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By Chana R. Schoenberger, CRIMSON STAFF WRITER

The visit of Chinese President Jiang Zemin has sparked a quiet debate among Faculty members over the proper role of Harvard in facilitating international and academic discourse.

While no Faculty member has voiced unquestioning support for China's internal policies, many professors say they favor allowing Jiang to speak on campus.

Among many scholars of East Asia, Jiang's visit, facilitated by Ford Professor of Social Science Ezra F. Vogel among others, is seen by many as a possible Chinese attempt at outreach.

"People say, what we see here is to one extent, an internationalist move by the president of China," says Professor of Chinese History Peter K. Bol. "He thinks it's important to be seen at a university."

Some professors interpret Jiang's reported insistence on speaking at Harvard as a signal that U.S.-Chinese relations could take a favorable turn.

"I think it's a very positive sign that China is trying to open up and make contact with the West," says Stephen Owen, who plans to attend Jiang's speech. "It's the beginning of a dialogue."

But while Owen, like many professors, adds that he has "reservations" about Jiang's visit, he says the trip could prove valuable.

"We wouldn't want to shut him up," Owen says.

Other professors say the visit may be educational in a different sense.

"He should come to a university and should be exposed to students and the protests that will be going on at the same time," says Boston University Professor Merle K. Goldman, who studies modern Chinese history at Harvard's Fairbank Center for East Asian Research.

Goldman said that, while Jiang had visited the U.S. previously for meetings of the Association of South East Asian Nations and the U.N., he has never been to an American university during his presidential term.

Jiang also visited Drexel University in Philadelphia on Thursday.

Faculty members cite the "intellectual ferment" sweeping the campus as proof that Jiang's visit will benefit Harvard.

"I've never seen this campus more active, more engaged, more intellectually aroused about a subject in many years," says Robert S. Ross, a Boston College professor of political science and research associate at the Fairbank Center. "It's the whole purpose of the university."

And while some Faculty members voiced concerns that Harvard is falling victim to a circus mentality in inviting Jiang, others said Harvard is fulfilling the proper role of a prestigious university.

"Harvard's been doing this for two or 300 years," Ross says. "This is not new."

In addition, Bol notes, the Chinese people may get a glimpse of the controversy over official state television, which will broadcast the president's speech. And the protests may give Jiang a sense of how American university students feel about Chinese policies.

"He cannot miss" the hundreds of protesters, Goldman says. "In China, they don't allow students to protest. What it shows is that we have room for more than one view."

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