I am Yaxue Cao, founder and editor of ChinaChange.org and the author of Why Is a Math Professor at Wellesley So Hard Hitting against an Economics Professor Fired by Peking University in China. I’m here to explain how this article about Professor Bu came about.
On November 23, 2013, Professor Xia Yeliang, who had not been active on Twitter for a long time, and who was probably still riled up about being fired by Peking University, which made news headlines a month earlier, dropped the following tweet: “Charles Bu, a math prof at Wellesley College, tends to be extremely active to accuse and smear me. What’s benefits behind?”
I met Professor Xia once at a friend’s dinner party in the summer of 2012 when I was vacationing in California, where we exchanged pleasantries. That was the extent of my acquaintance with Prof. Xia, but I am one of his 54.7k Twitter followers. And as the editor of ChinaChange.org, I took a keen interest in Prof. Xia’s case.
I myself actually didn’t catch this tweet of his (I follow 1,400+ people and don’t read every tweet on my Timeline). Other tweeps did and got curious, while Prof. Xia seemed to have disappeared again from Twitter after sending that tweet.
If you are an active Twitter user, you will know that Twitter is a virtual teahouse where people congregate, post information, talk, and, occasionally, yes, look into things. Without Prof. Xia’s knowledge, several of us became curious about who Charles Bu was and why a math professor from Wellesley was so involved in the incident of Professor Xia. We quickly found his Chinese name is Bu Qiyue (步起跃) and in a matter of hours, we discovered that (search “步起跃” and “Charles Bu” on Twitter and you will see all the tweets):
1. In the evening of October 22, 2013, in less than two hours, an article by Professor Bu Qiyue (Wellesley has a translation) was published by the state-owned Xinhua News Agency and then reposted by at least a dozen or so “mouthpiece” media outlets controlled by the Chinese government, such as the People’s Daily, People’s Daily Overseas, China News, the CCTV website, China Radio International, Global Times, China Daily, and more. It struck me, and everyone else who took an interest in the question, as something extraordinary: the essay and its across-the-broad reposting in such a short time span had the appearance of a state-engineered and coordinated smear campaign.
2. Prof. Bu has very close ties with the Chinese government: According to a report on the official website of “the Federation of Overseas Chinese of Changzhou,” he was an “overseas commissioner,” and was received on October 14, 2013, by the deputy director of the local Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department and the director of the Federation of Overseas Chinese of Changzhou. The Federation of Overseas Chinese, as my report pointed out, is a unit in the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, which is an arm of the Chinese government on both central and local levels. The official website of the Federation describes it as “a people’s organization under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party Changzhou Committee.”
In fact, as recently as May, 2014, Professor Bu was still an “overseas commissioner” of the Federation of Overseas Chinese of Changzhou, and was again received by the Federation in that capacity.
Please note, nowhere in my report did I describe Professor Bu as a “communist commissioner,” and for a mathematician, such gross inaccuracy is deplorable.
3. A feature story about Professor Bu on the official website of the Chinese Communist Party Changzhou Committee’s United Front Work Department mentioned that, among other things, Professor Bu and his family had once been received by a ministerial level Chinese official with a banquet at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, the place where Chinese government receives foreign leaders and dignitaries.
As a fellow Chinese who has also lived in the U. S. for over twenty years and whose journey to the U.S. was similar to that of Professor Bu, I want to offer readers some perspectives: for someone like Professor Bu, who apparently was the pride of his hometown Changzhou, it is not uncommon to be invited by local Chinese officials for a meeting or a dinner while visiting family in China. Once or twice I myself was approached as well. But to be retained as an “overseas commissioner” by local government, to be received by officials from the Communist Party’s United Front Work Department, and to be invited to Diaoyutai in Beijing is anything but common.
Tweeps found more about Professor Bu on November 23, 2013, and one of them, who described himself as a mathematician too, even offered a professional evaluation of Prof. Bu.
I wrote the report and posted it on November 25, 2013. I summed up the collaboration of several tweeps (acknowledged at the end of my article). As far as I was concerned, I was interested in the fact that 1) Professor Bu’s article seemed to me (and to veteran Chinese journalists I talked to – read the comment section – after the article was posted) part of a concerted effort to discredit not only Professor Xia but his Wellesley colleagues as well, and 2) that Professor Bu had maintained close ties with the Chinese government.
Tweeps (I only know the identity of one of them) and I were not professional investigators on a mission. We were curious, we googled, and we found what we found on public sources available to everyone. While I documented our findings meticulously in my report, I made no accusation against Professor Bu. Instead, I closed my report with a very modest request for him: “…it is problematic to hold back such extraordinary ties from his Wellesley colleagues while criticizing their support for Mr. Xia [on Chinese state media], and Professor Bu owes his colleagues some perspective and balance.”
When Professor Bu wrote, “Mr. Cushman and so-called ‘freedom fighters’ resorted to a McCarthy-style witch hunt,” I suppose by “freedom fighters” he meant us: me and the tweeps. Let me just say that I didn’t know Professor Cushman at all; I had run into his name once when I did my research for the report, but I doubt the other tweeps knew anything about him. In any case, Professor Cushman, or Professor Xia for that matter, were completely irrelevant to our interest in Professor Bu and our subsequent research on him, and my report had nothing to do with either man. Neither man was aware of my report before it was posted.
I urge readers to search “步起跃” as well as “Charles Bu” on Twitter to find all the tweets (mostly in Chinese) tweeps tweeted on November 23, 2013, with their findings and thoughts, and you will have it all as I did. It’s as simple as that.
