Peking University since the Launch of Reform and Opening-up

1976 - 1999

In October 1976, the CPC Central Committee crushed the “Gang of Four” in one fell swoop and ended the decade-long commotion of “Cultural Revolution.” The Party and the government were concerned about PKU. Deng Xiaoping and other leaders of the Central Government shared important instructions with university leaders on multiple occasions. In accordance with the CPC Central Committee’s policy of bringing order out of chaos, PKU actively launched criticism of the “two estimates” in the education community, enthusiastically participated in the major discussion on practice as the only criterion for testing the truth, redressed the unjust, false, and wrong cases in the “Cultural Revolution,” implemented the Party’s policy for officials and intellectuals, reviewed and corrected the mistakes in branding “rightists” in 1957 and resolved the outstanding problems of the anti-rightist campaign in 1959. A total of 2,860 historical issues were fixed. In 1979, the CPC Central Committee rehabilitated Ma Yinchu, former president of PKU wrongly criticized for the “new theory of population,” and approved his appointment by the Ministry of Education as the first honorary president in the history of PKU. In the same year, the CPC Beijing Municipal Committee issued Decision of the CPC Beijing Municipal Committee Regarding the Complete Rehabilitation of the Former Party Committee of Beijing University, restoring the reputation of the former CPC Committee at PKU and rehabilitating all the comrades implicated. These measures enabled the unprecedented intellectual liberation for the vast majority of teachers and students and drastically improved their enthusiasm.

In 1978, the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh CPC Central Committee achieved a great historical transition, prompting major reforms in the system of higher education throughout China. PKU entered a new stage of revitalization and development amid the reform and opening-up. The president accountability system under the leadership of the Party committee was restored and the teaching order returned to the right track. In the spring of 1978, PKU ushered in the first batch of undergraduates admitted after the “Cultural Revolution” through the entrance examinations. In May of the same year, PKU promoted 34 professors and three associate professors, restored the long-interrupted qualification review for the teachers, and restored the academic committees of the schools and the university, degree evaluation committee, faculty conference, and labor unions. The faculty and students of PKU tried hard to be the forerunners of reform and opening-up with the appeal of the era—“Let’s united to rejuvenate the Chinese nation.” The greeting of “Hello Xiaoping” encapsulated the deep affection of hundreds of millions of people.

In the historical period of reform and opening-up, PKU became a state priority in the development of key institutes of higher learning that embraced intellectual emancipation and forged ahead, with outstanding achievements along the way.

PKU continuously deepened the teaching reform in order to adapt to the development of society and science and technology, and to foster the full growth of students in morality, intelligence, physique, esthetics and labor. The university was gradually transformed from a comprehensive university featuring basic subjects in liberal arts and sciences into a multidisciplinary research-oriented comprehensive university embracing natural sciences, humanities, social sciences, medical sciences, technical sciences, educational sciences, management sciences, and engineering/information sciences. It actively adjusted its disciplines to meet the needs of the state and restored long-interrupted disciplines such as sociology, psychology, and political science. In 1985, the School of Economics was established as its first school, marking the beginning of reform to the university-school-department three-tier institution. The guiding philosophy for its teaching reform was continually deepened with the times. In 1981, the principle of “consolidating the foundation, expanding knowledge, reducing required courses and adding optional courses to facilitate teaching in accordance with individual aptitude” was put forward. In 1988, the principle of “consolidated foundation, diluted boundaries of specialties, instruction according to individual aptitude and distributary training” was further clarified. In 1993, the concept of life-long education and student as the subject of learning was emphasized. Moreover, the arrangement for reforming the curriculum system and teaching materials was made for the 21st century. In 1999, the training objectives for comprehensive improvement in quality, practical ability and innovative spirit were highlighted. Based on the orientation of a high-level research university, PKU highlighted programs for graduates and higher, in proactively developing undergraduate, graduate, adult education, and international programs. In the 1980-1981 academic year, PKU enrolled a total of 8,415 students, including 6,923 undergraduates, 650 graduates and 193 overseas students. The rest were junior college students, correspondence students, and night school students. In the 1998-1999 academic year, the university had a total of 23,536 students, including 9,085 undergraduates, 4,463 graduates, 1,645 doctoral candidates, and 1,135 overseas students. The rest were college students, correspondence students, and night school students.

