Thursday, December 13, 2018


Henry Kissinger and Orville Schell (Asia Society photo)

US China relations are like the weather, full of unpredictable twists, cool spells, and stifling heat. Cooperation between the two continental powers, facing off across the vast Pacific, despite periodic disruptions and confrontations, has made possible a peacetime economic boom unrivaled in world history. The fruits of this close-knit business collaboration have been unequally distributed and the symbiotic relationship is not without environmental cost, but it has, as the credible cliché goes, lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty.

Mr. Tariff Man, as President Trump now calls himself, is threatening to change all that. Even if his truculent stance is half bluff and bluster, it was enough to give the markets a fright, the Dow dropping 800 points in a day. His childish Twitter tantrums are enough to make China’s preening, egotistical leadership look like the sole sober adult in the room.

Times like this call for track two diplomacy, where cooler heads prevail and mutual benefits are preserved and every effort is made to avoid throwing out the baby with the bathwater.There’s too much at stake to leave leadership to the thin skinned egos of insatiable national leaders.

A case in point is the EP-3 incident in April 2001 when a US surveillance craft and a Chinese Air Force jet struck in mid-air, causing the death the Chinese pilot and the emergency landing of the US craft in Hainan. There were hotheads on both sides invested in instigating military confrontation, but the diplomats prevailed, ambiguous apologies were offered, and US-China relations got back on track in time to keep the world on an even keel in the disarray after the 9-11 terror attacks half a year later.

Given the uptick in US-China confrontation, in the air, at sea, and in the hallowed halls of governance, it would seem a perfect time for track two teams to be engaged in diplomacy.

But a chorus of anti-China voices is rising across the US, a mix of disappointed ideologues, disgruntled stakeholders, unyielding populists, and those who enjoy a good fight and want to join the pack. It’s being framed as a classic “us vs them” struggle, one that has instant racial ramifications for Chinese citizens in the US and Americans of Chinese descent.

But the tenor of the times is such that many of the same academics, diplomats, and spies who once could be counted on to counsel inter-civilizational peace and bridge the diplomatic gap have cut the conversation short and battened down the hatches. I’m referring to the “32 long-time China watchers” who signed onto the polemical, one-sided report put together by Orville Schell at Asia Society and Larry Diamond of the Hoover Institution, entitled “Chinese Influence & American Interests: Promoting Constructive Vigilance.

The cherry-picked nature of the report's newspaper research, gross generalizations and conceptual flaws only tell one side of the story (does the US not try to influence China?) but what jumps off the page is the list of “China experts” endorsing the product on the title page, for it reads like a who’s who of China engagement proponents who have given up all hope on China.

Many sections of the report, footnoted with run-of-the-mill newspaper articles, are trivial and unconvincing; a section on Japan that manages to say nothing is a case in point. Other sections, such as the chapter on media, is at once superficial and too lengthy. It’s full of filler not warranted by the contemporary focus (What’s the point of ridiculing Edgar Snow for doing a favorable interview with Mao in 1937? Or dismissing James Peck for writing a book at Yale about how the US uses “human rights” for political ends?) and castigates China for doing things that the US does all the time, such as using soft power to influence world opinion.

There are justifiable criticisms of CCTV and Xinhua, but the same one-sided reporting can be seen every hour of the day on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC in the US. The chapter on education starts with a predictable attack on Confucian Institutes (which provide Chinese language and culture instruction that would be otherwise unavailable on small campuses) and bemoans China’s clumsy first steps at “charitable giving” even though the Hoover Institute and the Asia Society would not exist without wealthy donors dangling certain expectations.

So who are these experts and why have they gone south on China? It is perhaps not irrelevant that there is only one Chinese person among the China experts, the scholar Minxin Pei. There are respected academics, such as Ezra Vogel and Susan Shirk, who have worked for the US government, along with Elizabeth Economy, Larry Diamond, Bonnie Glaser, and David Shambaugh, who regularly consult for the same. The list includes former Ambassador Winston Lord, and at least one former CIA analyst, Robert Sutter. Journalists include John Pomfret, John Garnaut, and Orville Schell.

