BEIJING – The new top official at Peking University, one of China’s top two centers of higher learning, is a former head of the national spy agency’s branch in the Chinese capital, underscoring President Xi Jinping’s drive to enforce academic conformity and tighten the ruling Communist Party’s power over academia and other sectors not under its direct control.
As party secretary, Qiu Shuiping “hopes that Peking University can seize the opportunities in the new era and grow into a world-class university with Chinese characteristics,” the school said in a news release whose language closely mirrors that used by the party under Xi.
Qiu’s lengthy official resume says that from the end of 2013 to the end of 2014, he was party secretary of Beijing’s State Security Bureau. That is the local branch of the ministry responsible for espionage and counterespionage.
Qiu graduated from Peking University in 1983 with a law degree and also served as secretary general of its party youth league branch. After a career in the Beijing party apparatus, he most recently served as a high court judge in the northern province of Shanxi.
While Chinese now have vastly more power to make individual life decisions than during the days of Mao Zedong, the party maintains decisive power over institutions from schools to banks, corporations to sports federations. Xi, who amended the constitution earlier this year to allow him to rule indefinitely, has been ratcheting-up that control alongside propaganda drives to retain young people’s loyalty to the party.
Xi has also warned against the introduction of liberal political concepts such as universal values into the classrooms of Chinese universities and professors have come under increasing pressure to maintain political correctness at the risk of demotion or dismissal.
Increasingly, however, young Chinese are opting to study in the United States or other countries and Xi’s own daughter was once a graduate student at Harvard University.