Posted by Joel Martinsen on Thursday, July 8, 2010 at 6:19 PM
It hasn't been a good week for Tang Jun. The former president of Microsoft China, former CEO of Shanda, and current head of Xin Hua Du Industrial Group was accused by Fang Zhouzi, a noted anti-fraud crusader, of falsifying his academic credentials. (See Global Voices Online and ESWN for background.)
Fang charged that, among other things, Tang falsely claimed to have obtained a PhD in computers from the California Institute of Technology, when in fact the school had no record of his degree. After a few days of silence, Tang went on the offensive. In an interview with the state media, Tang threatened to sue Fang for libel: never, in any venue, had he claimed to have received a doctorate from Cal Tech.
Immediately, Fang Zhouzi shot back with passages from Tang's autobiography, My Success Can Be Replicated (我的成功可以复制, 2008), in which he claimed precisely that. Was the electronic edition maliciously altered to smear his reputation, as Tang claimed? Well, a page from the print version contained the same claim.
So did Tang lie about his credentials, and lie again to cover up his fraud? Perhaps, but he still has one way out: maybe he didn't write the book that bears his name:
Other publishers have perpetuated the mistake. On an inside flap of Diary of Tang Jun (唐骏日记, 2009), the "about the author" information lists a PhD in computers from Cal Tech in 1993. In a microblog post, Fang Zhouzi notes:
Fang Zhouzi has been collecting other instances in which Tang Jun does not correct the impression that he has a Cal Tech degree — a congratulatory address by the president of his undergraduate alma mater, a profile by a provincial TV station — even if he does not make the claim himself.
So strictly speaking, Tang Jun may not have lied about a Cal Tech doctorate. Of course, that still leaves the matter of Shanda's Nasdaq filing, in which Tang is identified as having received a doctorate from Nagoya University, although he said this week that he left before his thesis defense.
Consular letter (via Yu Jinyong)
And then there's the charge that Tang's actual alma mater, Pacific Western University, little more than a diploma mill during the time he supposedly studied there. Some alumni of the school (who are now crawling out of the woodwork, according to Veggie Discourse's translation of a Yangcheng Evening Post article) have pointed to the fact that the school was recognized by the State of California as a post-secondary education institution. One even posted a letter from the Chinese Consulate in LA certifying that it grants degrees in business management.
All this means is that the school was not operating illegally. Pacific Western University was not approved by any recognized accrediting body until 2009, (under the name California Miramar University), which means that Tang's actual degree is not worth all that much.
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