Another Dissident Leaps Into the Arms of the American Right

Xia_YeliangXia Yeliang, formerly a dissident professor at Peking University, announced on Monday that he will become a visiting fellow at the Cato Institute, a libertarian thinktank partially funded by the conservative Koch brothers.

Xia, an economist, was dismissed in October in 2013 in what the New York Times called “part of a wide crackdown on scholars, lawyers and writers who have discussed democracy and freedom.” Before I move on from his dismissal, it’s worth mentioning that Eric Fish, writing for the Atlantic, actually talked to students and professors at Peking University who criticized Xia for being a poor teacher didn’t “care about teaching at all.”

Regardless, Xia is part of a larger story about the lives of dissidents after they lose their position of influence in China. Instead of working to influence things in China, they join conservative organizations in the United States that co-opt them as part of an anti-China agenda.

It happened with Chen Guancheng, who left China only to end up at the Witherspoon Institute where he regularly forecasts China’s doom. It happened to Chai Ling, a now widely discredited figure of the Tiananmen student movement, who saw Christ and pillories China in Congressional hearings like “China’s One-Child Policy: The Government’s Massive Crime Against Women and Unborn Babies.” It happens to so many dissidents.

I understand why they do it. You can say bad things about China in China and go to jail, or you can have conservatives pay you enormous amounts of money to do it in the US. Regardless it causes these activists to lose credibility as agents of change in China, and the impact they can have from the States is minimal.

Let’s end with Professor’s Xia’s words on the subject

“If you want institutional change, someone must be willing to stand out to make a contribution, even sacrifice.”

Let’s see the sacrifice he can make from his desk at Cato.

    7 Responses to “Another Dissident Leaps Into the Arms of the American Right”

    1. Brido

      I’m not sure Chai Ling turned to the Dark Side only after going to the States. Philip Cunningham’s portrait of her in ‘Tiananmen Moon’ is of a pretty poor sort of person.

    2. name

      “You can say bad things about China in China and go to jail, or you can have conservatives pay you enormous amounts of money to do it in the US.”

      Not entirely convinced. These people don’t simply “say bad things about China”. I think it has much to do with the conservative mindset of most Chinese intellectuals. Those among them who attack the CCP from the “right” (so called “liberals”) do so from positions not dissimilar from those of the American right (pro-free market, pro-globalisation, pro-corporate, anti-regulation etc.). Secondly, many seem to disregard academic objectivity when it comes to fight their personal political war — “the CCP damaged me/my family, hence I will fight no holds barred to overthrow the CCP”. They also tend to go from one extreme to another (see: ex-red guard Jung Chang).

      It might be a sense of utter impotence that pushes them towards the most extremist “allies” (as you write, “the impact they can have from the States is minimal”).

      • name

        Also: After losing your prestigious job at PKU, what are you going to do? Work as a teacher or learn another job? No way! Better use the publicity earned from the “dictatorial dismissal”, move to the US (aka the Mecca Chinese scholars) and get an easy (just talk about how awful China is) and well-paid job at a “top American think tank”.

        • benji

          You are so cynical and negative. It takes conviction and character to buck against the grain of the majority of boot lickers to be a dissenter, and Xia is one of the very few principled minority. You make it sound as if Xia and others like him actually prefer the easy street of the US, as opposed to living in the land where they were raised and born. Wrong call.

    3. biopower

      The poster, and the people here attacking Xia, are in some ways kinda fucked up.

      Does Xia need to go to jail and martyr himself to be legit?

      I feel like Patrick and the commenters, because they have a problem with conservative politic — they think it’s bad — so they’re using that to try to discredit these brave Chinese people. Would it be better if they went to work at CAP or something? I suspect that a place like CAP would not take people like this. The whole tone and concept behind the presentation here is just condescending and supercilious.

      • benji

        hear hear
        so easy to be self righteous Starbuck socialists like Lozada smugly critiquing Xia & others for not taking it on the chin and more to stand up and be counted in the repressive state where Chenguan & policemen can kill hawkers & babies at will. i like to see Lozada & the others face the mental & physical atrocities experienced daily by brave dissidents like Xia & not take the next flight out.


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