Economics and the Tangle of Abstract Theoriesand Mathematical Rigor
Elinor Ostrom, the sole woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, passed away in the year 2012. In her path breaking work Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions of Collective Action, she challenged the assumptions of the Tragedy of the Commons concept by demonstrating how local communities worldwide had been sustainably managing common pool resources, such as fisheries and pasture lands, by devising a set of collective rules. She dismissed a supposed inevitability of free riding and resource overexploitation by arguing against indispensable role of governments or private businesses in sound regulation of common resources. Her phenomenal contribution to development economics came to be recognized with the embracement of the community-based management model by donor nations and governments in developing countries.
It merits a mention that Ostrom’s work was not characterized by mathematical rigor, as is usually the case with a typical academic economist who is expected to come up with the work replete with dazzling mathematical and econometric applications. Rather than focusing on mathematical models, Ostrom evinced a great interest in understanding the rules of common resource governance, which was backed by her keen observation and fieldwork. As such, her findings and recommendations came to hold immense relevance for practical application.
The penchant for econometrics partly explains why eminent academic economists failed to anticipate the US financial crisis of 2008. Paul Krugman, a Nobel-winning economist and New York Times columnist, attributes their failure mainly to “the desire for an all-encompassing, intellectually elegant approach that also gave [them] a chance to show off their mathematical prowess.” Decline of professional integrity is another cause of concern. In January 2011, the American Economic Association created an Ad Hoc Committee on Ethical Standards for Economists. It was influenced by Charles H. Ferguson’s documentary movie ‘Inside Job’ (2010) which highlighted conflicts of interest involving academic economists who had affiliations with private financial institutions which consequently impacted objectivity of their works and opinions. In fact, disassociation of ethics from any profession or activity is bound to result in moral and social catastrophe. It is apt to quote Mahatma Gandhi who believed in an integral relationship between economics and social justice: “True economics never militates against the highest ethical standard, just as all true ethics to be worth its name must at the same time be also good economics.”
Gandhi was not an economist, nor did he employ mathematical models in support of his views. Nevertheless, his thoughts turned out to be a major imprint on the contemporary and current grassroots campaigns and environmental movements that are vociferously demanding socio-economic justice and socio-environmental sustainability. In fact, it was Gandhi who inspired E.F. Schumacher’s Appropriate Technology concept (through his emphasis on adopting technology that benefited a common man), Arne Naess’s Deep Ecology Movement, and Vandana Shiva’s Seed Satyagraha Movement, to name a few among numerous such examples. Moreover, Gandhi’s prescient call for conservation of nature finds an echo in the current mainstream concept of sustainable development. He had cautioned: “The earth, the air, the land and the water are not an inheritance form our forefathers but on loan from our children. So we have to hand over to them at least as it was handed over to us.”
The crux of the issue is that while mathematical rigor is not at odds with the promise of research output for humanity, the heavy adherence to econometrics or quantitative models renders economics specious. This is compounded by economists’ disassociation from ground realities and their confinement to the world of abstract theories, which is the bane of economics. Would academic economists wake up?
Gandhian Ecology: What Makes it Relevant Today?
by Romi Jain, September 2013
Abstract: Gandhi is primarily known as a vigorous protagonist of non-violence with an immeasurable impact on non-violent freedom movements against social, political and economic
injustices. Gandhi’s contribution to humanity, however, extends to the realm of ecology, exerting a major influence on the environmental movements in India and on western thinkers’ notions of intermediate technology and deep ecology. Gandhi had made a prescient call for conserving nature, limiting usage of resources to sustenance, and limiting human wants, apart from championing village self-reliance and advocating Sarvodaya or welfare of all. This article examines the relevance of Gandhian ecology as a method and as a philosophy to
address the issues of sustainable development. The first part briefly explains Gandhian ecology and highlights its relationship with the monistic philosophy of Advaita Vedanta that looks upon
all living entities as manifestations of the supreme self. The second part discusses the relevance and application of Gandhian ecology in terms of protection of biodiversity against
monopolization, promotion of resource conservation, achievement of village self-reliance and protection of community management of resources. The third part critically illuminates linkages between Gandhian ecology and business sustainability practices. The article concludes that
Gandhian ecology is indispensably relevant and is capable of application, though with inevitable constraints.
