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CHINA BOUND: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC
tonomy means more flexibility, and universities or research institutes that want to help foreign researchers have greater maneuverability now.
''China is a pretty flexible place," points out one researcher. More Chinese scholars are doing research on topics of interest to Americans, and Americans are being invited to more conferences, where Chinese and foreign scholars can interact and find out what colleagues in their field are doing. Collaborative research projects are increasing, and social scientists are beginning research on topics that would have been difficult in previous years. Nonetheless, research in the social sciences and humanities remains much more sensitive than that in the physical sciences.
Work units that remain skeptical of foreign researchers are still tough to crack. A few major collaborative projects have begun in archaeology. In general, however, archaeological collections, to quote one researcher, "are under the control of the excavator and his danwei," and access for foreigners remains difficult—in his case, impossible. The new demands on Chinese faculty to raise money often means that they are busier now and have less time to spend with foreign colleagues. As one researcher pointed out in early 1992, "It is obvious that even compared to my 1991 visit, scholars are much busier, spending less time discussing topics and more time providing consulting and other services to earn additional income." In some universities, personnel in the foreign affairs offices (waiban) who were attentive to the needs of long-term, serious, financially constrained researchers have turned their attention to short-term moneymaking "China experience" packages for U.S. undergraduates. Some foreign students and researchers are discovering that personnel in the waiban assigned to assist them are away working with newly formed enterprises.
Finally, as in many other countries, research fees are becoming a standard requirement for doing research in China. The trend is a departure from the early years of exchanges and has taken many foreign scholars by surprise, particularly those with previous research experience in China. Some are concerned that the profit motive is excessive. As one researcher argued, "Money is the only thing that matters to most people now and they do not seem to care a bit about whether foreign researchers come to China in the future so long as they can squeeze maximum profits from them now. Closely related to this development is the fact that guanxi has become absolutely critical for getting anything done."
This trend is likely to continue, despite protestations of American and other foreign researchers. Knowing when to negotiate and when to accept the reality of higher costs will be essential to any researcher's psychological equilibrium.
Successful research in China usually operates at three levels—a for-