Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.
OCR for page 71
- - ~ - ~ - 4. Research and Study Educational reform in China has been given the same priority as mod- ernization. And the pragmatic spirit that characterizes reforms in these sectors has also affected China's universities and research institutes, which have been given increased responsibility for their own economic well-being as well as freedom to implement internal changes and es- tablish links with other institutions and enterprises, both within China and abroad. To date, Chinese institutions of higher learning have de- veloped formal exchange agreements with more than 180 U.S. colleges and universities. In addition, countless individual arrangements are being made between U.S. academics and their Chinese counterparts. On the Chinese side, these exchanges are motivated in large part by a genuine desire to use foreign materials and methodologies to improve the quality of the nation's academic programs. But many, quite frankly, are aimed at generating revenue as well. American academics who work in China now find themselves more intimately involved in Chinese intellectual life then they did five years ago, but they are also being drawn into a cash nexus as scholarship and study become increasingly more contractual and formalized. What this means in practical terms is that prices for services are going up and contractual relations are replacing informal agreements. A scientist who worked in China in 1985 and returned in 1986 calculates that he paid almost 7 percent more for his latest research trip even though it involved far less assistance. In- ternal inflation and the devaluation of the ynan are frequently cited to explain increases in prices. Some researchers who have worked in China in previous years through informal personal arrangements have re- turned to their danwei only to find themselves faced with the task of drawing up a contract for their proposed project complete with agree- 71
OCR for page 72
72 CHINA BOUND meets about payment for services. Recently, researchers have been asked to pay a flat research fee $300 per month if they are unaf- filiated with a formal exchange program. Especially thorny is the prob- lem of how to pay research assistants. Some American scholars have been disgruntled when asked to pay assistants who already are com- pensated by their danwei; others meanwhile have been thwarted when they attempted to reward assistants for extra services. Non-Chinese- speaking scientists have reported considerable frustration when they have been unable to enter into the process of negotiations for payment. Foreign students too are being charged more for room and board and tuition, sometimes without warning. In one case, students were pre- sented with a midsemester increase and the explanation that the order had come from a higher authority. When they asked to see written proof of the increase, the local foreign affairs office backed down. It seems clear that policies are interpreted locally; that negotiation is warranted if demands seem unreasonable or unclear; and that, how- ever personal are your relations with Chinese colleagues, interaction with the academic institution will be much more contractual than in the past. THE UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES As part of the reforms in education, universities have been granted virtual autonomy in deciding matters of curriculum, personnel man- agement, and relations with other organizations. To oversee this vast network, the State Education Commission (SEC) was created in June 1985 and placed directly under the State Council with status equal to that of the State Economic Commission and the State Science and Technology Commission. The SEC replaces the Ministry of Education and is charged with formulating and implementing educational policies and with coordinating the distribution of resources. The reforms have affected the universities in significant areas. For example, there is more scope for economic and academic activities on an institutional level as well as individually. Although still primarily teaching institutions, universities are encouraging faculty to pursue their own research topics and to meet with colleagues at conferences both inside and outside China. Moonlighting is tolerated to an extent so that intellectuals who are still underpaid and less free than workers or peasants to take advantage of the economic opportunities made possible by the reforms can supplement their salaries. Faculty can also pursue on their own opportunities to teach and study abroad. But with this new latitude has come more responsibility for faculty. Now that some universities once again can confer master's and doctoral degrees, professors are busy with graduate students. And in line with improve-
OCR for page 73
RESEARCH AND STUDY 73 meets in undergraduate education, senior professors are now assigned to teach basic subjects in addition to advanced courses, which adds to their teaching burden. Because of the Cultural Revolution and the rel- atively low status of teachers in China generally, there is a shortage of well-trained personnel, and teacher training has become a priority in higher education. But until these newly trained teachers are ready to assume their duties, it is the middle-aged educators trained before the Cultural Revolution who will bear the major responsibility for teaching. New departments are being added to universities and existing de- partments are being revitalized. The international politics program, for example, is being upgraded at Beijing and Fudan Universities. Mul- tidisciplinary study is being encouraged with the establishment of re- search centers such as the American Studies Center at Beijing University, which will oversee an interdisciplinary M.A. program. At Qinghua Uni- versity, which has traditionally focused on engineering, multidiscipli- nary studies have been set up to integrate the study of science and technology in such fields as environmental engineering, biophysics, and genetic engineering. Also at Qinghua, a school of continuing education has been approved, and an accelerated program for gifted students has been added. The impact and structure of the new social sciences de- partment at Qinghua is described by a graduate student who studied Chinese Communist Party history there: "While I was at Qinghua, the department sponsored a one-week seminar on the curriculum for rev- olutionary history, which was attended by 100 teachers from all over China. They came to hear lectures given by the Qinghua staff and to look at materials developed for teaching" (China Exchange News, June 1986, p. 17). Decisions to establish new departments and to expand the curricu- lum, as well as personnel policies, are now determined internally at each particular university. The general trend has been to replace older scholars who dominated university departments and administration in the late 1970s with younger, more active staff. Many of these new ad- ministrators were educated in China or in the Soviet Union in the early 1950s and are less familiar with Western methodologies and languages than the older generation, some of whom received their advanced ed- ucation in the West. Students too are deeply influenced by the new educational policies. In China all students must pass extremely competitive examinations before they can enter university programs. They finance their education in one of three ways: securing funding from the state, which then has the right to assign a student to a particular job after graduation; con- tracting with an employer who pays the student's bills and then hires him or her after graduation; or paying for oneself, which, of the three methods, is the only one that carries no obligation after graduation.