Keywords: Gandhian ecology, sustainable development, Advaita Vedanta, business sustainability strategy, environmental movements, deep ecology.
What is Gandhian Ecology?
Peace is intimately linked with development and justice in as much as violence manifests not simply in covert wars but in unjust and socio-environmentally irresponsible public
and corporate policies and actions. The nefarious effects of embedded “structural violence” include deprivation of the poor from sources of livelihood, for example, their eviction from lands; exposition of the future generation to resource scarcity and to the consequent risk of violent conflicts over resources; and government or private monopolization of common pool resources, to the detriment of those who are dependent
on them for sustenance. Dennis Soron aptly states: “Ecological violence – that is, the callous misuse and despoliation of nature itself – rebounds back upon us as structural violence, destroying lives and livelihoods, amplifying existing conflicts and inequalities, and exposing countless people to severe storms, floods, drought, fire, disease, displacement, and chronic food and water insecurity.”1 Gandhian ecology fits in the
ecological framework to address structural violence, as explained in the subsequent section. Let us first understand Gandhian ecology. Gandhian ecology consists in the recognition of the inseparability of living beings and in
the consequent reverence for and protection of all forms of life. It is apt to take note of the echo of Jainism, a religion of an austere form of non-violence, according to which:
“Life…exists not simply in the moving beings (trasa), but also in some non-moving ones (sthavara) such as plants and beings inhabiting bodies of earth. The ideal of the Jaina is,
therefore, to avoid molesting life not only of the moving creatures but also of the nonmoving ones.”2
Similarly, Gandhi, as Bhikhu Parekh explains, challenged the anthropocentric view that “man enjoys absolute ontological superiority to and the consequent right of unrestrained
domination over the non-human world.” In contrast, “Gandhi’s cosmocentric anthropology restores his (man’s) ontological roots, establishes a more balanced and respectful relationship between him and the natural world, assigns the animals their due place and provides the basis of a more satisfactory and ecologically conscious philosophical anthropology.”3
Interestingly, as Vinay Lal mentions, the word ‘ecology’ does not appear in Gandhi’s writings: “…Gandhi appears to have been remarkably reticent on the relationship of humans to their external environment, and it is striking that he never explicitly initiated an environmental movement…The 50,000 pages of his published writings have relatively little to convey about trees, animals, vegetation, and landscapes…”4 Nonetheless,
Gandhi’s views on different aspects of ecology (including human ecology) can be gleaned from his writings and newspaper articles, his simplistic lifestyle and his
advocacy of people’s right to common resources. J.S. Moolakkattu explains: “In fact, ecological concerns emerged from his[Gandhi’s] focus on a basic needs model of social
order that would not exploit nature for short-term gains, but take only from it what is absolutely necessary for human sustenance.”5
In deeper terms, Gandhian ecology mirrors Advaita Vedanta according to which Brahman (or God) is the ultimate reality that pervades all existence. In the words of Gandhi: “I believe in advait (non-duality), I believe in the essential unity of man and, for that matter, of all that lives. Therefore I believe that if one man gains spiritually, the whole world gains with him and, if one man fails, the whole world fails to that extent.”
