I went to school with one of the first so-called ‘princelings’ to study in the U.S. This was a few years after the end of the Cultural Revolution. At that time, China wasn’t that hot and my friend got no special treatment or attention. My friend’s admittance was entirely on merit, and the education was entirely financed by loans and scholarships. After graduation, my friend worked very successfully in the U.S. for few years, then, even though my friend and the family had suffered grievously during the Cultural Revolution, returned to China .
In China, my friend started a business advisory service that relied mostly on expertise but certainly didn’t discount strong government ties. But the government ties part was more akin to Washington lobbying. Nothing unusual and certainly nothing corrupt.
My friend has done well but, by the standards of our classmates, not extraordinarily well. And, my friend has contributed greatly in time and money to important charitable causes in China. A life well-spent. Better perhaps because of U.S. education
So, I read with particular interest ‘Chinese communist leaders denounce U.S. values but send children to U.S. colleges’ in the Washington Post. In a tabloid, such a headline would not be surprising or disappointing, nor would the conjoining of disparate and unrelated facts into some sort of charge of hypocrisy. An example:
But the kin of senior party officials are a special case: They rarely attend state schools but congregate instead at top-tier — and very expensive — private colleges, a stark rejection of the egalitarian ideals that brought the Communist Party to power in 1949. Of the nine members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the supreme decision-making body of a Communist Party steeped in anti-American rhetoric, at least five have children or grandchildren who have studied or are studying in the United States.
Consider first, ’[T]hey rarely attend state schools but congregate instead at top-tier — and very expensive — private colleges,…’ If the author can show that their acceptance was due to their parents’ or grandparents’ status or influence, then this is an issue. But, if top-tier private colleges accept them on their merits, shouldn’t they go?
Second, ‘…a stark rejection of the egalitarian ideals that brought the Communist Party to power in 1949.’ As far as I know the egalitarian ideals ship sailed soon after Deng Xiaoping took over. Is the fact that because of position, they receive a better education, any different from the wealthy in America who can afford to send their children to top high schools and boarding schools and thus improve their chances of acceptance to a top school? Not entirely fair, to be sure, but hard to distinguish.
Finally, ‘Of the nine members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the supreme decision-making body of a Communist Party steeped in anti-American rhetoric, at least five have children or grandchildren who have studied or are studying in the United States.’
How many of U.S. elites, often equally anti-Chinese Communist Party, have sent their children to China to learn the language and culture in preparation for a world possibly shared by the two leading economies? Is this hypocrisy or just the desire to best prepare their children?
The most troubling issue, however, is also discussed:
Helping to foster growing perceptions that the party is corrupt is a big, unanswered question raised by the foreign studies of its leaders’ children: Who pays their bills? Harvard, which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition and living expenses over four years, refuses to discuss the funding or admission of individual students.
But is the issue of how bills are paid, however dishonest the sources, relevant to the issue of the Chinese elite children being educated in the West?
As far as I can see, in the long run, having these children understand well the U.S. and the West is of the greatest benefit to both the U.S./West and China.
And, of all U.S. school best suited for this task, is perhaps Harvard. The Post singles out Harvard in a related graphic titled, ‘China’s Harvard connection’ and the intro:
China’s Communist Party is steeped in anti-American rhetoric, but many of its leaders have children or grandchildren who have studied in the United States. Harvard is a particular favorite.
Here’s the chart.
For my part, may Harvard welcome many, many more. And other top schools too.