Located in Lujiazui, Shanghai’s wealthy financial hub, NYU Shanghai is a joint venture between New York University and East China Normal University (ECNU), one of the 76 institutions directly owned and managed by the Chinese Ministry of Education. Founded in 2012, the university boasts on its website as “the first Sino-U.S. joint venture university,” a model that has since been adopted by other American schools such as Duke.
The presence of a CCP unit at NYU Shanghai is no surprise, as the party’s constitution requires any institution or organization with three or more members to form a cell. The ECNU, which oversees party activities at NYU Shanghai, has also been publishing information about the units’ leadership changes over the years. Its size and the identity of its members, however, remained unclear until recently when a database containing the personal information of nearly 2 million Shanghai-based CCP members was shared to the Daily Mail.
According to the database, which was reportedly retrieved from a server housed in the British Consulate in Shanghai, NYU Shanghai has employed some 71 CCP members, among which are at least two faculties. All CCP members swear an oath to “strictly observe party’s discipline, protect party’s secrets, be loyal to the party, work hard, fight for communism for the rest of one’s life, always be prepared to sacrifice everything for the party and the people, and never betray the party.”
The NYU Shanghai didn’t respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment.
China first allowed the establishment of joint ventures in education between Chinese and overseas universities in 2003. It has ever since sought greater control of those joint businesses. In 2017, a directive from the Ministry of Education pushed party secretaries at education joint ventures to assume more significant roles, such as chancellors and trustees, raising concerns over the CCP’s threat to academic freedom in those educational programs.
The current chancellor of NYU Shanghai, Tong Shijun, took office on June 1. According to the university’s website, Tong served as an administrator and professor of philosophy at ECNU for more than 20 years, and as CCP secretary there from 2011 to 2019. The website doesn’t disclose whether Tong’s predecessor, Yu Lizhong, had also held any party leadership position. In a 2017 interview, however, the university’s vice-chancellor confirmed to Radio Free Asia that Yu Lizhong had served as the university’s party secretary.
The NYU Shanghai drew attention last year when a “civic education” course was added to its curriculum for all Chinese students, which reportedly included a field trip to a cemetery of martyrs of the Chinese communist revolution, and screenings of video lessons about “socialist culture with Chinese characteristics.”
An NYU Shanghai spokesperson told VICE, who first reported about the course, that the pro-CCP course is “a Chinese government requirement of Chinese citizens attending college” and is not part of the NYU curriculum. The university promised upon its founding, as VICE noted, that classes would be conducted “in accordance with the principles of academic freedom associated with American colleges and universities.”
Under the joint venture agreement, the Chinese regime has a 51 percent share in NYU Shanghai and is the controlling party, and NYU has 49 percent share. Correspondingly, 51 percent of NYU Shanghai’s students must be Chinese nationals, while the remaining 49 percent come from outside China, mostly from the United States.