Over the last two decades, the quality and quantity of scientific research in China has expanded rapidly, a trend that has been reflected in all the major global university rankings. In 2003, for example, there were no Chinese universities in the first edition of the Academic Ranking of World Universities (Shanghai Rankings): by 2021 there were seven.
There have been several initiatives aimed at improving the international standing of Chinese universities. The Double First-Class University Plan, which was announced in 2015, succeeding the 211 and 985 projects, listed 140 institutions that would become world-class universities by 2050.
The project has now expanded with the addition of seven more universities. The new list is different from its predecessor in that universities are no longer divided into three levels.
Another feature of the new list is that two universities, Peking University and Tsinghua University, have been given a substantial degree of autonomy and will be allowed to submit lists of departments for world-class status. A number of disciplines and universities that have failed to make sufficient progress will be subject to further review.
According to an article in Asia News Network, Qu Zhenyuan, formerly the Chairperson of the China Association of Higher Education, declared that the “double world-class project” is a continuation of the “211” and “985” projects in the new era. It is also a key project in the strategy of building a powerful China through education and lays the foundation for achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”