Critics query candidates for engineering academy

BEIJING – A total of 485 candidates are in the race for 60 academician vacancies at the Chinese Academy of Engineering this year. The names of the candidates were published online on Wednesday.

However, the identities of some candidates have triggered fierce Internet debate as the list includes many senior officials from government and State-owned enterprises.

The heavyweights from State-owned enterprises include Chairman of the Sinopec Group Fu Chengyu and ex-president of the China National Petroleum Corporation Hu Wenrui.

The incumbent or former senior officials on the candidate list include Vice-Mayor of Shanghai Shen Xiaoming and former vice-minister of education Wu Qidi.

Many netizens criticized the criteria for selecting the candidates, with some arguing the list showed the academy had been bureaucratized.

“The Chinese Academy of Engineering has been a teahouse for people with power. It has not been an ideal academy for scientists,” Gu Jun, a sociology professor at Shanghai University, told China Daily on Thursday.

“The honor of academicians means more research funds, better income and benefits,” he said.

In response to the critics, an anonymous official of the academy said the selection criteria were about the “candidates’ contribution to the country” and “academic background” rather than their identities, and only Chinese senior engineers, researchers and professors could be nominated.

Although some candidates are officials or senior managers, they used to work for the country’s science and technology development and some of them contributed to cutting-edge engineering technology, the official said.

For the first time, the academy has put three open letters about self-discipline on its website to warn candidates, academicians and the departments of candidates not to break the rules of the selection.

The canvassing activities of some individuals and departments have seriously disturbed the academicians’ daily life and work, the letters said.

The letters urge all individuals and departments to “conduct strict self-discipline” and “maintain moral integrity” during the selection process.

The academy also launched serious supervision measures and welcomed any complaints by letter.

The aim of the letters was to promise the “fairness, openness and seriousness” of the academician selection, the academy said.

The Chinese Academy of Engineering, established in 1994, is a national organization composed of selected academicians with the highest honors in the Chinese community of engineering and technology. Its tasks include initiating and conducting strategic study, providing advice for decision-making on key issues of engineering and technology, and promoting the progress of engineering and technology. There are now 739 academicians in the academy.

New academicians will be elected by existing members and the final list released in November. 

Scholars and specialists with foreign citizenship who have made significant contributions to the engineering and technology of China and enjoy high international academic standing can also be nominated and elected as foreign members of the academy.

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