The Confucian classics book published by Shandong Education Press. (Internet photo)
China's academic circle is under the spotlight after a series of plagiarism scandals, with scholars and experts demanding an urgent cleanup.
Dr Li Junxiu wrote a letter of complaint to a publishing company in east China's Shandong province after she found her work on Mencius had been copied. She found her work in a Confucian classics book published by Shandong Education Press. Both Mencius and Confucius are ancient Chinese philosophers.
"I cannot accept such a rampant act of plagiarism," said Dr Li, adding an estimated 45 pages of the book were copied from her work.
The accused plagiarist Wang Qijun apologized to Dr Li and promised to stop publishing and selling the book. He also lost his chance to become a member of a Mencius study council, according to Guangzhou-based Yangcheng Evening News, earlier this month.
Some scholars think China is too lenient toward such plagiarism. A lack of a serious punishment system has contributed to the emergence of plagiarism, said Beijing-based freelancer Fang Lin.
"At least Dr Li got a wrongdoer who was willing to say sorry," said Fang. "In most cases, people won't give a damn about the complaint."
Authorities have stressed discipline in academic research. The Ministry of Education has called for "zero tolerance" to plagiarism. The Ministry of Science and Technology also stripped a professor from Xi'an Jiaotong University of a national prize in 2011 because of plagiarism.
In the case of Wang Zhengmin, who is caught up in an accusation that he cloned China's first artificial cochlea from an Australian product, academic plagiarism is related to something bigger: China's corrupted academic circle.
"If the academic circle was lucky enough to have the same kind of powerful institution like the Central Commission of Discipline Inspection (CCDI), China's scientific study will become much better," said Liu Dong, vice dean of the Institute of Chinese National Culture at Beijing's Tsinghua University.
CCDI is the anti-corruption watchdog of the Communist Party of China. Since late 2012, it has become a powerful organ in carrying out Beijing's anti-graft efforts to "hit tigers and swat flies."
However, Liu also admitted difficulty in curbing academic corruption, even in the country's most prestigious universities like Tsinghua and Peking.
"In China's current higher education system, the headmaster, appointed by the government, is excessively involved in executive work. So are the deans of each school. How can we expect them to focus more on research when their achievement is measured by their rankings?" Liu said.
The country's higher education system has long been criticized by the public for being too rigid. Scholars complain this rigidity is stifling innovation and scientific research, with some feel there is a long way to go.
Xiong Bingqi from Shanghai Jiao Tong University said the People's Congress, China's legislative body, at all levels should play a role in investigating plagiarism before an independent academic management organization is set up.
"The People's Congress should coordinate related scholars and the media to form an independent commission to investigate academic plagiarism and suspected corruption cases," said Xiong.
But before that, maybe the best option for someone like Dr Li Junxiu is still to turn to the media for help, according to Zhou Chicheng from Guangzhou's South China Normal University.
"It is very effective when the media is involved because the wrongdoers will tread carefully under the spotlight," said Zhou.
Dr Li did not go to the court after the plagiarist showed regret, choosing to reconcile instead. "Though it really angered me, I consider it an academic issue and maybe it is better for us to contain it in the academic circle," she said.