In many countries, where people go to college and what degrees they hold is a serious matter affecting job prospects and social standing. But in China, academic credentials have long been one of the most important factors in determining the fate of many people.
For more than 1,000 years, the Chinese bureaucracy was mostly made up of people who succeeded in imperial examinations. In recent times, colleges, especially the top ones, remain the breeding ground for the ruling class.
This is the context for recent public debate over unproven allegations a former president of Microsoft China and best-selling author distorted his academic credentials. Since early July, Jun Tang has been mired in the so-called "diploma gate" scandal after Fang Shimin, a science writer known for his criticism of academic fraud, accused Mr. Tang of having falsely claimed to have earned a doctorate from the California Institute of Technology.
Mr. Fang said he had tried to check the claim, which, he said, was made in one edition of Mr. Tang's popular book "My Success Can Be Copied," by calling the university, but he couldn't find records of Mr. Tang having graduated.
Meanwhile debate continued in China, While the Chinese media seem to be perpetuating Mr. Fang's claim about Mr. Tang despite the fact that the publisher already has explained the error, the issue of fake qualifications clearly touches a nerve here.
Until 15 to 20 years ago most jobs in China were assigned by the state and lasted for life. A diploma was about the only criterion the state could use to decide what kind of job everybody should get. Even today, government agencies and state-owned enterprises still have different pay scales for people with bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees, and some positions are reserved for those with advance degrees.
"It's a matter of supply and demand," says Zhiwu Chen, professor of finance at Yale University's School of Management.When a society values certain credentials so much, there will be people who will take risks to meet that demand, he says. "It's unfortunate that some people choose to make the shortcut because the perceived benefits surpass the risks," he says.
Diplomas from universities in the West have similar, if not higher, value. To be sure, fake or unearned education credentials aren't unique to China. The 2004 Government Accountability Office report found that 28 senior-level U.S. federal employees have degrees from diploma mills and other unaccredited schools, and it said the actual number could be higher.
2010-07-20 12:36 编辑：kuaileyingyu
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