The Dean of Shandong: Confessions of a Minor Bureaucrat at a Chinese University

Princeton Univ. Mar. 2023. 208p. ISBN 9780691247120. $27.95. POL SCI
Born in Montreal, Bell (political science, Univ. of Hong Kong; The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy) tells of his experience as the first foreign person to be appointed dean of a political science faculty in Mainland China. He was chosen for this position at Shandong University, where he served from 2017 to 2022, largely due to his expertise in Confucianism, which is quite fitting as Shandong Province was the birthplace and home of Confucius (551–479 BCE). This work offers fascinating insight into life in China from the perspective of a non-Chinese academic. Bell offers a frank assessment of the realities of being a scholar in China. On the one hand, the censorship there offers real impediments to academic activities. However, the collective leadership model provides a decision-making process in which multiple viewpoints are earnestly discussed and considered. Sprinkled throughout are the author’s takes on how both Confucianism and communism continue to influence society and politics in China today.
VERDICT Highly recommended for anyone interested in academia in present-day China. Readers interested in memoirs about life in contemporary China should also consider Cai Chongda’s Vessel.
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