American writer, who chided China's COVID response, loses teaching post at Sichuan University

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Representative image
Representative image

Beijing [China], May 31 (ANI): American writer Peter Hessler, who voiced against China's "botched" response to the COVID-19 outbreak, said that he is returning to the United States after a Chinese university declined to renew his teaching contract.

This comes at a time when China's and US relations are at an all-time low and Beijing is trying to curb foreign influence in its education system.

Hessler, a fluent Mandarin speaker who is also known by his Chinese name He Wei, is a China correspondent for The New Yorker, South China Morning Post reported.

Since 2019, Hessler has been based in the city of Chengdu, where he is an assistant professor at the Sichuan University-Pittsburgh Institute.

The institute confirmed the decision but gave no reason for it.

Last year, Hessler, in a lengthy article published by The New Yorker, outlined how the Chinese government had responded to the COVID-19 outbreak after its spread from Wuhan.

He observed that the Chinese government had "botched its initial response to the coronavirus" and noted the differences between his two stints in Chengdu, stressing on how the ruling Communist Party's control in China was "even more powerful than I remembered, and relations with the United States were even worse".

"For Americans, China was essentially closed," he wrote. "Once the US started losing the small core of diplomats, journalists and business people who were based in China, the already limited knowledge of the country was bound to be diminished."

In a statement posted to Chinese social media platform Douban on his behalf over the weekend, Hessler stressed he had "greatly enjoyed being back in the classroom after more than 20 years".

"I have been impressed with my students at Sichuan University, and I have also been fortunate to work with great instructors and staff at the Sichuan University-Pittsburgh Institute," he said, in the message posted by his friend, the Chengdu-based translator He Yujia.

"We hope to return to China in the near future. Regardless, we will have very fond memories of Chengdu and of our experiences here," he added.

Daniel Rechtschaffen, a government relations manager at the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, tweeted on Sunday that it was "sad to see such a great storyteller, who does wonders to breaking down negative foreign perceptions of China, get kicked out. This really is China's loss as much as Hessler's." (ANI)