The co-chair of the report, Orville Schell, is perhaps the most enigmatic contributor, a long-time “panda-hugger” who once waxed lyrical about Mao and Deng, but who now presents himself as a “dragon-slayer” of the first order. Although he’s no oracle, when a gifted journalist such as Schell takes a position, people notice. His Pied Piper appeal can be attributed to the way he forever seems to have a finger up, testing the wind, trying to anticipate shifts. An anti-war activist who now breaks bread with Henry Kissinger, an environmentalist who brags of jetting back and forth to China scores of times, a journalist who craves validation as an academic --his standard bio makes reference to an “earned” PhD which has been disputed by the New York Times.

Schell is hard to pin down for he is often of two minds about things. His coverage of China grew understandably more negative after the Tiananmen Square protests, and though he was reporting from California, he managed to irritate China. He later visited Beijing safely ensconced inside the press bubble of President Clinton’s press corps but has seen little of China from the inside since.

The report’s jaundiced view of China is perhaps to be expected from the Hoover Institute, a right-wing think tank named after a US president who cut his teeth in China as an investor in mines during the Boxer Rebellion. China has never had the conservative Hoover Institute on its side. But when you lose China watcher extraordinaire Orville Schell and the Asia Society and its Upper East Side clientele, part of the same East Coast elite nexus that pushed for recognizing China, engaging it, and normalizing relations with it, the loss is not trivial.

As the press reaction to the Schell/Diamond report suggests, Trump’s hard line on China is finding vindication in unexpected corners. The narcissistic hope that China would be molded by US soft power to look more and more like the US has not come to pass, causing the old liberal China watchers to fade into a Trumpian twilight of bitterness and naïve disillusionment.

If the old liberals are too stuck in their Cold War ways, or too peeved and piqued to reach out across the Pacific, others must take up the torch. It’s time for a new generation of China-savvy American scholars and journalists to come to the fore.

(first appeared in China-US Focus 12/11/18 under the headline, 
"Which Way does the Wind Blow?)

