Olympic Games.

  8. Frankie Fook-lun Leung says:

    I have lectured at over 40 universities, professional groups, think tanks, and returnee associations in China. The universities in China, even the so-called the best, are rather inadequate in their social sciences and humanities training. The professors have too many taboo subjects, the so-called land-mines, they dare not get into. The Communist Party and the administrators are too domineering. Hong Kong universities still enjoy many advantages, especially their freedom to invite unorthodox individuals to express their views and teach on campus. If the Hong Kong universities are trying to compromise and accommodate the Central government’s wishes of thought-control, I feel sorry for Hong Kong. Your death is imminent. Take care of what is valuable, my alma mater.

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