OCR for page 74
74 CHINA BOUND The trend seems to be that the financial burden of an education is shifting more and more to students except for those in critical disci- plines who have severe financial hardships and unusual academic abil- ity. Students have new opportunities to earn their own way through part-time work-study programs on their campuses and in jobs off cam- pus during vacations. This trend clearly has advantages, but the urge to make money in some cases may begin to outweigh academic moti- vation one American professor noted that some students cut classes to knit and sell homemade sweaters on the free market. There are numerous reports of corruption and "backdoorism" in the universities as students use personal guanxi to get better grades and good jobs and some faculty engage in questionable outside activities. These practices generally have been dealt with severely when they are discovered, but in the competitive atmosphere that prevails in China, they probably will continue at some levels. The reforms announced at Beijing University in the spring of 1985 are reflected in other institutions. Students now have more flexibility in determining a major and in choosing courses and scheduling classes. Summer school is now offered for credit, class hours have been short- ened to allow more time for outside study, and in some cases electives are now allowed and the number of required courses has been reduced. As yet, these structural changes have not visibly changed attitudes toward study. Rote memorization and passive learning within rigid disciplinary bounds still prevail. And the quality of student life still warrants improvement. Students have continued the tradition of ac- tivism that is a part of student culture in China, and demonstrations can be stimulated by mundane concerns, such as bad food and the increased cost of textbooks, or by far more serious political issues, as recent reports suggest. Finally, although education in one of China's prestigious universities is still coveted, study abroad has become an important means to advancement. If they are not being financed by the government, students can make their own arrangements for study abroad, although rumor has it that new regulations are being formu- lated to restrict the numbers and categories of self-sponsored students going to other countries. How do these changes affect the foreigners who work and study in China's universities? For one, outsiders enter into a far more lively academic atmosphere than was possible five years ago when the uni- versities were still recovering from the Cultural Revolution and were trying above all to rebuild a faculty. Improvements in campus facilities are immediately noticeable. Deserted and ramshackle buildings have been removed or repaired, and on many campuses special dormitories and classrooms have been erected for foreigners. This segregation, how- ever, is often viewed by foreigners as a negative rather than a positive
OCR for page 75
RESEARCH AND STUDY 75 move because isolation from the university community becomes the price of better living conditions. Recent visitors have found their Chinese colleagues more over- whelmed with institutional commitments than in the past when teach- ing duties were light or at times nonexistent. The increased pressure on Chinese academics results in their having less time for work with foreign colleagues. The foreign scholar will be far more successful in China if he or she contributes whether through lectures, tutorials, or informal English classes to the modernization effort. Patricia Beaver, an anthropologist who studied women's roles as an exchange professor at Northeast University of Technology in Shenyang, describes the im- portance of her own efforts and her husband's participation in teaching as a means of entering the community: My husband and I, as teachers and occasional lecturers at a Friday night English lecture series, were able to participate more fully in the day to day life of the university. Placed in a foreign compound, we could have easily bypassed entirely the flow of Chinese community life. However, our roles as teachers and colleagues gave us the opportunity to interact with students and colleagues and develop friendships, which enhanced both the research process and our living experience. (China Exchange News, December 1984, p. 13) But even with the best possible rapport with the institution and warm relationships with a few colleagues, most American academics are never fully integrated into university life. Many report being routinely ex- cluded from departmental meetings and functions. Lynn Struve's re- search, for example, was facilitated by Nanjing University's history department, but she was not able to take full advantage of its intellec- tual life: "Everyone was very kind, but I never was invited to any departmental social functions or colloquia. I was introduced to only one graduate student in the very last week of my stay, and I met no other members of the departmental faculty besides the two who were formally appointed to assist me" (China Exchange News, December 1984, p. 18). Foreign students nave found themselves part of a rapidly growing community on most campuses. Beijing University, for example, hosted over 200 self-paying language students from abroad last summer; sim- ilar situations exist on other campuses. These large numbers of students place considerable strain on the human and material resources of the universities and at times lower the overall quality of academic work. The segment of the university that pays the heaviest price for all of this activity and reaps few benefits is the foreign affairs office. On some campuses, the waiban oversees all activities relating to outsiders: on others with large student populations, these duties fall to the tiuxue-
OCR for page 76
76 CHINA BOUND sheng hangongsh' or tiuban, the office for overseeing foreign students. The linban plays a key role in the lives of foreign residents on any college or university campus. Linban personnel are responsible for overseeing the myriad details of everyday student life. They assign housing and, if appropriate, room- mates, arrange travel permits, issue ration coupons, and upon depar- ture see their charges through customs. The linban shares the re- sponsibility for the scholarly needs of its constituents with the academic departments, managing such activities as arranging for library and photocopying privileges, helping to gather materials, providing lan- guage tutors, and finding a suitable academic adviser. It is possible to cross departmental lines and establish informal net- works within the university, but generally speaking as a foreigner you will be expected to work through departmental offices when making formal requests (for example, for permission to attend a conference or to meet with scholars in other units). You will be identified with a unit and within that unit, with a particular department; but you should not expect to become a fully integrated member of either. American re- searchers and students have at times expressed deep disappointment about their exclusion from departmental activities and their limited contact with faculty and students. Whether channeling requests through linban personnel is helpful or restrictive depends on how such individuals perceive their duties, how much authority they have been given, and how tightly the unit is or- ganized. Students and researchers at one university, for example, may find linban officials supportive of their research goals and helpful in arranging housing, attitudes that reflect the university's commitment to international exchanges. In other units, linban officials may be less willing to push the limits of their narrowly prescribed authority on behalf of foreigners. Barriers among institutions are formidable, and Chinese officials often are hesitant to cross them. Officials will on oc- casion tell you that they cannot help fulfill a particular request because the power to decide resides in another jurisdiction. It should be rec- ognized that this is a very real problem for linban personnel. Other problems sometimes arise because cadres often work with un- clear directives as to what they can and cannot do. As a foreigner, one of your best options is to try to understand cadres' viewpoints and the limits of their authority while you seek workable channels to achieve important goals. It takes considerable sensitivity and some time in China to know when to press your requests and when to give up and try another route. As one seasoned researcher comments, the indirect approach often yields far more than a "frontal assault on all the things that are not ideal."