From the perspective of Advaitism, problems at individual and global levels emanate from our belief in the separateness of our selves and other beings. Individualism is perverted when individual goals are pursued in negligence of their impact on society or humanity. This perversion reflects in the unidimensional pattern of human life in the glare of inordinate consumerism which connotes those patterns of human outlook, thought, behavior, and preferences that are the outcome of the mighty forces which are dismantling the barriers to consumption, sweeping away residues of restraint, and feeding unrelenting hunger that has infinite sources of instant and ephemeral gratification. As a result, all aspects of human life have come to be colored with it. The mentality seeped in the ‘use and throw’ value system seems to have diffused onto human relationships. Just as the product return policy lets non-serious buyers have a taste of a variety of products, live-in-relationship has turned out to be a mechanism to avoid commitment and have a taste of different partners–the sky is the limit! Such an undignified approach towards others reflects in man’s exploitative treatment of nature.
No strand of ideology, whether it is individualism or collectivism, is justifiable in the absence of ethics. Gandhian ecology, by virtue of its inherent applied ethics, subsumes ethical cores of contrasting ideologies. For example, it goes beyond political democracy by advocating economic democracy through “production by masses” in contrast to centralized production, as a solution to eliminating poverty through village self-reliance. Individualism in Gandhian ecology manifests in the belief in the sanctity of all beings without any distinction of social status, gender, or race, and the consequent espousal of non-violence, whereas collectivism reflects in the Gandhian ideal of Sarvodaya or the welfare of all. One of the applications of Sarvodaya is the community management of resources.
Gandhian Ecology in Practice
Whereas the Gandhian non-violent method of civil disobedience influenced worldwide movements against colonialism, imperialism and racism, Gandhian ecology has had impacted environmental movements with social and economic justice as their ends. The magnitude of Gandhi’s influence reflects in “movements against unscrupulous
exploitation of natural resources by multinational companies, nuclear power plants, use of agricultural land cultivated by small and subsistence farmers for commercial purposes,
large scale commercial fishing, destruction of seed varieties…Chipko movement, the largest environment movement in Asia as well as a good number of Indian
environmentalists and environmental historians such as Vandana Shiva, Anil Agarwal, Madhav Gadgil and Ramachandra Guha have acknowledged their debt to Gandhi’s ideas.”6
Apart from Indian environmental movements, Deep Ecology movement, launched by Norwegian eco-philosopher Arne Naess, bears the imprint of Gandhian ecology. Contrary
to shallow ecology, deep ecology advocates protecting natural diversity because of its intrinsic value. Naess writes: “Gandhi's utopia is one of the few that shows ecological balance, and today his rejection of the Western World's material abundance and waste is accepted by progressives of the ecological movement.”7
The chart below shows Naess’s depiction of Gandhian ethics.
Systematization of Gandhian Ethics8
Moreover, Gandhi’s views on sustainable development are encapsulated in his famous statement: “Earth has enough to supply every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.” What we currently define as sustainable development was presciently emphasized in his appeal to preserve nature: “The earth, the air, the land and the water are not an inheritance from our forefathers but on loan from our children. So we have to hand over to them at least as it was handed over to us.” Strikingly, the World Commission on Environment and Development (or the Brundtland Commission) came up with the concept of Sustainable Development in 1987, defining it as “development which meets the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to
meet their own needs.”
As a Method
Gandhian ecology is as much a philosophy of life and a vision for a peaceful world order, as a non-violent method to secure social justice and concomitant peace. Olivier Urbain
quotes Ikeda and Galtung in this regard: “The Gandhian combination of idealist and man of practical action finds startlingly vivid manifestation in the famous Salt March of 1930,
when Gandhi led thousands of people to the seashore to make their own salt in protest against a cruel tax imposed by the British colonial authorities.”9 Gandhi’s Salt March or Salt Satyagraha manifests in environmental movements such as Seed Satyagraha which is being led by Vandana Shiva, a renowned ecofeminist. In an interview Shiva explained
the inspiration from Gandhian Satyagraha in the following words: “ Satyagraha means ‘struggle for truth.’ The salt satyagraha was a direct action of noncooperation.