Friday, November 9, 2018


China and Japan Hedge Against Trump

There was both irony and solace to be found in the sight of the Hinomaru flag flying over Tiananmen Square, inevitably framed by photographers to include Mao’s image lurking in the background. The optics of Japan’s Prime Minister Abe Shinzo being received in Beijing to meet President Xi Jinping this October were refreshing, but it is too soon to say if the photo op was a mere fig-leaf to hide unresolved territorial tensions at sea, or the first page of a new chapter of Sino-Japanese amity.
The political unpredictability of the current U.S. administration and the threat of an all-out trade war are sufficient stimulants alone to explain why both Beijing and Tokyo are inclined to tamp down the tensions and get talking. Given the divisive history and recent tensions between the two East Asian superpowers, it took nothing less than a violent rocking of the boat by Captain Trump to throw China and Japan into each other’s arms. Not a loving embrace, to be sure, but a hedge to prevent a tumble, an act of self-preservation. Or as Brooking’s Jonathan Pollack put it, China and Japan stand to benefit from the “unforced errors” of U.S. economic nationalism.
U.S. President Trump’s truculent “America First” isn’t the worst of it. After all, most countries resolutely pursue national self-interest even when they pretend otherwise; the problem is a dysfunctional White House in which the whims of the increasingly erratic Donald Trump seem to trump both national and international concerns. His administration has shown a malicious glee in ripping up long-held diplomatic, economic, and military arrangements and agreements. It’s not just that the president is pointedly undiplomatic, but willfully disruptive, with little or no concern for the unintended consequences of his behavior.
Thrusting China and Japan together to ease the brunt of an unnecessary trade war is one such unintended consequence. Economic prosperity will take a hit — it’s the kind of poorly-conceived trade war in which all sides lose — but the silver lining is that Beijing and Tokyo are talking again.
Trump’s belligerent diplomacy might be waged in the name of making America great again, but it may also be heralding the end of the post-war international order in which the U.S. sets the tone, rules and standards for trade and diplomacy. Canada and Mexico have been targets of his out-sized wrath, but he’s also gone after NATO, the continent of Africa, China, South Korea, and Japan, among others. Although Abe has made frequent, obsequious visits to the U.S. to visit Trump, first in Trump Tower and then at the White House and at Mar-a-Lago, Trump has not spared his suitor from the bruising effects of U.S. economic nationalism. Japan has been hit with tariffs, too.
Abe’s uncharacteristic bid to firm up Japan’s shaky relationship with China has to be understood in this context. He’s predisposed to a bleak Cold War mindset in keeping with long-standing LDP practice since his grandfather Kishi Nobusuke, accused war criminal, later eager U.S. collaborator, was in power. Trump’s unlikely but certifiable success in bringing North Korea into the diplomatic game has had the unintended effect of shaking Abe’s “we-them” worldview.
Abe’s overtures for a special U.S. relationship have been largely unrequited. If the U.S. doesn’t have his back anymore, what’s there to lose in softening his hardcore stance on China? Abe’s dash to Beijing had a faint air of desperation about it, akin to flirting with someone you have no strong intentions of getting serious with to win back the attention of the one whose undivided attention you seek.
Still, some good may come of the rushed summit yet. Some 500 Japanese businessmen trailed Abe to Beijing, signing business deals worth $18 billion, according to China Daily. Both sides see infrastructure investment as one way to lessen the impact of disruptive Trump policy, though Japan has shown more interest in expanding car sales than investing in Xi’s vaunted “Belt and Road” scheme.
Xi Jinping characterized the turn in Sino-Japanese relations as marking out a “new era,” while Abe described it as the “carving out of a new relationship.” Comforting platitudes in both cases, but Abe’s rhetoric rings hollow. His militant view of territorial claims and history hasn’t changed, for within days he was cozying up to India’s Narendra Modi at a resort home near Mount Fuji as a hedge against China, and castigating South Korea for bringing up the unresolved historic issue of Imperial Army sex slaves. One gets the feeling he’d really rather be in Florida playing golf with Trump.
For China and Japan to patch things up is not a bad thing for the U.S. in the long-term. Indeed, should tensions increase, an inadvertent collision in the bitterly contested waters between Japan and China could lead to a military clash which could possibly snowball into a ruinous war, a war that could cripple the U.S. and wreck the world’s economy as collateral damage. So, the summit was a worthwhile step back from the brink and an upsurge in diplomacy is called for. China Daily summed it up by saying that China and Japan must find a way to “right the ship of their relations” whenever stormy waters threaten to sink them.
Leaders are supposed to lead, but in this case, they’re catching up with popular trends. Japanese trade with China is massive and unheralded grass roots ambassadors on both sides have done much to bridge the gap between the nations. China sends more tourists to Japan than anyone else, pouring tens of billions of dollars into Japan’s economy every year.
Another impetus for Beijing to show forbearance with Japan, albeit hidden and coming from an elite source, is China’s diplomatic tradition, since the demise of Mao, to foster a “cooperative and win-win international environment.” Or, as the South China Morning Post put it in a headline about a September 16, 2018 speech by Deng Pufang: “Deng Xiaoping’s son urges China to ‘know its place’ and not be ‘overbearing.’” It was precisely this kind of ageless wisdom that helped China get to where it is today, and it seems particularly apt in this day and age of “overbearing” politics. If both China and Japan can find their place, and not be unduly overbearing, they can weather any storm set off by the intemperate Trump.