What happened to links to articles about Professor Bu’s affiliations with the organizations mentioned in the article? They were able to go to webpage at first and then disappeared soon after the article was publish. It is strange that the links lead now to webpages that cannot be found . Is it China censors and why will they do that? Xaiobing
Dear Wellesleyans, if some of the links in my “Letter to the Editor” are broken, please visit http://chinachange.org/2014/10/26/a-letter-to-wellesley-college/ to find these webpages in web cache or screenshot. We make sure everything is archived, and nothing is lost.
Webcache of the 404ed webpages of the Federation of Overseas Chinese of Changzhou are here:
Ms. Cao’s writing will surely be archived and nothing will be lost. Her articles about me contain full of false information, misrepresentation and political character assassination in a shocking fashion. It is clear that Ms. Cao continues to mislead Professor Cushman who has no expertise in China and does not read Chinese language.
It is deplorable that Ms.Cao resorted to smear campaign by going after my background especially my hometown connection in China. The tactic of these so called “freedom fighters” is the exactly the same tactic used by Communist Party propagandists.
Making false and defamatory statements in print against a US citizen carries serious consequences. Ms. Cao will be held accountable for spreading false information to readers of her website chinachange.org, to her 54,000 Twitter followers and to Wellesley College community.
Ms. Cao has damaged my reputation, Wellesley College’s reputation and Professor Cushman’s reputation. Without revealing details here, I will present my case against these ridiculous accusations in the court of law. I am confident that justice will prevail.
Seriously? Mr Bu. Did Ms. Cao damage my reputation? What is your reputation? Wellesley College? US interests or China?
So, it will be “Professor Bu, Professor Cushman, the Wellesley College vs. Yaxue Cao”? Wow, that’ll be…well…pretty cool.
Before the court starts, you might want to offer Wellesleyans an explanation why those two items on the website of the Federation of Overseas Chinese of Changzhou have been 404ed. Don’t try Coincidence Theory.
Dear Wellesleyans, professors and students, I am Yaxue Cao, and I am the author of “Why Is a Math Professor at Wellesley So Hard Hitting against an Economics Professor Fired by Peking University in China,” a report that came out in November, 2013 (http://chinachange.org/2013/11/25/why-is-a-math-professor-at-wellesley-so-hard-hitting-against-an-economics-professor-fired-by-peking-university-in-china/); “Letter to the Editor” in which I explained how my 2013 report came about in response to Professor Bu’s inaccurate accusation against Professor Cushman (http://thewellesleynews.com/2014/10/27/letter-to-the-editor-17/); and I am the co-author of “Take a Considered Position through Disciplined Thinking – An Open Letter to Wellesley College” in which Fengsuo Zhou and I urged Wellesleyans to look into the facts of the matter before jumping into identity politics (http://chinachange.org/2014/11/04/take-a-considered-position-through-disciplined-thinking-an-open-letter-to-wellesley-college/).
If you wish to explore the whole affair more thoroughly before reaching any conclusion, which I urge you to do, you can go through the timeline below (to get all the hyperlinks, please view the timeline at http://chinachange.org/2014/11/04/take-a-considered-position-through-disciplined-thinking-an-open-letter-to-wellesley-college/):
A timeline of the events from September 2013 to the present:
1) On September 3, 2013, 100+ Wellesley professors published a letter to Peking University regarding the possible dismissal of Professor Xia Yeiang;
2) On September 13, 2013, Professor Cushman published the article Conscience and Compromise: The Troubling Case of Yeliang Xia in the Chronicle of Higher Education;
3) On October 18, 2013, a Friday, Peking University formally announced the dismissal of Professor Xia Yeliang;
4) On October 22, 2013, Professor Charles Bu published in Xinhua News website the article In American Universities Faculties Also Have to Be Evaluated to Get Contract Renewal (Wellesley has a full translation);
5) On October 29, Prof. Bu published the article Why the PKU partnership is good for Wellesley in The Wellesley News;
6) On November 3, Prof. Bu published the article Journalists Should Ask Peking U. Students About Yeliang Xia in the Chronicle of Higher Education;
7) On November 25, 2013, Yaxue Cao posted Why Is a Math Professor at Wellesley So Hard Hitting against an Economics Professor Fired by Peking University in China on China Change website;
8) On February 27, 2014, Professor Cushman gave a presentation at Cato Institute: Chinese Intrusions into American Universities: Consequences for Freedom;
9) On Oct 5, 2014, New York Times published an article about Professor Cushman, Policing University Partnerships in Authoritarian Countries;
10) On October 22, 2014, Professor Bu published the article I am not a Communist spy in The Wellesley News;
11) On October 23, 2014, Professor Cushman published a rebuttal On Charles Bu’s Falsehoods in The Wellesley News;
12) On Oct 26, 2014, 20+ Wellesley faculty members voiced disapproval of Prof. Cushman in The Wellesley News;
13) On Oct 27, 2014, a faculty/student/alumni petition against Prof Cushman led by Sophia S. Chen, Class of 2013, was initiated. It is unclear how many have signed the petition;
14) On Oct 27, 2014, Yaxue Cao explained how her report from a year ago came about in a Letter to the Editor of The Wellesley News;
15) On Oct 30, 2014, Prof. Bu threatened to bring a lawsuit against Yaxue Cao in his Letter to the Editor of The Wellesley News;
16) On November 4, 2014, Fengsuo Zhou and Yaxue Cao posted Take a Considered Position through Disciplined Thinking – An Open Letter to Wellesley College on China Change website.
17) On November 6, 2014, Wellesley Student Tiffany Chan published the article Conflict between Professors Bu and Cushman Creates Unsafe Environment in The Wellesley News.