Xi Jinping, Harvard, and the Universal Constant of Socialist Hypocrisy

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A woman walks past a portrait of Chinese President Xi Jinping as the country is hit by the coronavirus, Shanghai, China, March 12, 2020. (Aly Song/Reuters)

It’s nice to know that no matter where you are in the world, no matter what culture, no matter what country, no matter what form of government, you can find people in power insisting that other people forsake benefits and advantages that they themselves enjoy.

Recent catastrophic global events are forcing me to catch up in the inner workings of modern China, and I was mildly surprised to see that the daughter of Chinese ruler Xi Jinping, Xi Mingze, attended Harvard University under an assumed name and received her degree in 2014. There were rumors she had returned to Harvard to get her graduate degree in 2019, but those rumors have not been confirmed.

(Getting information about Xi Mingze is difficult. Images of her are banned in China, and a man who posted photos of her was sentenced to fourteen years in prison.)

Roderick MacFarquhar, the former Director of the Fairbank Center for East Asian Research at Harvard, wrote in The China Questions: Critical Insights into a Rising Power:

The number of Chinese studying in the United States alone in 2005–2006 was over 62,500; by 2015–2016, the number had climbed to over 328,000. There are many thousands more studying at campuses set up by foreign universities on Chinese soil. Most Chinese families sending their children to foreign schools can meet the cost through their own funds and are thus not dependent on government scholarships. How will Xi stop this turn away from Chinese colleges? A few years ago, he instructed officials to remove their children from foreign schools. At the time, Xi’s daughter was midway through her undergraduate studies at Harvard. She did not withdraw. What kind of example does this set for other official families, let alone families with no ties to public office?

By sending his child to an educational option that he wants to deny to others, Xi Jinping has proven that if the whole running China thing doesn’t work out for him, he could always shift over to becoming the superintendent of Alexandria Public Schools or president of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers.

John F. Kennedy famously said, “our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.” He could have added, “and we all have someone who has it really good, telling us we’re not allowed to have the same things that they enjoy.”

 

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