OCR for page 77
RESEARCH AND STUDY 77 Unfortunately, there are some bureaucratic restraints that cannot be overcome. For example> permission to visit a site not open to foreigners may be repeatedly denied, no matter how important it is to your project or how supportive your colleagues try to be. You should bear in mind that research opportunities in China are still developing, and part of your role involves laying the groundwork for colleagues and fellow students who will follow you. THE RESEARCH INSTITUTES Scholars hosted by a research institute have found that the character of their association with a particular unit is often determined by the kind of work to be done and where that work is to be conducted. Those working in the countryside may have little contact with their urban- based host institution beyond a welcoming banquet and a few visits to the research site. A collaborator from the institute may be assigned to the project, but access to materials and other resources is controlled by the local foreign affairs office. Because local offices often provide interpreters and assistants, the research team is sometimes composed of members from more than one unit; but in such cases, the researcher remains effectively "unitless" and must negotiate directly with bu- reaucratic organizations as the need arises. Researchers who have worked within the confines of an institute have been assigned a counterpart and a team of assistants from the unit who are responsible for making living and working arrangements on behalf of their foreign colleague. If travel is essential to the project, Chinese coworkers take care of the details and at least part of the team accom- panies the foreigner to negotiate with other organizations during the trip. Constant assistance from supportive collaborators not only frees the researcher, often working under a strict deadline, to concentrate on the work at hand but, in the opinion of one returned scientist, is "critical for the success of the project. Without them I would not have been able to complete my work." He advises others to write to their prospective units as soon as an assignment is made with a detailed outline of the research plan, the kind of materials and equipment needed, and the estimated time necessary to complete the project. It is essential that potential problems be identified and resolved early in the process; mis- understandings encountered once the work has begun can be particu- larly difficult to unravel in a situation in which the researcher is dependent on a small group of people with whom he or she must interact on a daily basis.
OCR for page 78
78 CHINA BOUND Scholars engaged in research in China generally find their hosts will- ing to help in the professional as well as the personal realm, but they stress that effective collaboration and the success of the research project are impossible unless Chinese colleagues understand fully the objective and requirements of the work. Without such an understanding, col- leagues and the sponsoring unit will be unable to meet the researcher's professional needs. Most of the problems that have arisen derive less from antipathy or incompetence than from a failure to understand precisely what is needed by the foreign scholar. Certain problems are, however, endemic to the kind of bureaucratic structure that exists in China. You must always be sensitive to the difficulties and requirements of working within such a system and remember that it is important to avoid statements or actions that might jeopardize future requests. In most cases the foreigner's arrangements for activities outside the danwei, such as travel and housing, are taken care of by the foreign affairs office of the parent organization. For example, a researcher work- ing in one of the institutes under the aegis of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) would negotiate with the academy's foreign affairs officials for most matters of daily and work life. At times, when the foreign affairs office is either unable or unwilling to meet certain demands, it may be possible to ask colleagues within the institute to intervene but you should resort to this selectively. The relationship between the institutes and their umbrella organization is often an un- easy one. The Chinese research institutes have been affected by the country's push toward modernization in several ways. Although some receive funds from the parent academy, most are being encouraged to become self-sufficient. Competition for funds is fierce, and to make up for gaps in funding, many institutes are linking up with industry and other organizations. Some have allowed their personnel to engage in work as consultants. And some institutes have lost their most talented re- searchers to the recently established high-level think tanks that advise government organizations on policy. Like the universities, research in- stitutes have actively pursued links with the outside and have partic- ipated in exchanges. But unlike the universities, the institutes are somewhat less free to engage in their own activities because they still are part of a hierarchy and because they have limited resources for foreigners' research projects. The physical plant of most of the institutes is an indication of the relative poverty of the research units. Even the highest-level institutes under CASS are still housed in poorly main- tained buildings. Personnel complain bitterly about poor-quality food in the canteens, lack of living space, and inadequate housing. Many of the younger research unit personnel have not been formally educated because of the Cultural Revolution and attend special staff
OCR for page 79
RESEARCH AND STUDY 79 schools. Their potential for study abroad is hindered by lack of prior training, but the institutes are able to send some of the more talented researchers abroad, integrating them, on their return, to the best ad- vantage of the organization. THE RESEARCHER'S EXPERIENCE AN OVERVIEW OF THE RESEARCH CLIMATE Research schol- ars who have worked in Chinese institutions have learned early on in their stay that no arrangement is predictable, permanent, or self-exe- cuting. For example, even though the research proposals of all students and scholars selected by the Committee on Advanced Study in China were approved by the appropriate Chinese organization and placements were carefully negotiated with host institutions, most researchers soon discovered that the actual implementation of these carefully laid plans required continuous negotiation with their host unit. Some scholars adjusted the scope or character of their project in light of available materials and resources. In the end, the project's success depended in large measure on the researcher's ability to balance relations with Chinese colleagues and with officials intent on safeguarding bureaucratic boundaries and the demands of the project. For such efforts, personal qualities are important a flexible outlook and a reputation for dedi- cation, trustworthiness, and competence are essential for gaining the respect of colleagues. Experience has demonstrated that the willingness of the host institution to support a particular project is largely deter- mined by how the work fits into China's national priorities and the current research program of the unit. Severe shortages of equipment, work space, and trained personnel dictate the allocation of available resources to projects that are relevant to national priorities. This is true of the humanities and social sciences as well as the natural sciences. The foreign scholar is often perceived as the representative of a par- ticular institution a unit, as it were in the U.S. educational system. As such, he or she brings a certain amount of prestige to the host institution and at the same time incurs a "responsibility" to enable people from the host institution to work or study at the researcher's home campus. This positive aspect is balanced by certain negative ones. For example, supporting a foreigner whose project depends on sensitive data or threatens bureaucratic integrity may be seen as setting a prec- edent for future unwanted intrusions. American scientists working on projects in earthquake prediction, cancer research, and nuclear science—all fields that have held a high priority in China despite institutional disruption during the Cultural Revolution have been well received by Chinese colleagues eager to make their own work known to the West. Because of these priorities,
OCR for page 80
