A plagiarism scandal broke out in March in Chinese academic circles when Nanjing University literature professor Wang Binbin charged that Wang Hui's dissertation on Lu Xun -Resistance to despair – contains a number of passages lifted from other books without citation. (More background information from Granite Studio and ChinaGeeks)
Wang Hui is honored as the spokesperson of the Chinese “New Left” intellectual circle and in spite of the scandal, in May he was nominated by Tsinghua University and successfully received a scholarship award from the highest government authority, the State Council.
While Wang Hui kept silent and expected the matter to be “clarified within the academic community”, many scholars and public intellectuals have commented on the issue via local media outlets. Some defended Wang Hui; some pointed out that the dilemma is one of non-standard citation rather than of intentional plagiarism; some have suggested a thorough investigation be led by an independent academic committee. The whole debate has mainly taken place within the local academic circle and online public sphere until very recently (July 7) when a local media outlet (ifeng.com) disclosed a joint letter signed by “an international community of scholars, translators, editors, historians and cultural critics” in support of Wang Hui.
Backup from international academic community
The open letter, signed by many prominent western scholars such as Tani Barlow, Arif Dirlik, Gayatri C. Spivak and Frederic Jameson, frames the plagiarism charge as an “attack from the popular media in China” and defends Wang Hui's academic integrity:
The charges have been contested and discredited in the careful analyses given by Zhong Biao, Shu Wei, Wei Xing and others. Among the signatories to this letter are also translators and they are without doubt closest to the work of Wang Hui. Each translator has checked and double checked all the footnotes in the vast bibliographies of Professor Wang's publications over the last thirty years. None has found any indication of plagiarism no matter how loosely this word is defined.
Second, among us are many Asia specialists in Chinese studies and we attest to Professor Wang's scholarly integrity and his importance in international Asian studies.
Interestingly, the two accounts of Zhong Biao and Wei Xing, quoted in the letter, were set up for the purpose of this debate but quoted as if the two individuals were well-known public intellectuals. In addition, their “careful analyses” have yet to clear Wang Hui of his technical mistakes. In Zhong Biao's article, he explains the background of Wang Hui's book and criticizes Wang Binbin's unreasonable charge:
Wei Xing is the first to frame the issue as a media attack and his viewpoint has obviously been taken up by the international community of scholars’ joint letter:
Quoting from a number of debates across web-platforms such as Douban's Duping（讀品） and zhongguosixiang.com, Wei Xing believes that media and internet violence have destroyed academic integrity:
A transparent and accountable investigation
Many scholars and intellectuals will laugh at the above quote as the Chinese Academia has hardly enjoyed any freedom and independence since 1949 and political liberals believe that the only way to strike for academic freedom is to develop accountability to the public. In this sense, the joint letter signed by more than 60 local university professors and public intellectuals calling for immediate investigation by the Tsinghua University and Chinese Academy of Social Sciences on Wang Hui's plagiarism charge is probably a most effective attempt to defend the academic independence and freedom:
事件發生距今已3個月，其間不斷有學者呼籲中國社會科學院和清華大學組織調查委員會，但是至今未見回應。汪暉對上述批評迄今也沒有任何回應，但他曾表態， 希望能由學術界內部來解決。為對汪暉教授負責，澄清這一爭議，結束莫衷一是的狀態，走向良性循環，我們支持熊、林二位的建議，聯名要求中國社科院和清華大 學迅速答複，履行職責。我們也同意易中天的主張，在組成調查委員會時，應邀請貴院、貴校之外的學者，乃至海外學者參加，公示委員會名單和調查結果。我們同 時要求，調查結論以及各委員投票意向最終能公布，以示公開、公正，接受公眾監督。
Local political liberals VS. international new left
The two letters is now viewed as a confrontation between two clans of intellectuals: the local political liberal VS. the international new left. The former calls for a transparent investigation and public accountability, the latter frames the debate as attack from popular media and open criticisms as violence against academic freedom.
Wu Lian, a literary critics is outraged by the international joint letter:
Under such “construction”, the local academic publication, Literature and Arts Studies has vaporized, vanished, disappeared!
This is an insult to an important Chinese academic publication!
It seems that the international turn of the scandal is doomed to add oil to the boiling water in China .Below are some immediate responses from Twitter:
汪晖不是成天反全球资本主义的扩张吗, 怎么一到自己跟前,就抱上全球文化霸权的大腿了, 真恶心人啊