In this session of “Teachers’ Discourses,” HSS invites Prof TANG Wenfang, Dean of HSS, to share his experiences.
Professor TANG Wenfang: Strive to Construct HSS into a First-class School
The School of Humanities and Social Science of CUHK-Shenzhen is committed to nurturing scholars and leading talents who are innovative, far-sighted, and self-disciplined. Our faculty also acquire global vision, and strive to develop humanities as well as social sciences, thus contributing to the development GBA, China as a whole, and even the global society. HSS has been globally recruiting high-calibre faculty with rigorous standards of a world-class university. With over 160 full- time faculty members, HSS has a strong team consisting of distinguished senior scholars and a large number of young academic leaders. In this session of “Teachers’ Discourses,” HSS invites Prof TANG Wenfang, Dean of HSS, to share his experiences.
01 Profile of Prof TANG Wenfang
Professor Tang Wenfang is currently the Presidential Chair Professor at CUHK-Shenzhen and Dean of HSS. He received his LL.B. from Peking University, M.A. in Political Science from the University of Kansas, and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Chicago.
He served as professor of the Department of Political Science at the University of Pittsburgh, Head of the Department of Political Science and Stanley Hua Hsia Professor of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Iowa, and Director and Chair Professor of the Division of Social Science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He served as a visiting professor at various universities, including Peking University, Tsinghua University, and Southwest Jiaotong University; National Fellow at Hoover Institution, Stanford University; Visiting Research Professor at East Asian Institute, National Singapore University.
Prof TANG also served as an Academic Advisory Committee member of Chinese Family Panel Survey (CFPS) at Peking University, Chinese General Social Survey (CGSS) at Renmin University, and Chinese Labor Dynamics Survey (CLDS) at Sun Yat-Sen University. He is also the Executive Committee member of International Political Science Association’s Comparative Public Opinion Section.
02 Personal Experience:
Gone with the Trend – Going Abroad and Returning to the Motherland
Prof TANG has studied and worked in the United States for many years. When talking about his life experience, he said it was “gone with the trend.”
When Prof TANG graduated from his LL.B. program, China had just started its reform and opening up. By then, the “trend” was to catch up with advanced countries. As he also wanted to learn novel knowledge and thoughts, Prof TANG furthered his study in the US, without doubt. In the early days of studying abroad, Prof TANG worked in a restaurant over 10 hours a day for a period to earn his tuition as an arts student, which was unforgettable.
After obtained his doctoral degree, Prof TANG worked at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Iowa for 19 years and 10 years, respectively. In the process of teaching, he faced several challenges. First, China developed very fast, so contents – including the outline and the teacher materials – in relation to reform and opening up needed to be updated every year. Second,
American students generally knew little about non-western history and its society, so the teaching is challenging. For example, Prof TANG discussed something more academic with the students at the beginning; however, he switched to basic ideas to help students have an overall understanding of China, as the undergraduates lacked basic understanding of China and were not familiar with well-known figures or place.
After teaching for many years in the US, Prof TANG decided to return to China. This is also “gone with the trend.” As China is rising, many people yearn to return to their motherland, as a large number of opportunities have emerged there.
In addition, Prof TANG believed that after becoming a manufacturing powerhouse, it was the time for China to improve its soft power through the construction of humanities and social science. As he had extensive experience in this respect, Prof TANG decided to contribute his strength to the motherland.
Applying Western Scientific Methodologies to China’s Politics
Prof TANG majored in international politics. When he was in China, China’s politics was not included in the international politic; however, when he studied in the US, China’s politics was included. At that time, the methodologies of studying China were still very traditional – mainly to study China through its history and philosophy. However, political science is a social science, which applies scientific methodologies to conduct research into social issues. Prof TANG was one of the first to achieve that application. After reform and opening up, there was more information about China, and social surveys in larger scales, thus scholars had more data for research.
Prof TANG said that most of the research studied meritocracy, namely, it studied political systems, institutions, and changes of policies from the perspective of leadership; however, his interest lies on public opinion’s affects to China’s politics, which fits the personal experience of TANG. He was born during the Cultural Revolution, when common people were in power; by then, the masses could directly interact with leaders, without the help of elites or political organizations. Therefore, Prof TANG is more interested in politic science in the social level, and has been conducting research in this respect.
Prof TANG believes that China has to keep improving its cultural influence, in other words, the soft power. The United States has done very well in the respect, as its export of soft power can be seen in all aspects in the global community; but China still has room for improvement in this regard. China is encouraged to show its institutional success as well as the tortuous process therein; more scholars and researchers are encouraged to summarize the experience of China’s institutional development.
At the same time, domestic research needs to accept the evaluation from other countries; the boundaries of research should be clearer, in other words, research in humanities and social science asks for scientific language rather than prescribed words. In general, China should be more confident, stepping forward with larger paces and broader visions as the lighthouse of many developing countries.
Photo | Professor TANG Wenfang delivered the second lecture in the "Situation and Policy" Series
with the topic “Democracy doesn’t have to be Divided Between China and the West”
04 Working with CUHK-Shenzhen:
Integration and Exchange of Ideas
Through Prof TANG’s observation, CUHK-Shenzhen is a multi-cultural university, which follows the management model, curriculum and major arrangements of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Our faculty members have the experiences of studying abroad and acquire advanced concepts in education, which is both an advantage and a challenge. As CUHK-Shenzhen is a young university, faculty members have to discover by themselves how to integrate different opinions and culture. Every small step for the faculty will be a giant leap for the university.
Prof TANG also mentioned that he mainly engaged in administrative governance of HSS. The School of Humanities and Social Science plays an important role in teaching, as the faculty here undertake many core courses of the university.
Prof TANG is striving to improve the overall ability in scientific research of HSS, organize and develop more research projects. In terms of teaching, Prof TANG gives lessons for the Ph.D. programme in Global Studies. He recognises students’ abilities, altitude, and knowledge reserve. He finds teaching in China fulfilling and valuable, as Chinese students are different from American ones: the Chinese pay 120% of their efforts to meet with their teachers’ requirements, while the American only pay 50%, or 70% with teachers’ encouragement.
05 Looking Ahead:
School Construction and Dean's Message
When it comes to future goal, Prof TANG plans to conduct a number of scientific research. He is conducting research on Hong Kong's political culture, and plans to to study social science research related to big data – for example, study changes in Chinese mentality, behaviour and views on some political issues with the help of social media as well as large-scale questionnaires. In terms of School development, Prof TANG believes that HSS has great potential. He hopes to work together with colleagues and cooperate with the University, thus strengthening scientific research as well as the construction of disciplines, establishing different majors in accordance with international standards, and building an academically first-class school.
Prof TANG hopes that students at CUHK-Shenzhen can be independent in their studies instead of blindly following the trend. Sometimes it’s inevitable to be anxious about the future, especially at the age of twenties. However, students are encouraged to focus on the current tasks, so that they will be ready to answer the door and have broader visions in the larger platforms when opportunities come knocking. Focusing on immediate tasks is one way to alleviate anxiety. Of course, grade is important, but students are also encouraged to discover themselves and think independently; the later one, will definitely be more important for their whole life development.
Photo | Professor Tang Wenfang delivered an opening speech at the seminar on
"Digital Economy Development and Governance in the New Era"