80 CHINA BOUND some Americans have had to tailor their work to fit pre-existing agen- das, but they have also been aided by cooperative and knowledgeable Chinese colleagues and by the high prestige enjoyed by their units. In the fields listed above, Chinese scientists have shared data gen- erously with the expectation that the work will lead to publication in both Chinese and American journals. Researchers in these and other fields have lectured and participated in seminars at the host institute and elsewhere and have found such meetings to be important forums for exchanging information with a wide variety of people in all parts of the country. In addition, field trips with Chinese colleagues have helped bridge gaps between specialists engaged in similar research but with little knowledge of work outside their own unit. For foreign re- searchers who are necessarily working with limited time, the lack of centralized data has been the most serious constraint; equipment prob- lems in some cases also have caused delays. Scientists performing experimental work in institutes in which Chinese researchers have not been able to keep up to date and in which ana- lytical techniques and facilities are inadequate have found their col- leagues willing to help but substantially hindered by a lack of basic equipment and by unfamiliarity with the latest developments in their fields. Language also can pose formidable problems to effective research cooperation. One researcher spent the first week in his unit working with his colleagues to compile a glossary of technical terms so they could sustain conversations related to the project. In this situation the scientist's unanticipated tasks included not only teaching basic English vocabulary but also helping with methodology. Despite the extra time and work involved, the scientist in question felt that the effort was worthwhile not only because he was given access to valuable mate- rials and the project was ultimately successful but also because by helping his colleagues raise the quality of their work, he had contributed to future scientific collaboration. Reports from researchers in China indicate that the success of a pro- ject depends on whether or not it addresses a problem of current interest to China; that is, whether or not it is central to China's drive for rapid modernization. Thus, projects in the field of agricultural economics, plant studies, and architectural engineering, for example, have been enthusiastically received. Success also depends on how well one's Chinese colleagues understand why certain materials and work in the field are necessary to solve the key problem. Important data have been collected and trips to the field effectively organized and profitable, but according to one researcher, his colleagues' enthusiasm for gathering material was directly related to their understanding of why it was necessary. Research in the social sciences and humanities is carried out in re- search institutes organized under CASS and in university departments.
OCR for page 81
RESEARCH AND STUDY 81 In the 1979-1980 academic year, Americans who worked in these in- stitutions were acutely aware that most of their units' efforts were aimed simply at rehabilitating personnel who were victims of the Cul- tural Revolution and rebuilding their faculty. Some departments were so understaffed that they could not accommodate graduate students, and the presence of foreign scholars added another drain on depart- mental resources. It was important, therefore, that projects that con- tributed to faculty improvement or the departments as a whole received more support than those that were incompatible with ongoing priori- ties. Even today, projects that enhance the intellectual community are received with enthusiasm. And despite the impact of the new opening to the West, many Americans have found themselves the first foreign scholar to be hosted by a unit, and have encountered colleagues who are eager to learn of Western methodologies and topics. In the social sciences and humanities, research in many universities focuses on events and personalities of local importance. (For example, projects on the Boxers conducted at Shandong University, on the 1911 Revolution at Wuhan University, and on the economic history of the Tianjin region at Nankai University, have been warmly received and actively supported.) One researcher points out the advantage of working in a university that is located strategically for a particular topic: The Nanjing University history department seems to wield a great deal of influence nationally and especially in the Jiangnan region. The chief advantage of affiliation with this unit for me was the ease with which I could obtain letters of introduction from my adviser-professor to his former students, old classmates, and colleagues who are now in posi- tions of responsibility in museums, libraries, scholarly publishing houses> and other universities all over the south. (China Exchange News, De- cember 1984, p. 18) The success of a project often hinges on the willingness of individuals to use their connections to help the foreign scholar. Some university departments may be oriented toward a particular historical era rather than toward local interests. Beijing University (Beida) has aided scholars working in Shang and Qin-Han history be- cause its departments are strong in those areas; Beida is also strong on May Fourth literature. Recent experience has shown that working on a widely admired text or literary work can generate enthusiasm from Chinese colleagues. One researcher describes the positive reaction to his project on Hongtoumeng (The Dream of the Red Chamber): The research climate surrounding any work on Hongloumeng is quite open and healthy. The topic commands considerable respect and in- terest on the part of both eminent scholars of the older generation and
OCR for page 97
RESEARCH AND STUDY 97 Another woman points out that the female student faces more bar- riers in developing a student-mentor relationship with a male professor than does a male counterpart. She reports that her hosts usually took great pains to produce female companions or assistants to serve as intermediaries or chaperones. "At first I resented the intrusion," she writes, "but now I think it was unrealistic for me to expect to have a direct adviser-advisee relationship given the present social conventions so I tried to develop better relationships with the woman who had been dragooned into 'helping' me." She adds that the pattern has been re- peated in other academic settings in other Asian countries where women have little visible power in the academic establishment. Diligence usually pays off, however. Another female student who specializes in literature had to contend with the attitude that foreigners, particularly Westerners, can never truly appreciate in depth the Chinese literary tradition. But, she adds, for all the differences in approach, the bond that develops between scholars working on similar ancient texts- the shared sense that only a few scholars in the modern world care about these works creates an environment conducive to communi- cation: "Older professors, if skeptical of our competence, are openly moved by the devotion they perceive in one who has acquired their language and then traveled so far to join them in their studies. Thus, they may go to great lengths to encourage and facilitate research." Despite difficulties and stalemates, American students in the past seven years have had remarkable success in their research. Students have worked on archeological digs, traced the footpaths of the ancient poets, joined opera troops, lived with minority peoples, labored in silk factories, mined the Ming-Qing archives, recorded Taoist performances on site, and presented papers at conferences; but most importantly, many have forged lasting ties with Chinese advisers and fellow students. If one important lesson has been learned from the student experience, it is that no matter what the regulations or how they change, individual students must build a personal reputation for perseverance and pro- ficiency before they can hope to receive active institutional support. As one very successful graduate student in anthropology observed in ret- rospect: "The first semester was a period of 'feeling out' how to go about getting my research done including interviews at factories and trips to libraries. For my Chinese counterparts, the first half of the year was a time to find out whether they could trust me." Students do not enter the Chinese professional world blessed with a status that guarantees respect. Their gains are worked out on a case- by-case basis that does not ensure that similar privileges will be ex- tended to future students. Attitudes change slowly in China, and foreign students' successes will probably continue to be determined by their own ability to work through the system, by the kind of unit in which they must work, and by the nature of their demands. ,,_. a.
