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The construction of the Chinese academic system: Its history and present challenges

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image of Frontiers of Education in China

The rise and development of China’s academic system is a process that started from “passively accepting Western Learning” to today’s “catching up with Western Learning and even exceeding it”. In the last century, China experienced a turbulent and unstable social environment in which academics and politics have always been intertwined. As a result, the internal logic of China’s academic system shares similar characteristics with its Western models, but is unique in certain ways at the same time. In the complex and inseparable relationship between academics and politics, which involves both love and hate, the logic that academics must serve political needs, on one hand, establishes the co-existence of the academia and the government, which provides a relatively stable environment for academic activities within the system; on the other hand, it also jeopardizes the ecological environment in which the academics can develop according to its own internal logic. For exactly the same reasons, even at present, internalization means something special and complex for Chinese academia because, on one hand, it truly represents academia’s strive to meet international standards; on the other hand, the pushing factor behind this “voluntary” stance is still state and political power.


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