The Chinese Banker, a high-profile Chinese finance journal, has come under fire for a series of personal essays written by a young author over the course of 12 years. The contributor, who received his first byline for the journal at the age of 10, is the son of the journal’s editor-in-chief, Wáng Sōngqí 王松奇, who also worked as the secretary of the Party committee at the Institute of Finance, a research facility associated with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).
The controversial essays appeared under the column “A collection of a father and his son’s work.” Created by Wang in 2006, it’s essentially a self-aggrandizing space for him to display his calligraphy work and his son Wáng Qīngshí 王青石’s writing. Over the years, the young writer covered a wide range of subjects, mostly in essay and poem form. In an essay titled “A tribute to four seasons,” Wang Qingshi, who was a fifth-grader back then, wrote, “Grass has turned green. Flowers are blossoming. Spring is here!” The most recent articles by Wang Qingshi were included in the October 2018 issue, in which Wang wrote “How to achieve a sense of fulfillment as a gifted person” and “Why God always feels alone.”
The journal in question is a monthly magazine managed by the Academy of Social Sciences in Shanxi Province. Recognized by CASS as a key journal in the fields of corporate finance, capital markets, and other relevant subjects, the Chinese Banker, according to its official introduction, is dedicated to “advancing reforms in China’s financial sector” and “documenting its progress.”
It goes without saying that the journal’s inclusion of a string of unscientific essays by a teenager is downright ridiculous. It also raises some serious questions as to if Wang Songqi abused his power as editor-in-chief to build a portfolio for his son stretching years. Seemingly aware of the sinister nature of his practice, Wang wrote a note in a 2007 issue explaining his thinking. Noting that publishing his son’s writing was a “decision after deliberate consideration,” Wang said that his principle was to publish anything good, whether it’s from his enemy or relative.
However, unconvinced by Wang’s explanation, some readers voiced their objection. In a letter published by the journal, a long-time reader said that he felt like “reading a children’s book” when looking at Wang Qingshi’s articles. “With all due respect, I am curious to know what your standard of publication is and how you position the journal,” the reader asked. In response, Wang Songqi wrote, “I like to think outside the box. My son Wang Qingshi is way more talented than I am. His essays and poems are something that renowned professors wouldn’t be able to accomplish when they were his age.”
The journal has prompted a wave of outrage on Chinese social media, with many internet users accusing Wang Songqi of blatant nepotism and academic misconduct. Facing a vehement backlash, the journal announced that it was “handling the matter” and would release a statement when it’s ready. But Wang remained unapologetic. In an interview (in Chinese) with Xinhua, Wang said that it was his style of managing the journal. “I have nothing to explain to the public. I publish whatever I think is good,” Wang responded.
Less than a week before this scandal broke, China’s Journal of Glaciology and Geocryology, a key journal in the field of geography, came under fire for an article in which the author unabashedly praised his advisor for his “noble qualities” in the name of science.
In the wake of these high-profile controversies, many people are hoping that the mounting attention to China’s academic publishing industry will result in a long-overdue shakeup of the field, eradicating a host of serious flaws that need to be addressed without further delay, such as low standards for publication, a dysfunctional peer review process, and other questionable academic practices.