OCR for page 98
98 CHINA BOUND INITIAL MEETINGS WITH TEACHERS AND ADVISERS Soon after arriving on campus, foreign students receive a general introduc- tion to their institution and its rules and regulations. They then usually meet individually with linban and departmental representatives to dis- cuss class schedules and specific requests. Some graduate students have been asked to submit an outline of their dissertation proposal in Chinese before an adviser is assigned. Others have worked with a tutor for a time before handing in a detailed proposal. Experienced students and researchers stress that when drafting a proposal it is essential to state clearly the relationship between the topic and any requests you may be making for materials, tutorials, and travel. Because foreign students must depend on teachers to help gather materials and facilitate re- search, it is important that they present their research plan thoughtfully in these initial meetings. It is a good idea to take copies of your own published work, major papers, and bibliographies to establish credi- bility and define the level at which you hope to proceed. If you prepare a plan early in your stay and insist on beginning library work and other scholarly activities from the beginning, your advisers can hardly fail to be impressed with your seriousness of purpose. As one student at Beijing University states, "You may be one of over 200 foreign students in your department and you must distinguish yourself as worthy of help." Establishing yourself is only the beginning of the process of devel- oping a productive working rapport with an adviser. Language prob- lems generally loom large and can assume even greater dimensions when the teachers speak a dialect. And there are other, less easily de- fined issues as well. A student of classical literature reports: There is more to communication than speaking a common language. A second, more subtle and persistent problem was that of establishing my credibility as a student of Chinese literature. During the initial stage of our discussions I was anxious to convey my own approach to the text, while my advisers had not yet been convinced of my grounding in the rudiments of the field. In fact, my struggle to describe ideas quite alien to them only served to obscure their perception of what I actually understood. Even worse, it provided no common ground of discussion by which I might benefit from their knowledge. (China Exchange News, June 1986, p. 2) This student switched to asking more direct specific questions related to the texts themselves and began to make progress. Once a working vocabulary was established, topics of common interest began to emerge. Other students mention the difficulties of finding common ground for their work with advisers. Many have found that focusing on broad topics and bibliography rather than on methodology is a compromise that can make the most of time spent with an adviser. And searching for a
OCR for page 99
RESEARCH AND STUDY 99 common range of interests yields better results than trying to mold sessions using a preconceived notion of what should transpire. Students remind their successors to be sensitive also to teachers' work schedules and holidays and to expect that schedules may be interrupted by travel or ill health. In fact, many student reports mention the ill health of their Chinese colleagues as a factor in losing work time. COURSEWORK There is no formal registration process for foreign students attending Chinese institutions. Ideally, new students are in- formed of offerings by linban or departmental personnel who handle any necessary paperwork, but sometimes students complain that they are not informed of the full range of courses available. There are few Western-style college catalogs in China, and many students learn of course offerings only through the student grapevine. Check the bulletin board in your department to see what courses are listed, and ask your Chinese friends what is being offered in a given term. Be aware too that not all courses are open to foreigners. Most universities allow foreign students to move between departments when choosing courses, but they do not encourage them to change their departmental affiliation once a commitment to a particular discipline has been made. It is important to have some prior knowledge, if possible, of the best de- partment for your topic. An anthropologist, for example, found no an- thropology counterparts in her university; she affiliated instead with an economics department with some success. The fall semester in China begins in early September in most uni- versities, and the spring term begins in late February or early March after the month-long spring holiday that follows Chunjie (Lunar New Year). Most classes are scheduled in two-hour segments beginning at 7:30 a.m. and meet two or three times a week. Some graduate courses meet once a week for two to three hours in much the same fashion as a seminar. But the content of many courses, even those for graduate students, is often not advanced enough for the taste of many American students. One graduate student reports that the professor read from textbooks and assigned no outside reading, allowing questions only during the 5- to 10-minute break in the middle of the class. Grades depend on either a long research paper or, in some cases, a final ex- amination (exams are sometimes handed out ahead of time). Some professors test foreign students orally or not at all. Faithful attendance is mandatory if you want to establish a good relationship with a pro- fessor, because teachers in China view cutting class as a personal af- front. Once you make a commitment to a class, you should fulfill it. Classes are usually conducted in "rapid unadulterated Mandarin" or in a dialect unintelligible even to some Chinese students. Few conces- sions are made for foreign participants beyond the occasional repetition
