"NYU Shanghai is having to offer some required courses in China under PRC rules that would be objectionable to any academic freedom-loving person. However, if they do not offer such courses, they, like all other foreign institutions, would not be able to operate inside China.
"Some people think it is objectionable that any American or free-world institution would agree to offer PRC communist party indoctrination courses. Others think that though this is a regrettable necessity for operating a higher education program in China, it is a reasonable trade-off under the circumstances and that NYU is doing much good in China, under the constraints.
"This dust-up does however put into sharp relief the policy considerations, first principles, and fundamental assumptions that underlie American engagement with China over 40 years, including all of the higher ed joint ventures. Under Xi Jinping, when everything in China has taken a dark, illiberal turn (and some have proclaimed the era of reform and opening over), the idea that engagement with China will eventually lead to more openness and that essential values like academic freedom will become embraced and in the interim unofficially tolerated, is falling into question."
Walter Hutchens, J.D., holds a juris doctorate and master's degree in East Asian studies from Washington University. His areas of expertise include China, Hong Kong—current unrest, culture, business and law, global business, business law, international relations and international security.