China unboycotted

A couple of times, usually just before it’s just about to end, BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, has had a piece about a controversial performance. There was one on the discovery that Beyonce, Nellie Furtado, Usher and Mariah Carey all sang for the Ghaddaffis in recent years.

The latest was about Bob Dylan’s coming Chinese show. Like everybody else who tours there, he submitted to state censorship to play in China and is obliged to keep to a “strictly agreed playlist”. Bjork was nodded through the censors but went on to dedicate her song “Declare Independence” to Tibet on the day – so perhaps Bob Dylan will use the stage to draw attention to the imprisonment of Ai WeiWei and other Chinese dissenters after all.

Listen to the BBC piece for the coming week (scroll to 08:49).

HT: Matt.

6 Responses to “China unboycotted”

  1. Wondering Says:

    I am sure you know that British campuses (as all others in CHina) are quite openly replete with political police.
    No doubt that Chinese universities have “links” with the military.

    Of course, the UCU know what side their bread is buttered. They know that Chinese students are paying for UK HE, they know that without Chinese students, the UK HE system would sink.

    That is why they have remained silent for so long about Chinese hr abuses – a boycott of China would actually affect their own lives, whereas a boycott of Israel would hardly touch them at all.

    (I note also how the old campaigns against differential fees
    for “home” and “overseas” fees has fallen by the wayside – all principles have a price I guess!)

    Needless to say, I do not support nor I am calling for a boycott of Chinese universities. I am merely pointing out that the UCU are good at empty gestures but when it comes to committed actions with consequences for themselves, they are nowhere to be seen (and, of course, in addition many think that somehow China with its “communist” roots is somehow not as worthy of criticism as “western powers” – a bit like their toleration of the old Soviet Union).

    Of course, if they were to organise around China then they would no doubt be asked, why, considering China’s record, there is differential treatment for Israel, for the Jewish state?

    • Thomas Venner Says:

      “That is why they have remained silent for so long about Chinese hr abuses – a boycott of China would actually affect their own lives, whereas a boycott of Israel would hardly touch them at all.”

      Not quite. Israel has the world’s highest number of degrees per capita, and Israeli universities have been at the cutting edge of research in many fields for a long time now. If British universities boycott Israeli academia, they would in fact be ridding themselves of some fairly signifiant academic competition in certain fields (at least within the UK) – it would in some cases affect them, but it would affect them positively.

      I know that I’m not the only one who has suspected for some time that the academic boycott motions are being promoted as much out of cynical self-interest as out of anti-Zionism/anti-Semitism, as an attempt to use politics as a convenient way to push out ideas that could supersede their own work, in a way similar to the “Deutsche Physik” movement in 1930s Germany.

  2. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Thomas makes a very interesting point, and it raises the question as to the implications of it if he is right. The Nazis, of course, found themselves handicapped by a lack of scientists and, further, by dubbing some areas of science as “Jewish”, proceeded to go down blind alleys. The Soviet system (under Stalin in particular) came close to doing the same with Lysenkoism.

    Undoubtedly, the freedom to do science unfettered by politico-ideological considerations results in better science.

    However, tempting though Thomas’s insight is, I suspect that it’s pure (or rather, very impure) politics that is at work here. After all, why should the likes of Steven Rose fear intellectual competition from Israeli scientists? Come to that, what does Tom Hickey have to worry about concerning Israel? Apart, that is, from stringent deconstruction of his published views.

    • Thomas Venner Says:

      I’m not saying that it’s all pure self-interest – it’s fairly obvious (to all except the leadership of UCU, that is), that some extremely dubious politics are the root cause of a lot of the calls for an academic boycott of Israel. What I’m suggesting is that those who are looking for a convenient way to push out some of their competitors under the guise of currently fashionable politics are considerably “bulking out” the numbers in support of the boycotts and that, while politics created the boycott movement, this opportunism gives it greater weight and drives it forwards with much greater power than it would have if only the politically interested were involved.

  3. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    I take your point, Thomas, but I’m not convinced that researchers (whether in the pure and applied, or even the social, sciences) feel that threatened by researchers elsewhere as to be so cynical.

    If they’re that poor at what they do, they are going to be found out/lose their funding/fail to get published anyway, with or without extra-national competition.

    I think we need to apply Occam’s Razor here: the most straightforward/simplest explanation is the most likely to be true (or at least warrant serious investigation before being dismissed). Thus, the arguments about certain lefties redefining the notion of oppression and just who is oppressed and who is doing the oppressing (to oversimplify the argument) “demands” (my emphasis) to be disproved before moving on to more complicated arguments.

    However, given the hour (00.32, by my clock), I’m prepared to be reminded that I’m taking your comment too seriously and irony and other forms of wit are at work here!

  4. Lynne T Says:

    Mira: may I point out that Dylan is scheduled to play Ramat Gan Stadium in June of this year, so very possibly his decision to appear in China was wisely timed to avoid any BDS crap. In his younger days, Dylan was known for not falling into line with the leftist political orientation so prevalent in the folkie community of the ’60s, despite his “finger pointin'” songs, so I would not expect him to look upon the opportunity to play in China, Israel or anywhere else as anything other than an opportunity to entertain fans.

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