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US tycoon’s China scholarship project opens doors in Beijing

US tycoon’s China scholarship project opens doors in Beijing

BEIJING: A new scholarship programme intended to rival the prestigious Rhodes Scholarships and build understanding between China and the world opened its doors at Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University on Saturday.

The programme, founded by Wall Street tycoon Stephen Schwarzman, covers all expenses for students in a one-year master’s degree programme that will also emphasize cultural immersion, travel around China, and efforts to grasp and understanding the world’s second-largest economy and rising superpower. Chosen from more than 3,000 applicants, the 110 Schwarzman Scholars represent 32 countries, with 44 per cent from the United States and 21pc from China.

The programme hopes to eventually provide support for as many as 200 scholars yearly. In an interview, Schwarzman said the programme had sought out students who were not just talented, but creative and insightful, with strong leadership and communications skills.

Drawn from the sciences, business and even the military, they will go on to be “people of influence” who can explain China to the world and the world to China, he said.

“In a world of populism and strong views on the internet, there need to be people who can explain such complex issues,” Schwarzman said. Launched in 2013, the programme has drawn support from the top ranks of the ruling Communist Party, one reason Schwarzman said he wasn’t concerned about possible infringements on academic freedom. Chinese universities remain strictly limited in what they can teach and discuss in areas such as politics and history, and President Xi Jinping’s government has redoubled calls to rid classrooms and textbooks of the influence of universal values and Western concepts of human rights and participatory democracy.

Published in Dawn September 11th, 2016

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