A very public spat between “science cop” Fang Zhouzi and former Google China chief Kaifu Lee on Sina Weibo has kept Chinese internet users hooked over the last few days. Fang has attacked Lee’s credibility, accusing him of lying about himself in interviews that he has given and in his Chinese biography published in 2009. The Chinese media has lapped up the war of words between the two but the spat has received scant attention outside of China.
China Daily details the argument:
[Lee said] that he used to be the youngest associate professor in CMU at the age of 26. “If I stuck to that for several years, I could get a tenure (lifelong post),” Lee wrote in the biography.
These words were challenged by Fang, who wrote in his micro blog on Weibo.com on Tuesday that Lee was, in fact, an assistant professor at CMU, rather than an associate professor.
“The so-called associate professor was merely an assistant professor,” Fang said in the micro blog. “There are a large number of assistant professors in their 20s in key universities of the US. Even if Lee’s claims were true, was that reason enough to brag?”
Unlike the academics in China – who are placed under the categories of associate professor and professor – US universities place them under three heads – assistant professor, associate professor and full professor, according to Fang. Lee responded to Fang’s charges afterwards on his micro blog on Tuesday, saying that the nuances were lost in translation, leading to a controversy.
“My post in CMU was that of an assistant professor, which could have led to a tenure and the post of a research leader. But ‘assistant professor’ in Chinese might be understood as ‘teaching assistant’, thus losing the connotation that it might lead to a tenure,” Lee wrote.
“I decided to go with ‘associate professor’, while noting that an ‘assistant professor’ in the US could be on his way to getting a tenure, without necessarily having achieved one yet,” according to Lee’s micro blog.
Fang refuted Lee’s self-defense on Wednesday, saying that since Lee used to work in a US university, he must have known the fact that an assistant professor was quite different from an associate professor.
The entire episode has been hugely embarassing for Kaifu Lee, who now has decided to post the English version of his biography for free on Amazon, says Charles Custer of Penn Olson, citing a report by the Beijing News. Custer notes:
Aside from the fact that he plans to do this “on Amazon,” it’s not clear from the interview exactly how or when this free copy will be available. At present, both the American and Chinese Amazon stores appear to carry only Lee’s Chinese autobiography, and then only in paperback form.