CCP’s “golden boy” plagiarised material from jailed dissident?

At first it sounds like just another case of alleged plagiarism, but this one has deep-reaching implications because the material in question lies at the foundation of the CCP’s obsession with a “harmonious society.”

A Chinese professor adopted as the intellectual poster boy of the Communist party has come under fire for plagiarising the work of a dissident jailed by the government in the early 1990s.

Zhou Ye Zhong, a professor at Wuhan University, is credited with much of the inspiration behind the current leadership’s new ideological approach, with its emphasis on the “harmonious society”.

He has lectured the Politburo and Communist party chief Hu Jintao and has been at the centre of the party’s efforts to square its ideology with formerly taboo topics such as human rights, the rule of law and constitutional government.

But his position as Beijing’s golden boy has started to tarnish after he was accused of plagiarism by Wang Tiancheng, a former Beijing University professor who was jailed for five years in 1992 for attempting to form a rival political party.

Mr Wang used an internet discussion board to denounce Mr Zhou’s work, and has threatened to take legal action against him if an explanation is not forthcoming.

He told Reuters that his book, The Constitutional Interpretation of Republicanism, was quoted “word for word” in Mr Zhou’s recently published works.

“He’s risen to the top by repackaging fashionable terms – human rights, democracy, rule of law – for the party’s ends,” Mr Wang said. “But he reflects the emptiness of the party’s ideology. They’ve got nothing and so he needs to raid the opposition camp for any new ideas.”

This story actually saw some play in the reforming PRC – at least for a while. But before we celebrate more signs of openness and transparency, let’s get the whole picture.

The Youth Daily, a newspaper given leeway to report stories suppressed by the rest of China’s tightly controlled media, further publicised Mr Wang’s claim of plagiarism. But that debate has now been muted following an order from propaganda officials to end further discussion of the matter in the domestic media…

The propaganda department last week ordered Youth Daily to suppress a dissection of Mr Zhou’s book by a liberal law professor, He Weifang, but discussions of the case have spread on the internet.

As the article points out, “harmonious society” has become Hu’s catchphrase. How ironic, if its real source is an anti-CCP dissident.

Thanks to the scholarly reader who sent me the link.

The Discussion: 5 Comments

Not ironic at all depending upon your view of the motivations of HJT and those around him. More interesting is to ask what is really going on? Who stands to gain from tarnishing HJT’s “harmonious society” concepts?

January 4, 2006 @ 1:25 am | Comment

Dylan, I’m not knowledgable enough to make an informed argument – I mean, I could just go “remnants of the Shanghai gang,” right? But the media crackdown has sort of thrown a lot of my old paradigms out the window.

I guess there’s nothing inherently contradictory about HJT”s “harmonious society” concept proceeding hand in hand with increased censorship and a suppression of the public discourse – but it’s not exactly the kind of thing I can personally celebrate – for one thing, I don’t think it will work.

Dylan, I’d really like to hear your thoughts on the questions you pose above. Enquiring minds, etc. – I get the feeling you’re way more informed on this than I am.

January 4, 2006 @ 1:36 am | Comment

As a continuation of my scattered thoughts above (it’s nearly 1 AM here and past my bedtime)…

I mean, I know you have to take the long view and that in order to succeed politically in China you have to be patient, but HJT seems to be increasingly revealing himself as a rather rigid technocrat – isn’t this the guy praising North Korea’s “social harmony”?

I’d like to believe that this is a long-term, subtle game being played out, but I’m not getting that lately. Please tell me I’m wrong.

January 4, 2006 @ 1:44 am | Comment

They speak a parallel language, like Orwellian Newspeak. When they say “harmony” they mean “shut up and pretend to enjoy it while we rape you.”

January 4, 2006 @ 6:46 pm | Comment

No amount of plagiarism by Chinese people, both at home and abroad, can surprise me anymore. Further, I’m sure that there must be a strong positive correlation between an individual’s status and the level of plagiarism engaged in.

This is one of the truly appalling aspects of the Chinese psyche – the notion that the destination matters more than the journey taken to get there. ‘If denial, lies, cheating, and corruption get the job done, then so be it’, is a deeply ingrained, albeit silent, mantra; and too bad if anyone gets trampled on while we’re doing it.

The verbalized mantra concerns the so-called ‘harmonious society.’ I hear this from my students all the time, right after they’ve agreed that cheating in exams is wrong. But like their truth-challenged government’s empty rhetoric, it’s uttered for the sake of appearances. Let the copying begin…


January 6, 2006 @ 9:07 am | Comment

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