China’s Free-Market Summer Camp

by Ken Schoolland 

Li Zhao Schoolland organized the first China Austrian Economics Camp (CAEC) this summer with Northeastern University (NEU) of Shenyang, China. Those teaching about the economics and ethics of free markets included Tom Palmer of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation and the CATO Institute, Fred Foldvary of Santa Clara University, Cris Lingle of Francisco Marroquin University in Guatemala, Kenli Schoolland of the University of Buckingham in England, Zhu Haijiu of Zhejiang GongShang University in China, Dean Peng of Beijing, Jeff Crawford and Ken Schoolland of Hawaii Pacific University, and Li Schoolland. Four of these teachers are members of the Mont Pelerin Society, founded in 1947 by Friedrich Hayek to promote an intellectual resurgence of free market ideas.

Nearly a hundred students signed up for the camp, held July 18-25. “This was a remarkable turnout,” said Li, “considering that the students attended eight hours of classes and discussions daily during the first week of their summer break! Only a few students missed any classes, and that was only because of conflicts with other summer programs.”

NEU provided facilities and accommodations for all students and faculty, Jeff Crawford generously sponsored the travel expenses of most of the faculty, while the others were sponsored by the International Society for Individual Liberty (ISIL), Atlas and CATO. More than 300 economics books in English and Chinese were donated to the students from various sources, such as Jim Walsh of Silver Lake Publishing Co., Jim Peron of Laissez Faire Books, and Dick Rowland of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii (GRIH).

Mark Skousen, author of 20 books translated into Chinese, donated a boxed collection of his books. Each of the hundred students received signed copies of Fred’s book in English and of Ken’s book in Chinese. Kris Mauren of the Acton Institute contributed to half the cost of the latter books. And each student also received the CD “Ideas for a Free Society,” a collection of a hundred libertarian classics compiled and produced by Linda Whetstone and the International Policy Network.

The daily program was filled with two large group lectures, two follow-up small group discussion sessions, and four small group lectures with discussions. The students were especially thrilled by the open discussion format, highly unusual in China. Evenings were scheduled with group game contests, debates, documentary films, a talent show, and a closing party celebration. Mornings typically began with swimming at the university pool or Tai Chi in the courtyard. Evenings ended with fabulous dining and exhaustion induced sleep.
From beginning to end, these enthusiastic and brilliant students were eager to practice their English and to engage with their teachers in American-style classes. China is experiencing a stunning market transformation and students are very open to the ideas of Hayek, Mises, and Friedman in contrast to the routine classroom fare of Marx and Keynes. Indeed, these Chinese students seemed to be much more intrigued with free market alternatives than many American students who have taken markets for granted and are too willing to accept central planning.

Two day-time excursions were scheduled to the Forbidden City Summer Palace in Shenyang and museums memorializing the life of General Zhang Xueliang, Li’s ancestor who was founder and first president of the university. A post camp tour was arranged for faculty to visit the Yalu River bordering on North Korea and the historic regions of Dalian, Weihai, Qingdao, Beijing, and Shanghai. The camp was a spectacular success and every effort is being made to continue it on an annual basis. Many thanks to all who participated and contributed.

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