OCR for page 100
100 CHINA BOUND of terms or use of the blackboard. One American graduate student who considers himself fluent in Chinese described note-taking as a "har- rowing experience." Some courses have textbooks; others do not. Stu- dents have varying opinions about the worth of their texts. Archeologists, for example, have discovered that the informally produced mimeo notes for class often contain valuable new information that is a long way from being published. A common complaint of students is that Chinese professors are either unfamiliar with Western literature or woefully out of date; thus, courses are not "on target" for their particular interests. Most American students avoid the classes for foreigners only because they are aimed at foreigners studying for undergraduate degrees in China who have little background in Chinese studies. But the classes that professors design for their own students offer interesting insights into how particular disciplines are studied in China, as well as the chance to become acquainted with Chinese professors and graduate students. FIELDWORK AND TRAVEL Relatively few American students have been able to conduct genuine fieldwork, but many have traveled ex- tensively, establishing informal contacts along the way. Some students have been given permission to travel to-out-of-the-way places, either alone or accompanied by Chinese students or advisers; and some have been successful in collecting data—for example, on folk music and Taoist liturgical practices. Some also have traveled with their Chinese classmates on school trips. Others, however an economist, for ex- ample found the constant presence of an overbearing and jealous ad- viser a real hindrance. Some students astutely observed that they had far more freedom and resources to travel than many of their Chinese teachers could hope for. Student travel is generally much less expensive than tourist travel, especially on school-arranged trips for which hard-class train accom- modations and student dormitories are used. Whenever possible, buses are used, but if a project demands a journey that is inaccessible by public transport, a car and driver sometimes will be hired. Occasionally illness mars these trips. In one case a student was warned that con- ditions would be less than comfortable and insisted on going on a school trip only to become seriously ill with dysentery along the way. In a number of instances, students have been able to travel widely, sometimes to areas not normally open to foreigners; these travels have been accomplished with the help of or, occasionally, in spite of their foreign student office. A student who traveled to the sites important in the poetry of the famous Tang poet Li Bai received extraordinary co- operation and reports an unforgettable trip:
OCR for page 101
RESEARCH AND STUDY 101 In both Anhui and Zhejiang, each town provided me with at least one well-prepared local expert, either an historian, gazeteer researcher, or member of the local "cultural station." In cases where transportation to a given site was difficult, a jeep or a boat was put at my disposal for the trip. The flexibility of my hosts made it possible to take advan- tage of opportunities for impromptu interviews with villagers who would recount (and sometimes debate) their versions of Li Bai's life as it was lived in their village. Not all students are so fortunate to have a topic that captures the imagination of such a wide variety of people. But the possibilities for this kind of informal contact are far greater for students than for other foreigners and are one of the most enjoyable aspects of the student status. LANGUAGE STUDY Some advanced students elect to take lan- guage classes at the university; others opt for making their own ar- rangements with a tutor or trade English lessons for practice in Chinese. Complaints about language classes are common. Many students are disappointed in the lack of rigor, the prevalence of lecturing rather than drilling, and in general the paucity of opportunities to practice the language creatively. As one student notes, teachers often do not take their foreign charges seriously enough to correct their mistakes. Many students have noticed that upper-level translation classes are usually better than lower-level conversation classes. If you plan to work with a tutor, it is a good idea to take some texts and tapes along to help structure the class. Your tutor may have no training in teaching the language but may be quite willing to follow a plan and to use materials suitable for your interests. One student practiced reading handwritten Chinese and writing business letters as well as developing her reading comprehension in her own field. Reading a classical text line by line with a tutor who knows the literature can be a very re- ~. . warming experience. Some students trade English lessons for Chinese lessons, a less than ideal situation but sometimes the only way to practice informal con- versational Chinese. As in work with a tutor, you must be prepared to organize your time with your language partner. Watching a television program or movie and then using the new vocabulary and theme as a focus for language practice is one method of mixing class time with leisure time. A word of caution, however: be sure that you receive as much time in Chinese language training as you give in English. Chinese who are trying to learn English are remarkably persistent when they have a native speaker with whom to practice.
