Academia and Politics

Over the weekend, i read a story series posted on It vividly illustrated how Chinese University functions in the research level. How professors treat their students(crappy), how a research group obtain funding(bribe), how people write their thesis and research papers(plagiarize), etc. etc..

I forwarded the story to some friends and my sister, who is in her fifth year as a graduate student. I asked her what it was like in her school.

Here is her responce:

I read the first 30 or so installments, and I think I got the gist of the story. There are definitely politics in the academia in the States, but it’s nothing comparable to the stuff in the story. At least I can argue with the professor’s secretary and not worry about whether or not I’ll still be paid. In terms of grad students being free labor, it all depends on the particular professor. Mine is about one of the best, and has never forced anything upon us; but there are definitely those who do treat their students like crap. But on the whole, people are here to do research, and politics do fall second to academic achievement. Your advisor’s network of influence may come to matter when you’re looking for a job, but to hold anything down you still need to be a good researcher yourself.

Anyway, that’s the way things are in my circle. I hear even in France and Germany, things are pretty different.

There’s probably plagiarism and fake experimental results in academic papers here, but it’s very very disreputable, and no one with any self-respect would do it. It is definitely NOT what looks like the accepted trend in China. That’s really scary that they could make up numbers like that for REAL bridges and buildings. !!

And here is the story (in Chinese. The original series is on, which i believe is banned by China. I found this version on the author’s website, hopefully people in China can read this):

6 thoughts on “Academia and Politics

  1. Haha, that’s it
    I once wrote such so called project plans to apply for Foundation, too. And the Q&A meeting for application. Relation is the most important. It’s very obvious that the committee members knew nothing about the project tech. They are clear you are telling fairy tales to them,either. But anyway, they will offer the fund if Boss is in a good relation with them. From their point of view, at last money will go into someone’s pocket, so just choose the one sounds reasonable.

  2. The interesting part about reading about academia in China is that we find this whole state of affairs strange.

    Humans are political animals.

    But we think we are something much different – technological, economic, intellectual, moral, creative, athletic, whatever animals. Cutting deals is always thought of as a failing that can be fixed.

    You don’t ‘fix’ a fish so that it use its gills.

    I’m starting to think that if you’ve never wheeled and dealed, backstabbed, betrayed, connived, bribed, made unholy alliances etc. then you’re not yet a fully developed human ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. That should read

    You don’t ‘fix’ a fish so that it doesn’t use its gills.

  4. to mfd: So why do you think we have occupations? Like Alice said, politics is still present but it is secondary to research. I don’t think anyone is saying politics has to be absent. Only that when politics overshadows research in acedamia, we find it horrifying. It doesn’t have to be 100% or nothing. That’s a bit extreme.

  5. I’ve read that economics is politics in disguise.

    Most occupations involve remuneration.

  6. Fully agree with:
    …if you’ve never wheeled and dealed, backstabbed, betrayed, connived, bribed, made unholy alliances etc. then you’re not yet a fully developed human ๐Ÿ™‚
    We should know much from these, and we should learn more from these. To know and to learn are not meaning these are permitted, but to make us to be able to fight with these. Though it’s hard, it needs time, we must!

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