While continuing to emphasize basic research and display the advantages of traditional disciplines, PKU stepped up the applied research, strove to track the advanced technologies in the world, promoted the industrialization of science and technology, and strengthened research in major theoretical and practical topics relevant to the modernization of China. The university established a host of national key labs for “Artificial Microstructure and Mesoscopic Physics,” “Molecular Dynamic and Steady State Structure,” “Protein Engineering and Plant Genetic Engineering,” “Visual and Auditory Information Processing,” “Rare Earth Material Chemistry and Application,” “Turbulence Research,” “Regional Optical Communication Network and New Optical Fiber Communication System,” “Text Information Processing,” and “Environmental Simulation and Pollution Control.” Many achievements received major awards at home and abroad. For instance, the “Computer Laser System for Chinese Character Arrangement” project led by Professor Wang Xuan was hailed “a revolution that bids farewell to lead and fire” in the publishing industry. “Stability Study of the Differential Power System” chaired by Professor Liao Shantao won the First Prize of China’s State Natural Science Award (1987). “Microwave Radiometer and Its Application in Environment Remote Sensing” hosted by Professor Zhao Bolin won the First Prize of National Science and Technology Progress Award (1991). History of Oriental Literature edited by Professor Ji Xianlin won the Special Prize for Achievements in Philosophy and Social Science Research by Beijing Municipality (1996) and the First Prize for Humanities and Social Sciences Research at Institutes of Higher Learning in China (1998). All of these achievements have greatly improved the scientific research and innovative spirit of PKU, while the high-tech industry conglomerates like Founder Group, Jade Bird Group, and Biological Group have become an important player in the commercialization of scientific and technological achievements in China.

Upholding the tradition of inclusiveness, PKU has made a point of enlisting the service of talents around the world. It has basically solved the problem of serious gaps in its faculty caused by the “Cultural Revolution” and realized the renewal of academic leaders. In 1999, the average age of PKU professors was 10 years younger than ten years ago, and a relatively reasonable echelon of teaching staff was formed. The university topped China in the number of CAS academicians, famous scholars of arts and humanities, Chang Jiang Scholars, “National Hundred, Thousand and Ten Thousand Talent Project”, and “Trans-Century Talents.”

From 1978 to 1999, 80 heads of state and political figures from more than 50 countries visited PKU. The university has established exchange relations with nearly 200 universities from more than 40 countries in the world, and continuously strengthened its cooperation with Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, Taiwan, and other provinces and municipalities. A multi-channel, multi-level and all-around pattern for foreign exchange and cooperation has taken shape.

From 1978 to 1999, 80 heads of state and political figures from more than 50 countries visited PKU. The university has established exchange relations with nearly 200 universities from more than 40 countries in the world, and continuously strengthened its cooperation with Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, Taiwan, and other provinces and municipalities. A multi-channel, multi-level and all-around pattern for foreign exchange and cooperation has taken shape.

The university’s infrastructure and schooling conditions have been greatly improved. Successive completion of the science building group, the centennial lecture hall and other landmark buildings have given a facelift to the campus. The PKU Library, as the largest one of its kind in Asia, is increasingly automated, digitized, electronic and network-based. The library houses the Chinese Academic Library and Information System, Chinese Literature Center for Humanities and Sciences and Medical Archives Center, making it an important hub for the sharing of China’s literature resources in higher education institutions.

In August 1986, the president of PKU delivered a report entitled “Aiming for World-Class Standards and Accelerating the Development of PKU.” Since then, PKUers take it as their tireless pursuit to help the university become one of the best universities in the world. In July 1994, the 9th CPC Congress of PKU passed the Outline for the Reform and Development of Peking University, which explicitly established the goal of building a world-class university. In October 1996 and May 1998, the “211 Project” and “985 Project” were launched respectively, facilitating the bid of PKU to create a world-class university. In January 1999, the 10th CPC Congress of PKU passed the strategic vision of establishing a world-class university, planning to comprehensively promote various undertakings in accordance with internationally recognized standards so as to turn PKU into a cradle of quality creative talents by 2015 or slightly later. By then, the university would be at the forefront in understanding the unknown world, seeking objective truth, and providing a scientific basis for the major issues for mankind; an important force for knowledge innovation and the transformation of scientific and technological achievements into practical productivity; and a bridge for exchanges between the excellent national culture and the achievements of advanced civilizations around the world.

In May 1998, the 100th anniversary celebration was a grand event for PKU. The majestic university has been closely associated with the ups and downs of the country. Its spirit has been handed down over a century and its glory inherited by generations. For centuries, the development of PKU has been closely related to the destiny of the country and the nation. Generations of PKU students have mustered their wisdom and life and composed glorious chapters in the university’s history, making significant contributions to the liberation and revitalization of the Chinese nation. Over the past 100 years, PKU has nurtured a valuable legacy of patriotism, progress, democracy, and science, and a fine style of scholarship that highlights diligence, rigor, realistic approach and innovation. PKU entered the 21st century with its hallmark inclusiveness, progress-orientation, galaxy of talents and outstanding achievements.