When the British tried to create salt monopolies, he [Gandhi] went to the beach in Dandi, picked up the salt and said, ‘Nature has given us this for free, it was meant to sustain us, we will not allow it to become a monopoly to finance the Imperial
Army.’ We've done exactly the same kinds of actions around biodiversity and seed. Nature has gifted this rich biological diversity to us. We will not allow it to become the monopoly of a handful of corporations. We will keep it as the basis of our wealth and our sustenance.”10
Apart from the nature of business practices, personal “consumption ethic” determines the level of sustainable development. According to the World Business Council on
Sustainable Development Report titled “Sustainable Consumption: Facts and Trends,”2008, natural resource consumption by humans has increased to 125 percent of
global carrying capacity and could rise to 170 percent by 2040.11 According to the U.S.- based Clean Air Council, “every year, Americans throw away enough paper and plastic
cups, forks, and spoons to circle the equator 300 times; Americans use approximately 1 billion shopping bags every year, creating 300,000 tons of landfill waste.”12 Sustainable
consumption is imperative not only for curbing the increasing burden on ecosystem but also for arresting deterioration of the environment which is resulting from air and land pollution.
At a time when problems of resource scarcity and global warming were not as severe as now, Gandhi had advocated curbing wastage of resources. His personal life is its shining
example. For instance, Gandhi used scraps of paper and envelopes for writing. While this might be considered gratuitous in his time, different sections of the western world, which
is known for overindulgent consumption, have realized the need for conserving resources and using recycled products. “Making a ton of paper from recycled paper saves up to 17 trees and uses 50 percent less water than does creating paper from virgin pulp.”13 Gandhi pushed for resource reuse by spreading awareness among masses. For example, he wrote
in Navjivan in 1919: “Paper can be made from rags. It should not be necessary to employ anyone to remove refuse in a village, because there is very little of it and most of it can be
converted into manure.”14
The human ecology aspect of Gandhian views reflects in Gandhi’s call for village selfreliance in all domains of life, whether it be polity or economy. It reflects discarding ‘one
size , fits all’ approach-- where large-scale industrialization and mass production are incompatible with the rural setting, an alternative paradigm of development should be
devised and implemented.15 Deeply influenced by Gandhi’s thoughts on village selfreliance and non-violence, J.C. Kumarappa worked for village reconstruction, basing his
conception of a non-violent economy on the Natural Order. In his words: “ [i]n studying human institutions we should never lose sight of that great teacher, mother Nature. Anything that we may devise if it is contrary to her ways, she will ruthlessly annihilate sooner or later. Everything in nature seems to follow a cyclic movement. Water from the sea rises as vapour and falls on land in refreshing showers and returns back to the sea again ... A nation that forgets or ignores this fundamental process in
forming its institutions will disintegrate.”16
As an example of implementation of the Gandhian approach to village self-reliance, the Village Biocenter in India supports decentralized and eco-friendly production, and rural employment. “Several ecoenterprises such as the production of oyster mushroom on paddy chaff, biofertilisers, biopesticide against lepidopteran pests in cotton, brinjal etc., biofungicide, paper and board from agricultural waste, fish pickle etc. are pro-nature (no toxic residue in the environment), pro-poor (generating livelihood for the landless and income less labour) and pro-women (many of these ecoenterprises are managed by landless women SHGs)”17
According to M.S. Swaminathan: “It [Village Biocenter] views
natural resources conservation and enhancement as basic to sustainable human livelihoods. It helps to foster the integrated growth of on-farm and off-farm employment. Through organization of enterprise based self-help groups supported by micro-finance, it empowers rural families to control their own destiny. Young women and men, whether literate or semi-literate, become the doers and prime movers of the integrated ecological and livelihood security programs.”18
Gandhi’s concept of village self-reliance has been put to practice in Africa as well through an organization called Green Self Reliance (GSR). Commenting on village selfreliance