(first published in China-US Focus, Nov 01, 2018)

Sunday, October 7, 2018


The tree-lined entrance to the Beijing Normal University campus in Beitaipingzhuang

Beishida, that’s what Beijing Normal University is called in Chinese and I will use that term out of habit and convenience. The campus has been a kind of home away from home for me in China since I first got a room there in 1986. I’ve walked every nook and cranny of the grounds of Shida in the last three decades, initially as a graduate student in residence, later as a resident of the neighborhood. 

The campus lacks the isolated, regal splendor of Beida's imperial garden setting, but it is situated much closer to downtown Beijing, with one foot in the real world so to speak. The campus was built within walking distance  of the the old city wall, which puts it close to Second Ring Road and the central subway loop both of which trace the perimeter of the long-since demolished wall. 

Nobel Prize winner Mo Yan attended Beishida and lives in the area. Another Nobel Prize winner, Liu Xiaobo, lived on campus in the 1980's, got caught up in the protests at Tiananmen, and soon became one of China's best-known dissidents. Tragically, he died in detention in 2017. There are few campuses that can brag two recent Nobel Prize winners, but Beishida isn't bragging. Liu Xiaobo goes sorrowfully unrecognized and unmentioned because he challenged the party line. 

Being a key teaching college, and in keeping with its motto, Beishida is a model school:

xue wei ren shi
xing wei shi fan

Learn, so as to instruct others; 
Act, to serve as a model for all

The motto of Beishida carved in stone

Beishida has long had a diverse student population, grooming future teachers from the far corners of China; the Uyghur population is noticeable on campus where halal dining is an option. The outspoken student rebel Wuerkaixi is easily the best-known native of Xinjiang to hail from this campus, although he now lives in exile in Taiwan on account of his politics.

The foreign student population in the 1980's was mostly American and Japanese, since then many South Koreans have joined the mix, as well as Russians, Khazhaks, Latin Americans and Europeans. 

Non-Han Chinese have always been shunted aside (or cosseted) in one way or another. Because of its historic and continuing  The large Xinjiang contingent points to Beishida's role as a premier teacher training college. Students hail from every province and many remote areas that are not as well represented at other schools. Upon graduation they are expected to go back to the provinces to teach. Wittingly or not, teacher education is a key tool of social assimilation and control.  

Xinjiang students in some ways get the foreign treatment, which is to say, they are not entirely assimilated and don't necessarily have native fluency in China. LIkewise, when Americans first arrived on campus, we were sometimes compared to people from Xinjiang, teased for speaking accented Chinese. For a foreigner to be thrown together into a pre-existing category for a national minority was both discriminatory and inclusive; we weren't Han, but we were conversing in Chinese, so we weren't exactly tourists, either.

The Beishida campus reminds me of college campuses in Japan in the sense that it is functional, almost factory like, and not at all inspired architecturally. Mercifully the towering pile of coal next to the heating plant was removed by the mid-1980s, but even today there are few lawns and no ponds or pagodas. There are tree-lined roads, open sports fields and shaded dormitory compounds. Compared to the bustle of the major north-south thoroughfare Xinwai Road, campus is a tranquil compound that offers some relief from the burgeoning, chock-a-block urbanism that surrounds it. It's no secret that the campus doubles as an unofficial park, more or less open to residents of the congested area, and it is a popular place for families to take an after-dinner stroll.

The campus is heavily gated, north, south, east and west, but those cardinal gates are open to most of the public most of the time, though each entrance is guarded and those seeking access may be stopped or questioned at the whim of the guards. 

As elsewhere, there is a tightening of access and an uptick of inspections during times of political vigilance. The most heavily-monitored portal is East Gate, which, not coincidentally, sits astride the foreign student dorm compound. Foreign students were moved from the dorm cluster where Chinese were housed to a relatively isolated spot on the east perimeter in the mid-1980's and it they have remained cloistered there ever since. 

East Gate is the main entrance to campus, and its most cosmopolitan corner. In symbolic terms at least, most foreigners never really get past gate--the foreign dorms, shops, and eateries are all clustered here, as are classrooms for Chinese language instruction. In a way effusion of cross-cultural vibrancy at the gate strangely parallels the segregation patterns of Qing dynasty Beijing, such as Qianmen Gate, which was a vital, culturally diverse market area that sat astride the main entrance to the Forbidden City back when the inner city was still forbidden to all the but Manchu elite.

East Gate has uniformed guards posted round the clock with a special booth to inspect auto traffic. 

Beishida foreign student dorm dating to the late 1980's as seen from the bicycle parking lot

Things are much more open now, but echoes of the old forbidden zones can be detected now and then. The Olympics were one such time; the campus was as tightly guarded as a military installation, not so much out of fear of political turmoil but for the simple reason that Team USA was ensconced on campus and local authorities, in full-blown host mode, were willing to inconvenience every one else to accommodate the "honored" visitors. As an adjunct Olympic Village, security and safety were over-riding concerns, even as the dollars rolled in. 

Michael Phelps and his compatriots were housed in the foreign student quarters, which had been greatly spruced up for the occasion. The athletes and staff had the run of the entire East Gate compound, converted for the occasion into an interlocked knot of dorms connected by enclosed walkways. Yumadun, the best restaurant in the area at the time, was converted to the US team’s cafeteria. 

When I first got to Beishida, foreign students were housed in a nondescript block adjacent the Zhongnanlou women's dorm on the south side of campus. At that time I arranged to stay in the campus guest house for visiting scholar's  which sat astride a row of shops on the north side of the women's dorm.  

The three-story brick structure that housed campus shops was not technically a dorm but a “neibin zhaodaisuo” for official university guests, one of the few buildings where foreigners (there were three of us when I was there) and Chinese could stay under the same roof.  The "Insider Guest House," as I liked to call it, was tightly-monitored, friendly smiles aside, and the front door was padlocked at ten in the evening. To seek return to one's room after hours was to court verbal abuse, and a deliberate wait, from the grumpy old custodian with the big ring of keys that could open every door on the premises.

Two "fuwuyuan" in front of the old "Insider Guest House" in '89

Centrally located but shabby, the zhaidaisuo lacked bathing facilities and even lacked hot water. The ground level housed a small post office and dry goods shop. Right around the corner lay a small but important structure that I called the hot water shack. The multiple hot water spigots served as a sort of campus well, a place to fill hot water flasks with drinking water and exchange gossip. During the protests it was an important information node on campus, and urgent student bulletins were often posted there. I explained this to US television host Ted Koppel after the protests ended and he did a standup on the spot, saying "this is where it all began." That wasn't quite the case but the publicity bothered Beijing authorities enough to tear it down and relocated the hot water facilities a short time later. 

The "Inside Guest House" remained much as it was until 2007 when it was torn down to make room for a purpose-built facility for the US Olympic fencing team. This gymnasium like structure was sensibly converted into a campus sports facility after the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  

Beishida was kept under heavy wraps during the Olympics for a variety of reasons ranging from normal security concerns to fears that athletes from other  countries might be spying on Americans as they worked out. Michael Phelps was housed here and the best restaurant in the foreign student dorm compound was temporarily converted into a private cafeteria for the American Olympic team where Phelps reportedly chomped down multiple egg sandwiches as part of his daily 12,000 calorie diet, but he did his swimming elsewhere. There was the Water Cube in Olympic Park, but and also a beautiful outdoor pool at the Soviet-styled Friendship Hotel which was converted to a world-class indoor pool for Olympics training.

Given the mixture of security concerns, it was especially difficult to visit campus during the Olympics, a special permit was necessary, and normal school life and normal neighborhood access ground to a halt. It was the height of summer anyway and most students were sent home, though allowances had to be made for those hundreds of families who live in dorm-like structures on the north side of the campus grounds.

The ceremonial south gate, where the all but obligatory Mao statue once stood, is still mostly used for ceremonial purposes. I watched the Mao statue being torn down in the middle of the night in 1986, and the plaza was later widened to make way for a new library, which in turn was replaced by an bigger plaza with an even bigger library.  The massive library structure with its huge over-hanging roof is apparently the image university authorities like to project, and while the architecture is a bit over-blown, and the library incomplete due to censorship, the wide open plaza in front is a delightful semi-urban space where old folks stroll, kids roller skate and students court and spark.  

East Gate is the most cosmopolitan corner of campus; it houses hundreds of foreign students studying Chinese, and university guests of all stripes. The main building is 20 stories tall, the ground floor entry is flanked by Twelve Oaks café on one side, and a MacDonald’s on the other. 

Interior of Twelve Oaks Cafe which overlooks East Gate

Service workers wear no uniform in this private cafe

University administrative staff at service desk in foreign compound

The guard post to old student dorm

The old student dorm, where foreign students stayed during the Tiananmen protests (they were specifically instructed not to participate) is still used by long-term students though it is  showing its age. The once-dreaded guard post at the campus entrance, which in the 1980's was a key surveillance node, is more relaxed now, and can even be seen unoccupied, as electronic innovation and more modern forms of surveillance have rendered it somewhat redundant. It used to be rumored that the guards were expert snoops secretly proficient in foreign languages, eyeing one's every move, which in retrospect seems comically exaggerated, but it truly reflected the low-level paranoia common at the time. One reason why I was almost alone among the foreigners from this campus to join the marches to Tiananmen Square was because I did not live in the heavily-monitored foreign student dorm at that time.

Deeper inside the recesses of the old foreign compound can be found a whimsically decorated “Canadian” restaurant, accessible by a steep staircase dotted with red lights, and a Japanese restaurant which used to be accessible directly from the dorm but now has a separate entrance.
Isshin Japanese restaurant attached to dorm

The Korean restaurant is gone, replaced by a well-stocked dining hall with diverse stalls, but food cannot be purchased without a university ID.

The main concentration of Chinese student eateries is on the other side of campus, and around the big, no-frills dining halls, which hark back to the days of a collective lifestyle and uniform diet. It was in this cavernous hall, in the mid-1980's, where I first met several of the Beishida students who were to become active in the 1989 protests. Today it looks drab in contrast to more trendy eateries, and there are any number of small shops and food stalls near the old dining hall that have won university approval to operate on the premises.

The main Chinese dining hall on the southwest side of campus

The hot water shack adjacent to main dining hall where thermoses are filled

A bakery, fruit stall, indigenous fast food and snack shops near dining hall 

Today's students reflect fashions of the times

In 1989 unauthorized free speech posters sprung up on campus bulletin boards and dorm walls

Plastered on the walls were political tracts, poems, song lyrics and directions for the next demonstration. The sports grounds in central campus were a key meeting place, and a staging ground for students to organize by department and academic affiliation before pouring en masses into the streets. Although student crowds at the Square might appear at first glance to be a large random gathering, there was considerable organization by school and department, and this cellular structure remained largely in tact through the hunger strike and after.

I was invited to march with friends in the history department but got pulled into the Choral Arts Group which was fun because it was music and song all day long. Once we arrived at the square, we were reminded to stay with the group, an example of the discipline that made such a large gathering orderly and peaceful. It later helped prevent infiltration, as one was most often surrounded by familiar faces, and when the provincial students showed up a week or two later, they were gently nudged to the side of the square where they set up their own encampments and affiliation groups.

The basketball courts were the staging ground for the mass march to Tiananmen Square on May 4, 1989

The campus basketball courts today, now fenced in.

In 1989, the so-called East Gate was the main entry point to campus, but it was a different gate than what is called East Gate today.  The old gate still functions as a point of entry and egress, but it no longer connects directly to campus and cars have to use the new gate. The old gate was torn down, replaced by a sliding metallic gate. It is guarded, but sees little foot traffic as it serves chiefly as a parking lot serving for the Jingshi commercial building that sits on the southeast corner of the university compound. The Jingshi high rise boasts offices, restaurants and Chinese-style hotel facilities, but it is not an attractive building or well-integrated with campus. It is typical of the showy facades and reckless commercial expansion of the Jiang Zemin era, 

The Jingshi building abutting campus 
The old east gate has been reduced to a parking lot behind the Jingshi Building

The old east gate was the last campus barrier for students seeking to take the protest from the sports ground to the street. A significant portion of the student body marched, reaching such numbers that all was traffic halted and the handful of police on the scene were unable and unwilling to stop the forward surge of marchers.

This photo was taken as students poured out of East Gate at the outset of a march on Tiananmen

Students swelled Xinwai Street until all traffic was halted and the marchers owned the road

Utilized mainly for parking nowadays, the old east gate is a forgotten campus thoroughfare, but in 1989 this was the key passageway in and out of campus and the gateway through which students broke past campus security to enter the streets, in defiance of warnings from police and university security. After assembling on the basketball courts at the crack of dawn, it was through the now-demolished archway here that began a series of epic marches to Tiananmen Square.

This is the location of the old arched east gate where students first broke free of campus in 1989

Photos with Beishida students on the Square in '89

Between the old east gate and the new one once stood dozens of commercial cafes, restaurants, bars and snack stalls, but when I visited in the summer of 2019 all of them were boarded up and slated for demolition. This was the biggest change around campus in years so I got asking about it.   

"What happened to all the student hangouts, cafes and restaurants?"

The answers, all of them interesting, all of them likely containing a kernel of truth.

"The university is cleaning up..." "it's to combat air pollution" "beautification" "there were complaints..." "unsightly,” “unsanitary,” "too many unregistered provincials..." 

If the shops that sprouted out with little help from the authorities in the ambiguous zone outside the campus wall were not completely illegal, they were not fully authorized by the university, but more to the point, not in keeping with the latest trends under Xi Jinping for urban beautification which meant in essence restoring something of the simplicity of the Maoist Beijing he knew as a youth to what today is an admittedly intensely capitalistic commercial environment. 

The idea seems to be to restore the university exterior, part wall, part fence and partly composed of buildings that line the street but do not open to the street.

Blue fencing blocks access to the recently closed restaurants and bars on Xinwai Road by campus

This is what remains of popular bar that served pizza, beer and loud music

Certainly, the complaint that the shops were run by provincials, that is to say “waidiren” or rural migrants was a political factor in the clean-up campaign, as similar clearances have taken place throughout the city. But one cannot underestimate the power of bureaucratic greed, either, and it was explained to me that university officials long looked askance at the vibrant activity going on just outside the gate, or perhaps secretly coveted it, and wanted to rope it in by establishment a monopoly on food and drink outlets inside and outside the campus walls.

Welcome no more. Closed by order of the university

This Korean restaurant closed down as part of the clean-up campaign

Keeping things prim and proper, at least in appearance seems to be a ruling ethic of today's Beijing. Or to paraphrase some bad fashion advice, it's more important to look good than feel good.

It's not surprising that young people who are being groomed as teachers should be gently pressured to behave in an upright manner, and conservative students and administrators were shocked in 1989 when so many of the nation's finest teachers-to-be broke out of campus to join other college students in the big protest at Tiananmen Square. 
Today politics is not a popular topic, but lifestyle is, and today's youth eagerly seek to escape the confines of a buttoned-down campus as much as their predecessors did. It's a place where rules abound and are taken seriously, even the elevators signs in the high-rise classroom building have a pedagogical ring.

It’s understandable that students should seek to escape this comfortable but caged crib from time to time, just as it is easy to see why street-weary locals, who are not under the watchful eye of professors and administrators, should find a whiff of freedom within its confines, safely distant from the tyranny of the workplace and nosy nannies

in neighboring residential compounds
Thus the flow goes both ways, non-students flock to campus in the evenings to promenade and unwind, just as students rush out the gates for food, drink and the distractions of the street