President of China may visit Yale

Chinese President Hu Jintao may visit Yale during a two-week trip to the United States in September, according to news reports citing officials close to the Chinese leader.

While the reports have said the stop at Yale is on Hu’s schedule, University officials said as of today they have not received official confirmation of a visit. A White House spokesperson could not say whether Hu will come to New Haven and officials at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C. with knowledge of Hu’s schedule for his U.S. trip did not return several phone calls today.

Yale President Richard Levin said he first invited Hu to speak on campus during his trip to China in 2003.

“We have yet to have an official response,” Levin told the News. “It would obviously be a great honor if Yale were the site he would choose to make a major policy address.”

Reports of Hu’s trip to Yale were first published this week by the Reuters news agency and the online Chinese language edition of The Epoch Times, a newspaper based in New York that covers China extensively. The Epoch Times reported that in exchange for Hu’s visit, U.S. President George W. Bush ’68 would receive an invitation to speak at Hu’s alma mater, Qinghua University, later this year. The White House has not announced any such plans.

In recent years, Yale officials have developed and reinforced longstanding ties with Chinese universities and businesses. Levin will travel to China in late September, when he will facilitate research partnerships between the Yale School of Medicine and several Chinese medical schools.

A visit by Hu to Yale would probably feature a major policy speech and meetings with students from China who are studying at the University and with faculty who specialize in China, said Richard Bush, an expert on U.S.-China relations at the Brookings Insitution. He said he expects such a visit would resemble the visit by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to Harvard University in 2003.

“I think that education is a respected value in China, and even in a country ruled by the Communist Party, there is a great respect for educational institutions,” Bush said. “I expect there may be a sense that perhaps Yale deserves some equal time here, and that it is as prestigious as Harvard, so that’s why he’s going [to Yale].”

A visit by Hu to Yale might prompt a response from campus activist groups who take issue with China’s track record on human rights, said Emily Jones ’06, who coordinates social justice activities for Dwight Hall.

“I think the overwhelming majority of activists at Yale support international dialogue and a sort of global conversation,” Jones said. “That having been said, there are obviously some humans rights concerns and labor concerns.”

The White House spokesperson said Hu will meet with President Bush at the White House on Sept. 7. This will be Hu’s first visit to the United States since he became president in March 2003.

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