as a model of development, George B.N. Ayittey, an African economist, opines: “This is the first workable and viable grass-roots development that I have seen in the past
three decades that can lift millions of Africans out of poverty if replicated across the continent. It does not rely on foreign aid; nor does it rely on corrupt and incompetent African governments. Had we implemented a model such as this at independence in the 1960s, the destiny of Africa would have been much brighter than the current fare of gratuitous mayhem, wanton carnage, mass starvation and state collapse.”19 According to the GSR, Gandhi’s ideal is reflected in these villages’ production of all their basic necessities, which fulfils local needs, and the surplus is sold in “regional, national and
finally international markets through the GSR cooperative marketing system.”20
Moreover, Gandhi’s views on linkages between economics and social justice influenced E.F. Schumacher’s Intermediate Technology concept which favored technology that suited the needs of users—village-friendly technology for villagers. This concept finds manifestation in the construction of mud houses and the manufacture of smokeless stoves (doing away with firewood) for rural people by using local material and labour.21
Community Management of Resources and the Fight against Insurgency
Advocacy of community resource management in India and elsewhere carries an imprint of Gandhian thoughts. In order to curb Maoist insurgency in India in a non-violent and
“sustainable” manner, the Indian government is considering spreading the “Bamboo Revolution” in the insurgency--affected villages. This revolution connotes economic empowerment or self-reliance of villagers by granting them the right to manage forest resources, including the right to harvest and sell bamboo. By addressing their grievances against centralized control over resources of sustenance, the government is seeking to
wean villagers away from the influence of Maoists who, capitalizing on their impoverishment, aim to recruit them in their ranks and establish control and expand Maoists’ influence. It may be noted that Maoist insurgency has been a cause of extreme violence and resulting insecurity of lives in the areas under its influence. According to The Hindu: “Mendha Lekha became the first village [in India] with Community Forest
Rights (CFR) to be given transit passbooks to harvest and sell bamboo in April 2011…[It] collected Rs. 93.31 lakh [9.331 million] in bamboo sales and has been putting the funds into community development. According to a status report, 2.95 lakh [0.295 milion] bamboos were harvested over a year and the gram sabha has decided to spend 50 per cent of the funds on forest management activities and the remaining on innovative
projects.”22 It is hoped that empowerment of communities through their control over common resources would not only uplift them from poverty but also discourage from joining Maoists’ cadres in their fight against economic injustices.
It is pertinent to mention that Elinor Ostrom, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics for her work on community-based resource management, acknowledged Gandhi’s relevance for understanding commons. Gandhi was a vociferous critic of centralization of polity and economy, which, to him, were pillared on violence against those who were on their periphery. Similarly, in her path breaking work Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions of Collective Action Ostrom challenged the assumptions of the Tragedy of the Commons concept by demonstrating as to how local communities worldwide had
been sustainably managing common pool resources such as fisheries and pasture lands by devising a set of rules and monitoring the resources accordingly.
How Gandhism Fits in the Sustainability Strategy of Corporations
Sustainability has emerged as a vital element of corporate strategies worldwide. Broader in scope, it denotes enmeshing environmental protection and social responsibilities into
corporate policies and operations. A host of factors are responsible for this development including environmental activism; increasing public awareness of environmental issues;
local, national and international regulations; growth in green consumerism, and fierce business competition and the resulting need and opportunity for differentiation.
Sustainability strategy includes use of recycled material, reduction in paper usage and manufacture of zero-waste products, which in turn benefits businesses in terms of both
cost-savings and reduction in environmental footprint. It is apt to note here that Gandhi was an ardent advocate of waste prevention through resource conservation and reuse.