OCR for page 102
102 CHINA BOUND Many Americans lament that immersion in Chinese is hard to manage at universities with large numbers of foreigners. As one student puts it: "Oddly enough, coming to China may not be the optimal method for improving Chinese language skills. Not only is one subjected to periodic unannounced arrivals of unknown Chinese students or teachers who need help filling out U.S. university application forms, but the language predominately used in the foreign student dorm and cafeteria is almost invariably English. Even the Russians are more eager to speak English than Chinese." This observation illustrates a common dilemma for foreigners, many of whom are approached to teach English in part- time schools and the like. You must find a happy compromise between demonstrating sympathy for and a desire to help Chinese people in their quest for better English-language skills and fulfilling your own purpose for living in China. According to Chinese educators, language students make up the bulk of foreign students in China, and efforts are being made to increase enrollments in Chinese-language courses. Several Chinese universities accept students directly and others set up programs in cooperation with an American college or university. Choosing a suitable program for your particular goals will involve some investigation; check with the foreign study adviser or Asian studies faculty at your home institution. A useful guide to language study in China has been compiled by Jesse Parker and Janet Rodgers for the Yale-China Association (A Guide to Living, Studying and Woric~ng in the People's Republic of China and Hong Kong, rev. ea., New Haven, Conn.: Yale-China Association, January 19861. Parker and Rodgers point out that there are positive and negative aspects of both types of programs. The student who elects to study language in a program administered by the Chinese must secure applications from the Chinese Embassy and then send the application directly to the particular Chinese school. Experience indicates that students are not necessarily guaranteed a place in the institution they have selected. These programs have the advantage of being much less costly than the U.S.-Chinese cosponsored programs, but because there is no intermediary U.S. administrator to consult, you will have to negotiate for yourself on most issues. Many students find this situation frustrating, especially those who have not yet acquired the language skills to function independently. But students who have arranged their own study find that they mingle more natu- rally with the Chinese community and that their confrontations and successes with the bureaucracy are valuable learning experiences. Cosponsored programs are more costly, but they offer students the advantage of applying through a U.S. institution and working with an American resident director in China. It is difficult to evaluate these programs because they are constantly in flux as Chinese teachers come
OCR for page 103
RESEARCH AND STUDY 103 and go and U.S. administrators move in and out of the organization. Some programs have maintained good reputations consistently while others do not live up to the promises in their brochures. It is a good idea to talk with other students who have studied in China, to seek advice from your Chinese-language teacher if possible, and to call the program director for specific information. Be sure to ask about travel arrangements to and from China, whether a trip within the country is included in the fees, how credits are granted and transferred, and whether a content course taught by an American professor is planned. Some cosponsored programs have managed to develop a language curriculum suited to the needs of American students, but the degree to which any outside force can influence the Chinese philosophy of teaching is lim- ited. Eventually, students must adjust to Chinese methods of language teaching if they are to make the most of their studies in China. Some difficulties arise because Chinese-language teachers believe for- eign students should acquire all the skills of language learning speak- ing, writing, reading, and aural comprehension—simultaneously. Language classes are organized to include reading (hanyu or yuedu), conversation practice (huibna or konyu), listening comprehension (tingli), and composition exercises (xiezuo). Regular examinations cover prog- ress in all four skills (sihui). Most American students have not been as adequately prepared in speaking as in writing and reading, and the most commonly voiced complaint centers on their frustration at not learning practical, everyday vocabulary fast enough to become func- tional in Chinese while in China. Teaching Chinese to foreigners is a new field in China that is only slowly gaining legitimacy. Many Chinese are not trained to teach the language, and most are unfamiliar with the drilling, creative conversation, pattern drills, and language labs that make up an American program. Often the materials used in China do not mesh with those students have used in the United States, and most language programs must incorporate students with widely vary- ing backgrounds, a serious problem for many Chinese teachers. Most intensive programs schedule between 16 and 24 class hours each week, usually in the mornings from 8 a.m. to noon. Afternoons are used for excursions in and outside of the city, for study, and for special coaching (fuduo). Classes usually concentrate on a set text, which the teacher and the students read repeatedly and then memorize and ana- lyze. Many Americans have observed that students are expected to play a rather passive role in the teacher-student relationship. Creative use of language is not encouraged nor is genuine dialog between teacher and students. Materials often are not adequate, but a good teacher will respond to students' suggestions and make an effort to find relevant, interesting materials. Students should remember, however, that their teachers work within a fairly rigid bureaucracy and that their power
OCR for page 104
104 CHINA BOUND to implement change is very limited. Teachers usually work as part of a team and are expected to use only approved materials; they also work under the close supervision of departmental authorities. Examinations are often prepared by a committee of teachers who work at the same level all first-year teachers are part of a team, for example and are designed to test progress in absorbing materials presented in the basic texts. Chinese teachers complain that American students are often casual about cutting classes and that a single class usually brings together students with very different skills and motivation. Many teachers have little experience with the methodology and materials used in the United States and become as frustrated as their students at the difficulties of adjusting time-honored methods to the needs and backgrounds of Amer- ican students. On the other hand, most Chinese teachers feel responsible for all aspects of their students' lives and visit them in the dormitory, worry when they are unhappy or ill, and offer extra help for those having problems in class. Some Americans find this attention suffocating, but most feel genuine affection and respect for their dedicated, hardworking Chinese instructors. ACCESS TO MATERIALS Policies in China governing access to libraries and archives vary as do individual experiences with certain libraries. Your status, work unit, research topic, and approach to problems all determine the limits to access as much as do the particular policies of the library you hope to use. There are more than 200,000 libraries in China, including the na- tional library in Beijing: 1,732 public libraries; 700 college and uni- versity libraries; 100,000 middle school and elementary school libraries; 1,000 scientific and specialized libraries; and 110,000 trade union li- braries. Detailed descriptions in Chinese and English of Chinese and foreign books and periodicals along with addresses of important li- braries can be found in the Directory of Chinese Libraries (Beijing: China Academic Publishers, 19821. (This information comes from a very useful article by Chi Wang of the Library of Congress, "An Overview of Li- braries in the People's Republic of China," China Exchange News, Sep- tember 1984.) Foreign scholars probably will use only a few of these libraries; yet reports indicate that gaining entry to heretofore untested libraries is continuing. A few guidelines for library use follow. They have been gleaned from reports, published and unpublished, of scholars who have conducted research in Chinese libraries and archives. One conclusion that applies generally is that library work is time- consuming in China. Advance preparation can be of great help in cutting down some of the time lost in bureaucratic maneuvering once you are
