Editor’s Note: NAS’s April 2017 report Outsourced to China: Confucius Institutes and Soft Power in American Higher Education, has prompted a number of responses from professors at Binghamton University, one of our case studies. Here Wang Qianghua, who played a role in starting the Confucius Institute at Binghamton University, responds to our report and to two other responses from Binghamton University professor John Chaffee and emeritus professor Don Boros. We publish Professor Wang’s letter in full and unedited.
May 21, 2017
To the National Association of Scholars:
My name is Wang Qianghua. I write concerning your “Outsourced to China” report, specifically the section relating to the Confucius Institute of Chinese Opera (CICO) at Binghamton University (BU), where I am Scenic Artist and Assistant Technical Director in the Theatre Department. I am from Shanghai where I received my BA at the Shanghai Theatre Academy in 1967 and was a scenic designer for the Shanghai Shaoxing Opera for 15 years. I emigrated to this country in 1987 and got my MA in theatre at BU in 1992. I began our association with the administration and faculty at the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts (NACTA) in 2002 and established the working relationship between NACTA and BU in 2004. In May 2008, it was I with whom Professor Lin Yi of NACTA, Director of International Education and Exchange, first discussed the idea of developing the CICO at Binghamton.
I ask that you publish this chronology of its evolution and the inherent facts that differ from the opinions of others.
Chronology of Significant Events Regarding the Evolution and Development of the Confucius Institution of Chinese Opera AT Binghamton University WITH CORRECTIONS TO INACCCURATE INFORMATION SENT TO YOU BY OTHERS.
Prepared by Wang Qianghua
Department of Theatre
- MAY. Professor Don Boros and Mr. Wang Qianghua took students to China to study The Total Art of Chinese Theatre, including residencies at the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts (NACTA) and the Shanghai Theatre Academy.
- APRIL. Success of 2004 program above prompted many of the highest administrators of NACTA to visit BU to explore prospects for working together in the future. They were President Du Changsheng, Vice President Wang Shenwen, Dean of Media School Cao Lin, Deputy Dean Department of Performing Arts Xu Chao, Chair Department of Directing Pei Fulin, and Interpreter Chen Yan.
- SEPTEMBER. Three actors from NACTA visited BU to give a public performance of Fight in the Dark at the Crossroads and part of Farewell My Concubine. They were accompanied by a delegation of five administrators and faculty: Vice President Zhao Jingbo, Director of International Education and Exchange Chai Lixing, Director of the Department of English and Interpreter Bao Hongwei, Chair of the Department of Design Yu Shaofei, and Teacher/Actress Wang Ting. NACTA Vice President Zhao and BU President Lois DeFleur agreed to and signed a Declaration of Understanding Between the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts and the State University of New York at Binghamton was signed. It states:
“The National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts, hereinafter NACTA, and the State University of New York at Binghamton, herein Binghamton University, agree to initiate and promote the development of scholarly and cultural cooperation between their respective institutions. At Binghamton it is expected it is expected that most activity will occur within Harpur College of Arts and Sciences.
“Representatives from both partners will determine areas of mutual interest and endeavor to plan programs that support valuable research and learning opportunities, identifying the resources for their implementation. The arenas of cooperation are expected to include cultural exchange (as for example, the exchange of performing troupes, faculty exchange, and the exchange of scholarly materials.
“As the representatives of NACTA and Binghamton University continue their discussions, they will proceed to exchange working plans that cover the details of the projects and exchange activities and the terms of participation for faculty, staff, and students.”
Signed by Vice President Zhao Jingbo and President Lois B. DeFleur, 2005.9.23.
Hard copy available.
- FEBRUARY. Mr. Wang, BU’s Provost Mary Ann Swain, Director of International Programs Katharine Krebs, and interpreter Professor Zu-yan Chen of the Department of Asian and Asian-American Studies (DAAAS) visited NACTA and the Shanghai Theatre Academy and opened a SUNY office in Beijing. Professor Chen also took them to Fudan University and Suzhou University.
- MAY. Professor Boros Mr. Wang led The Total Art of Chinese Theatre study program for the second time.
- MAY-JUNE. BU Theatre Department Professor Fred Weiss and a BU student assistant taught a jazz/modern dance workshop at NACTA.
- SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER. Actor/Professors Zhang Yanhong and Liu Mainsong of NACTA conducted a Beijing Opera movement workshop at BU. Interpreter from NACTA was Ma Xuan.
- OCTOBER. NACTA delegation of ten administrators and faculty of the Department of Design visited BU. It was led by Vice President Bai Guangyao, Chairman of the Design Department Li Wei and Vice Chairman of the Design Department Ma Lu visit BU. They observed classes and rehearsals and discussions of design exchange and future projects.
- MARCH-APRIL NACTA and BU mounted a joint production of Romeo and Juliet rehearsed and performed at BU. Performers, designers, and technicians were from BU, the Director was from NACTA, Chen Lincang as were Assistant Director Jiang Qian and Interpreter Su Feng. Beijing CCTV producer Chen Rongxia was in residence to record the some rehearsals and performances. She also conducted interviews with BU hosts and performers for a documentary shown to over one billion people in China. Special Opening Night guests included the Consul General Liu and his successor from NYC, the Chancellor of NACTA Zhang Fan, and Vice President Zhou Long.
CHRONOLOGY CONTINUED WITH CORRECTIONS
At this time, I would like to add some information and personal comments. They are about Professor Don Boros’s impressions send on May 15, 2017 in response to Professor John Chaffee’s own reactions to the National Association of Scholars’ study Outsourced to China: Confucius Institutes and Soft Power in American Higher Education. They are very different from what Professor Boros said. I am writing this in the first person, since it is easier for me to explain things that way. I dictated everything to Professor Boros who is writing it for me. Hence, he is obviously aware of the differences between our recollections. He respects my opinions.
- MAY. I attended the International Lighting Design Education Forum in Beijing. Newly appointed NACTA Director of International Education and Exchange Lin Yi spoke to me, mentioning the idea of creating a Confucius institute (CI) at BU. She mentioned that it would be a special CI concentrating on Chinese Opera (CO). She gave me information to review with my colleagues when I returned to BU at the end of my summer business in Shanghai. At the beginning of the fall semester (August/September), I showed the information to Professor Boros, noting that it was presented to me only as an idea to consider. It was not an actual invitation, as Professor Boros believed it was. Once he and I reviewed it, it caused confusion. Even though Professor Lin said that it would concentrate on Chinese Opera, the information I was given didn’t say that. It said that it was primarily to encourage teaching of Chinese language and culture. Both subjects were not taught in BU’s Theatre Department. Consequently, in September, I showed the material to Professor Zu-yan Chen since he was a language teacher in the Department of Asian and Asian-American Studies (DAAAS). In the meantime, into April of 2009, Professor Boros presented the idea to the Theatre Department, indicating what Professor Lin told me that it would include teaching about Chinese Opera.
- APRIL. Professor Chen and I were invited by Professor Lin to a general information meeting with members of the Hanban in Beijing about the idea to establish a CICO at BU. Professor John Chaffee joined us. No “Yes” or “No” decision was made about whether or not BU was actually going to get one. Therefore, Professor Boros is not correct when he says that the CICO actually started when Professor Chen, Professor Chaffee, and I visited the Hanban in Beijing. It was just discussed. So it is not true that Professor Chen was named the director of a CICO at BU, because it didn’t actually exist yet.
- SUMMER. I conducted personal business in Shanghai. While I was gone, it is true that Professor Chen was planning the CICO with the Hanban. However, no decisions were made about whether or not the CICO would actually become a reality.
- LATE AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER. Professor Chen asked me many times if I would call Professor Lin at NACTA to find out if the Hanban had made a decision to grant us the CICO. I called her several times, and she said people were still working on it.
- OCTOBER. Professor Chen finally got a message from Beijing saying “Yes” to establishing a CICO at BU. We were very happy! Professor Chen quickly held planning meetings for the opening celebration. He told me to design and paint a large sign to hang over the stage and get a special carpet for a Beijing Opera performance.
- NOVEMBER. The CICO was officially dedicated at BU. Guests from NACTA were Vice President Ba Tu and Chair of the Department of Acting and Directing Zhang Yao. Professor Chen told me he was the CICO Director. He asked Professor Boros to be the CICO Director of Theatre Studies.
These comments are honest and are based on notes I took I took while this was happening.
May 19, 2017
Image: Wikimedia Commons