However, while Gandhi preferred limitation of wants, businesses would find it suicidal to appeal to consumers to consume less or limit their wants. Sustainability is both a
compulsion and an opportunity for businesses, and profit is the lifeline of a business firm and the lynchpin of its operations. The issue of moderation of wants versus sustainable
gratification of wants is what mainly divides Gandhian ecology and businesses. Further, while Gandhi’s emphasis on limitation of wants may be a perfect solution for achieving
sustainable development, few would find it a desirable way of living. The enticing modern consumer goods, offered in a stunning variety, render simplicity of life unsavory. While ascetic saints in India, unlike phony ‘holy men’ who do not shun material comforts, may be leading simple lives based on abstinence from sensual pleasures, their model is not fascinating enough for others to emulate. At the same time, however, inordinate consumption is a matter of immense concern given the need to check mounting burden on
ecosystem. As such, Gandhian consumption ethic cannot be ignored altogether, if not practiced in strictest terms.
Gandhian ecology with its reverence for all living forms and belief in moderate consumption is significant for achieving sustainable development. More deeply, it stands for inclusive development that contributes to the welfare of all (Sarvodaya). Gandhian views were clearly prescient with indispensable relevance today in the face of resource wastage, unscrupulous business practices and deprivation of communities from access to their livelihoods. While Gandhi’s views on moderation of wants might seem too idealistic to implement because of pervasive consumerism, sustainable consumption ethic has been recognized as imperative for sustainable development in the “domain of global environmental politics.” This apart, economic democracy is inherent in Gandhian ecology that is connected with the ground realities of a national life inasmuch as it advocates village self-reliance through decentralization of production and community management
of common resources. In sum, Gandhian ecology, though not entirely, possesses application strength in addressing the issues of sustainable development and economic justice.
1. Dennis Soron, “Cruel Weather: Natural Disasters and Structural Violence,” Transformations 14, March 2007, accessed August 12, 2012,
See Johan Galtung, “Violence, Peace, and Peace Research,”Journal of Peace Research 6, no. 3 (1969): 67 – 191.
2. Satishchandra Chatterjee and Dhirendramohan Datta, An Introduction to Philosophy (Calcutta: University of Calcutta, 1984), 107.
3. Bhikhu Parekh, Gandhi’s Political Philosophy: A Critical Examination (London: Macmillan, 1989), 196-7.
4. Vinay Lal, "Too Deep for Deep Ecology: Gandhi and the Ecological Vision of Life,"in Hinduism and Ecology: The Intersection of Earth, Sky, and Water, eds. Christopher Key Chapple and Mary Evelyn Tucker (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard
UP for Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard University, 2000),183- 212.
5. John S. Moolakkattu, “Gandhi as a Human Ecologist,” Journal of Human Ecology 29, no. 3 (2010):154.
6. Moolakkattu, “Gandhi as a Human,”153.
7. Arne Naess, Gandhi and Group Conflict: An Exploration of Satyagraha (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget,1974), 10.9
8. Naess, Gandhi, 55.
9. Olivier Urbain, Daisaku Ikeda’s Philosophy of Peace: Dialogue, Transformation and Global Citizenship (London: IB Tauris, 2010), 202.
10. Vandana Shiva’s interview, accessed July 15, 2012,
11. World Business Council for Sustainable Development, “Sustainable Consumption: Facts and Trends,” 2008, accessed July 15, 2012,
12. Clean Air Council, “Waste and Recycling Facts,” accessed August 10, 2012,
13. “Clean Air Council.”
14. Mohandas K. Gandhi, Navajivan, November 2, 1919, accessed August 13, 2012,
15. Rajni Kothari, Transformation and Survival: In Search of Humane World Order (Delhi: Ajanta Publications, 1990).
16. “Rebuilding India,” speech delivered on 5th November 1930 at Lahore, Kumarappa Papers: Speeches and Writings.
17. P.C. Kesavan and S. Senthilkumaran, “Rural development: Livelihood with ecological integrity,” Geospatial World 25 (January 2011), accessed August 14,
18. MS Swaminathan, Community-led approaches to ending food insecurity and poverty, September 12, 2000, 41-42, accessed August 5, 2012,
19. Green Self Reliance, accessed August 9, 2012,
20. “Green Self Reliance.”
21. Moolakkattu, “Gandhi as a Human.”
22. “Bamboo ‘revolution’ to beat back Maoists,” The Hindu, August 18, 2012, 16.
Bilgrami A. “Gandhi, the philosopher.” Economic and Political Weekly 38, no. 39 (2003): 4159–4165.
Gandhi MK. Village Industries. Navajivan: Ahmedabad, 1960.
Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (CWMG). New Delhi: Publications Division, Government of India, 1967.
Guha R. Mahatma Gandhi and the Environmental Movement. In: A Raghuramaraju (Ed.): Debating Gandhi. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2006, 223-236.
Marten, G.G. Human Ecology - Basic Concepts for Sustainable Development. London: Earthscan, 2001.
Schumacher, E.F. Small is Beautiful: A Study ofEconomics as ifPeopleMattered. London: Abacus, 1973.
Weber, Thomas. "Gandhi, Deep Ecology and Buddhist Economics." Journal ofPeace Research 36, no.3 (1999): 349- 361.
* This article is excerpted from the paper accepted for presentation by the Ecology and Peace Commission, International Peace Research Association Conference, Mie University, Japan, November 2012.
Marketing its Higher Education System: China Engages in a 'Soft Power' Exercise
August 29, 2016
The domain of higher education appears as a strategic platform for China to build and project its "soft power." Even though it is behind the United States in several important ways, whether it be the global appeal and ranking of higher educational institutions and the quality of research output and innovations, China's proactive internationalization of higher education is paying off.
According to the Chinese Ministry of Education, the country attracted 377,054 students from 203 countries and regions in 2014, accounting for a 5.75% increase over 2013. More recently, the First Secretary of the Australian Embassy to China Christopher Lawson stated that after the United States, China is the most popular destination for Australian students in choosing to study abroad. Emulation of the Western model of global educational leadership also constitutes China's diplomatic exercise in positively influencing the younger generation of foreign countries by exposing them to the Chinese culture, its model of development, and its academic and research institutions. For instance, a Kenyan student is stated to have opined: "China has a system that is working, and its political system is efficient. Its economic and social developments are impressive, and I hope my country can emulate them." Moreover, China has forged partnerships with leading universities and research institutions globally. Of them, the Global Innovation Exchange Program, which is a partnership between the University of Washington at Seattle and Tsinghua University, establishes the presence of a Chinese university in America in the research domain.
Interestingly, a comparison of the websites of Chinese and American education ministries reveals a striking difference. In contrast to the American website that enlightens the U.S. public on loans and grants and addresses the equity goal, the Chinese website prominently markets its education system to foreign students, institutions and governments, reflecting from the prime importance to international cooperation and exchanges and to the "Study in China" program, which is supported through multiple channels of scholarships.
Some scholars have denounced China's so-called soft power exercise as a mirage, saying that soft power is "earned, not bought." Similarly, China's claim to "peaceful rise" may be denounced as a sham in view of its muscle flexing in the South China Sea. Moreover, higher education has lately been subjected to stricter ideological controls, as manifest from the Chinese government's directives to colleges and universities to popularize Marxism and socialist ideology as well as from its stated denigration of Western textbooks. Further, state regulations clearly set forth Chinese citizens' "support" to the Chinese Communist Party and to the socialist system as a precondition for applying to academic degrees. Hence, while China markets its higher education system to foreign students through enticing scholarships and "world-class" infrastructure, it exercises control over domestic populace as a safeguard against spread of liberal political ideas.
We find that so far China has adroitly walked the tightrope of tightening ideological chains while swiftly expanding the internationalization of higher education. Unless successfully challenged domestically, this policy of dualism might pose a long-term challenge to the U.S. educational leadership by steadily carving a niche of Chinese influence in the Asia-Pacific region through educational diplomacy.
Copyright 2016 Indian Journal of Asian Affairs. All rights reserved.