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Top Chinese officials plagiarized theses

AFP, BEIJING

Xinjiang Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, center, attends a Xinjiang delegation meeting at the 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress in Beijing on Oct. 19, 2017.

Photo: AFP

Top Chinese Communist Party officials plagiarized parts of their university theses, an Agence France-Presse review has found, testing Beijing’s pledge to crack down on academic misconduct.

A former vice president, a supreme court judge, a former top public security official and the party chief in Xinjiang are among a half dozen officials who borrowed from other people’s work without citing them, the analysis showed.

The Chinese State Council last year released the first-ever national guidelines to enforce academic integrity in research following a series of plagiarism scandals, saying that those caught would be “severely punished.”

A review of 12 master’s and doctoral theses by Chinese officials available on China National Knowledge Infrastructure found six cases in which passages were copied from other authors without citations.

Education qualifications are closely linked to promotions within the party, putting pressure on officials to cut corners when trying to amass diplomas while working, experts say.

“University leaders are well aware of this, because they are also government officials. They are all born with the same roots,” former China Youth Daily editor Li Datong (李大同) said. “The certificate is real, it’s not bought on the street, but it is fake in essence. This is a popular practice in the officialdom.”

Reporters analyzed a dozen theses by using software that detects plagiarism. None of the six officials who plagiarized could be reached for comment.

This includes the doctoral dissertation by Xinjiang Party Secretary Chen Quanguo (陳全國).

His thesis, titled “Research on the Correlation between Human Capital Accumulation and Economic Development in Central China,” includes more than 60 paragraphs copied without citation from another work.

The other paper, titled “Human Capital and its Contribution to Economic Growth: An Empirical Study of Guangdong Province,” was submitted to Jinan University in 2002 by doctoral candidate Zhu Yimin (朱翊敏).

Zhu is now an associate professor at the School of Management in China’s Sun Yat-sen University.

Large chunks of the introduction to Chen’s thesis is copied almost word-for-word without references from another 2002 thesis titled “Economic analysis of Human Capital” submitted by Mo Zhihong (莫志宏) to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Mo, an associate professor at Beijing University of Technology, declined to comment when asked whether Chen had asked for permission.

The party’s Organization Department declined a request for comment. All six officials were working part-time toward their postgraduate degrees while holding public office.

Outing top officials could be a tough proposition for universities, which are controlled by the party.

“In many cases, party officials obtain degrees from institutions that have ties to and would benefit from their government positions,” said a Chinese academic from Renmin University, who asked to remain anonymous.

Former Chinese vice president Li Yuanchao (李源潮) wrote a doctoral dissertation titled “Some Issues Concerning the Production of Socialist Culture and Art” in 1998.

His paper includes 20 paragraphs that are identical to a 1991 thesis titled “On the Spiritual and Cultural Needs of the Masses of the Socialist Society” by Zhang Mingeng (張民更).

Theses by Chinese Supreme People’s Court Vice President Zhang Shuyuan (張述元), former deputy auditor general Chen Chenzhao (陳塵肇), former Public Security Bureau chief Shi Jun (侍俊) and former State Intellectual Property Office party secretary Xiao Xingwei (肖興威) also borrowed heavily from other authors without attribution.

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