...Many Chinese philosophers acknowledge privately that it's not just better library resources and higher scholarly standards that attract them to work in the United States, but also greater freedom of expression. The Chinese government hardly tracks obscure scholarly debates at home about passages in Mencius or Zhuangzi. In recent years, it has, in fact, supported Confucian approaches and thinking in prominent ways—for instance, through that soft-power push of Chinese culture into American academic institutions by its richly financed Confucius Institutes. But every Chinese scholar asked agreed that if a Chinese philosopher prominently and publicly pushed the line that, say, Confucianism, or any other Chinese philosophy, supports multiparty democracy and liberal values that clash with Communist Party practices, that scholar would run into trouble with the state and party supervisors, who are embedded in all Chinese academic institutions—a judgment perhaps confirmed by the current case of the economist Xia Yeliang at Peking University.
"You cannot use the philosophy to criticize Marxism," says Cheng. "That would create a lot of trouble. Particularly in this moment. because China is in a very sensitive period of transition. President Xi wants to make use of Mao. There's also the international issue about the islands" in dispute with Japan.
"The Chinese academic world is surprisingly free," says Yu. "But you cannot publish some of those things in a newspaper, or talk about them to a Western journalist."...
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