OCR for page 105
RESEARCH AND STUDY 105 on site. One researcher remarks that a search for a book that would take 20 minutes in the United States can take up to two weeks in a Chinese library. He advises that you read all the secondary literature available before going to China. Many Chinese libraries do not have workable catalogs or do not make them available to foreign scholars so you must be prepared to ask for particular holdings. Fortunately, there is a growing literature on the kinds of materials available and reference guides for further information, all of which can be of great use in preparing to work in China. Researchers have also found it useful to have on hand a summary of their topic in Chinese and the kinds of materials needed for its inves- tigation. The summary can be presented to library staffs or helpful colleagues in China. One successful researcher gave a talk about his work and the materials he needed to a group of scholars who then offered to help him informally by lending their own collections. Good personal relations with colleagues are as important in gaining access to materials as in other aspects of scholarly life. And by no means are important written resources confined to libraries. Americans have dis- covered that the rich mine of unpublished material relevant to their field can be tapped only through personal contacts with Chinese col- leagues. A linguist remarks: "There is simply no substitute for direct personal contacts with one's academic colleagues in China. In my field there exists a vast quantity of unpublished field material on dialects of every corner of China and the only way to obtain access to this valuable storehouse of data is through personal contacts." A reputation for seriousness and diligence also pays off with library personnel who may be bound by regulations but often are willing to bend them for the deserving individual. A researcher who worked in the National Library in Beijing found that his initial request for ma- terials relevant to his topic was quickly accepted. He goes on to add, however, that he met with reluctance when he stepped outside these initial limits: Only when I began to ask for more and more materials not directly connected with my original topic did the hold-ups begin. Since the materials in my field do not involve much in the way of sensitive or controversial topics, any difficulties I had did not amount to much more than bureaucratic inertia of the kind not totally unknown in our own institutions. I managed to overcome these difficulties in the Beijing library through the sheer passage of time, as the library staff gradually became convinced that I was no troublemaker, and began gradually to regard me as a daily fixture in their domain. (China Exchange News, June 1986, p. 9) Two additional points are made in this account: (1) scholars in a hurry will be frustrated by the slow pace in which newcomers are accepted and books delivered, and (2) requests for books outside the
OCR for page 106
106 CHINA BOUND original list presented may create problems. Most scholars have dis- covered important materials only after working for some time in a facility, and most have also had to convince library personnel that these were indeed genuinely relevant to the project at hand. Chinese cate- gories for arranging knowledge are sometimes quite different from those accepted in the West. Again, advance information, not only about the materials in a library but about their classification, can be of great use in presenting requests. Your work in a library may be slowed down by several factors. Often, collections and reading rooms are separated, sometimes in different parts of a city. In some cases, books or periodicals must be ordered as much as a week in advance. Photocopying facilities, if available, usually are limited. At the Beijing University Library, for example, only 30 sheets at one time can be copied, and the turnaround time is at least two days. String-bound books and most pre-1800 materials may not be photocopied, although in some libraries they may be microfilmed. Usu- ally, however, microfilm readers must be reserved in advance. Research assistants to help with transcribing materials by hand may not be admitted in many facilities. Many libraries are being renovated and books cataloged in an effort to improve facilities that were at best neglected and at worst actively destroyed in the Cultural Revolution years. Some libraries will not be usable for years, and you should check ahead before planning a research visit whose success hinges entirely on using particular collections. Also, some libraries do not allow their old books to circulate during the hottest months of the summer. Many scholars associated with universities have found departmental libraries useful, especially for periodicals and secondary works, al- though other treasures may be found in them a fine collection of stele rubbings exists in the history departmental library at Nanjing Univer- sity, for example. Catalogs in these smaller collections usually are or- derly and complete. Access to materials is determined by the host danwei, which secures privileges within its own boundaries and negotiates with other danwei. Scholars who have been affiliated with nonacademic units have at times had difficulty obtaining permission to work in libraries. Foreigners placed in a university or research unit are issued library cards that must be presented when requesting books. Only certain books non- sensitive secondary works, for example may be taken out, and then the quantity is usually limited. Rare books are handled with care and generally may be read only in certain areas of the library. Those for- eigners affiliated with CASS may have little trouble gaining access to the libraries of the various CASS research institutes. But someone in a university might have more trouble using CASS libraries simply be- cause the necessary connection for use must be made between auton-
OCR for page 107
RESEARCH AND STUDY 107 omous danwei. Similarly, in some cases students and research scholars in universities have been able to use municipal libraries after producing a letter of introduction from the foreign affairs office of their host unit; others have had to be personally introduced to library staff. In some cases these bureaucratic barriers simply could not be crossed. Museum and factory libraries also have presented problems for some scholars. The use of archives, such as the No. 1 Archive in Beijing housing the documents of the Qing dynasty, is a special art. Strict rules that are given to the newcomer govern the use of these facilities, which have only gradually opened to foreigners. A graduate student who success- fully used the No. 1 Archive proves that status is not the only deter- minant of access. He advises researchers to do the following: cultivate a relationship with the primary person assigned as a go-between, re- frain from asking for complete collections, make it clear that any mi- crofilmed materials are for personal use only, and keep any special privileges that have been allotted to yourself. The primary expert on the No. 1 Archive, Prof. Beatrice Bartlett at Yale University, has written extensively on its history and materials. She points out that the history of the Qing archives has taken a different turn from that of many earlier finds of documents, which are now housed outside China: "The Ch'ing archives were saved for the Chinese, to be developed by the administrative vision and genius of Chinese curators. Foreigners are welcome, but as readers, not owners of the documents" (Times Literary Supplement, July 4, 1986, p. 734~. In another essay, Prof. Bartlett offers advice about using this unique library that could well apply to any situation in China. After noting that map files are closed from view, she observes: The situation is constantly changing, however, and frequently one is gratified when a curator's generosity is employed to prevail over a narrow interpretation of the rules. In view of the fact that the materials in all Chinese archives are magnificent, offering much to the scholar willing to search, patient submission to the rules while at the same time quietly attempting to negotiate improved terms is a worthwhile posture, likely eventually to produce desired results. ("Archive Mate- rials in China on United States History," pp. 504-506 in Guide to the Study of United States History Outside the U.S., 1945-1980, vol. 1, ed. by Lewis Hanke, White Plains, N.Y.: Kraus International Publications, 1985)
Representative terms from entire chapter: