Sunday, April 21, 2013

Questionable Fact: Fu Ping's College Thesis

The Original Story:
In Bend, Not Break, Fu Ping describes that she started research infanticide during her senior year in college, Pages 253-255:
During my senior year, I selected a somewhat obscure research topic for my thesis: China's one-child policy... Even the Communist Party leader at my school approved.
I spent a few months traveling around the Chinese countryside conducting research. I interviewed doctors and midwives, as well as farmers and government officials... 
When I completed my thesis in the spring of 1982, I never imagined that anything would come of my work...
The Changing Story:
In the somewhat original story in Inc. magazine, There was a different timeline:

A professor suggested that she go out to the provinces and research a rumored epidemic of infanticide. Ping accepted the assignment. 
For two years she traveled through rural China, visiting hundreds of towns and villages, interviewing hospital staffers, barefoot doctors, and citizens. The national practice of killing infant girls had long been tacitly acknowledged, but never fully investigated. Ping proved an able reporter--curious, meticulous, resourceful, compassionate. There was no explaining or forgiving the crimes she documented and often witnessed. Because the state had ordered that parents were permitted only one child, however, and because tradition enforced an ironclad, son-centered patrimony, Ping did not judge her compatriots. 
In 1980, she delivered her findings to her professor...

But to her credit, in all of her media interviews, she had maintained that she only did the research in her senior year. For example, at the Downtown Speaker Series at Las Vegas, she said,
In my senior year, I decided I wanted to pursue graduate school. I wanted to be a journalist. I chose infanticide as my thesis topic, and i went to research the phenomenon of killing baby girls in the country side due to one child policy.
Or at a BBC interview a little earlier:
Right before I graduated from college I was doing my thesis research. I thought I was picking a humanitarian topic, which is infanticide.
The Debunking:
The Inc. story was obviously wrong in both of the duration and the timing of her research. Fu Ping entered college in the fall of 1978. She would have spent all her freshman and sophomore years to conduct the two-year research in order to finish the research in 1980.

In her own book, she said she had completed the work in the spring of 1982. That would have been consistent with her college schedule as she was scheduled to graduate in that summer. The only problem is that we now know, according to her college, that she had dropped out of the school on March 16 that same year.

How did she complete the thesis work and then got into trouble after she left the school?

That aside, it is also highly doubtful that she would have conducted the research work for her thesis. In universities and colleges in China, the thesis work for undergraduate graduation never required original research work. Most only demanded a report or essay of some sort, if at all. Suzhou University was not a top-rated school and Fu Ping's major, Chinese literature, is not one that demands research or field study.

Fu Ping may have chosen this topic for research on her own, as she claimed that she "wanted to pursue graduate school." But it would be highly unlikely that her project would have been approved by her school, not to mention "the Communist Party leader."

Since Fu Ping had dropped out the school earlier, Suzhou University confirmed that she was not among their graduates. There was no record of her thesis.

1 comment:

  1. Remember her claim that she faked the mental breakdown to drop out of the school BECAUSE she had been imprisoned in Nanjing after her thesis was passed to a Shanghai newspaper?

    There isn't enough time for any of this to happen between her completing her thesis in spring 1982 and then dropping out of the school on March 16, 1982.