The race is between the two nations competing for global dominance, the US and China. This post is triggered by an unnamed editorial in today’s Washington Post (probably authored by Fred Hiatt) criticizing China for imposing ideological limits on Chinese universities. Since the recent party congress, 40 universities have set up centers for studyiing Xi Jinping Thought. 14 universities have come under attack for being “ideologically weak.” Joint operations between US and Chinese universities must appoint a party secretary as a vice chancellor. There have also been restrictions on the internet and other matters. Without doubt, putting restrictions on higher education will make it harder for China to move into a position of full global leadership.
Of course, the WaPo editorial did not notice trends in US academia that also may lead to suppression of research activity and threaten the current leading position of US higher ed in the world, although there have been reports and columns commenting on these trends. Among them are the push for political correctness coming from students, but probably more important is the assault on higher ed coming from the Trump administration. This is seen in the attack on tax breaks for students but also the push to distort funding for research on certain topics. While not directly on higher ed, probably the most damaging has been the attack on science in government agencies, especially the EPA, with such nonsense as banning scientists who have received funding from the agencies on their scientific advisory boards, even as those receiving funding from corporations at odds with goals of these agencies are allowed to be on those boards.
Really, it looks that the two most powerful nations on the planet are having a race to suppress academic freedom and suppress the free development of knowledge in this world at a time when we need more of that.