Tag Archive: China 100 Blog

  1. President Hu welcomes Yale 100 to China

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    Four hours after we arrived at Beijing Airport on Wednesday, Yale faculty and students were welcomed to China by President Hu Jintao in a brief address at the Great Hall of the People.

    For virtually all of the students and some of the faculty, the audience with Hu — perhaps the highlight of the trip — followed nearly 24 hours of bus and air travel, beginning at 6 a.m. on Tuesday in New Haven. Our day would not end until 9 p.m. Beijing time, following Hu’s address, a photo op, and a Welcome Banquet, also at the Great Hall.

    USE Great Hall

    Students await entrance to the Great Hall of the People on Wednesday afternoon before meeting with President Hu Jintao. Digital photography was not permitted at the event with President Hu. (Michael Blank/YDN)

    In his remarks, Hu echoed both U.S. President George W. Bush and Yale President Richard Levin when he emphasized the importance of “people to people” diplomacy between the United States and China — one of the goals of the Yale 100 trip. Young people are particularly important in these efforts, Hu said, citing a Chinese proverb: “Heroes always come from young people.”

    “Further developing the cooperative U.S.-China relationship is in the fundamental interests of the two countries and peoples,” Hu said.

    At the Welcome Banquet, which Hu did not attend, Levin reiterated his appreciation for the Chinese government’s financial support for the trip. Eighty-five of the 100 students, faculty and staff in the Yale delegation have never been to China, he said.

    Levin Accepts a Gift

    Levin exchanges gifts with an organizer of the Welcome Banquet. (Han Xu/YDN)

    But for students, the menu may have proved more interesting than the toasts by Levin and other Chinese officials. Other than the airline’s attempt at Asian-inflected cuisine — including a particularly dismal rendition of dim sum just before landing — the dinner was the group’s first meal of the trip.

    Although my Chinese-speaking tablemate translated the printed menu loosely as “scallops, shrimp, chicken, beef, vegetables, ice cream,” what arrived on the lazy Susan turned out to be a vast array of dishes, such as abalone, that would have been foreign to most American Chinese restaurants. We had been warned in advance not to eat too much of the first courses at such banquets, but it proved virtually impossible. What I thought was a winding-down of the dishes turned out to be merely a half-time break, and the flow of dishes continued unabated out of the kitchen for close to two hours.

    Banquet Dinner

    Yale students and faculty sample from the cold appetizers served on a lazy Susan at the Welcome Banquet. (Han Xu/YDN)

    Students and faculty were seated with Chinese officials at the banquet. Although conversation dwindled as jet lag gradually took hold of the Yalies, we managed to get in topics ranging from the structure of the Chinese education system to secret society tap.

    Representatives from Yale and the All-China Student Federation and the All-China Youth Federation — which coordinated the group’s schedule in China — were making a valiant effort to keep the trip running smoothly. From personalized first-day schedules distributed on the plane to room keys handed out en route to the hotel (on preassigned, color-coded buses), their efforts were largely successful.

    But the first day of the trip was also a reminder that Yale cannot control everything. The buses departed New Haven just after 6:30 a.m. — right on time and more than six hours before scheduled takeoff — but they ran into an accident on I-95 that set them back nearly an hour and a half. Once aloft, it turned out that the in-flight video system in the coach cabin was broken — seemingly a minor inconvenience, but one that can feel like a calamity by the 12th hour of a 14-hour flight.

  2. China delegation gets sendoff from Levin

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    Faculty and students departing next week for China met Tuesday afternoon to hear from Yale President Richard Levin about the challenges facing China in the coming years.

    In his remarks, Levin identified four major issues China must confront in order to maintain its strong economic growth: rule of law, education, environment and income inequality. He highlighted efforts at Yale to spur progress in several of those areas, and also connected ongoing reforms to the possibility of expanded human rights and democracy in China.

    Levin Speaking

    Yale President Richard Levin addresses the delegation of faculty and students headed to China next week. (Michael Blank/YDN)

    The economic growth of recent decades has already prompted China to improve its rule of law because foreign companies have demanded consistent legal practices, Levin said, while the Beijing Olympics have spurred concerns about environmental conditions in the country. At the same time, concerns about how to continue to innovate once the country “catches up” to the United States in terms of labor costs are driving changes to Chinese higher education, he said.

    China is trying to foster innovative thinking rather than rote memorization in its classrooms, Levin said, in an effort to learn from Japan, where the economy stagnated after years of rapid growth.

    “In the last five year plan, which started two years ago, Hu Jintao declared creativity and innovation as the key concepts for China’s next 10 years,” he said.

    This has led some top-tier universities in China to move toward an American-style liberal arts education in place of specialization — a process Levin said Yale has encouraged by offering training sessions for Chinese university administrators about how American universities are organized.

    And these ongoing reforms in education and the rule of law may offer hope for the future of human rights in China, Levin said.

    “If you’re training them to think more independently … that in the long run is bound to have some political implications,” he said.

    But he acknowledged that it is “not an impossible scenario” that Chinese leaders would return to a closed economy if continued openness appears to threaten their political control.

    Levin encouraged participants to ask questions about human rights while they are in China, particularly during meetings with faculty and students of Chinese universities. The trip itinerary includes meetings at Peking University, Tsinghua University, Xi’an Jiaotong University and Fudan University.

    “Ask for yourselves,” he said. “You’re not the State Department, you’re individuals.”

    In response to a student’s question, Levin also laid out the reasons for the Yale trip, which resulted from an invitation given by Chinese President Hu Jintao in his 2006 speech at Yale. China’s rapid economic growth has inspired some anxiety about the possibility of a future confrontational relationship between China and the U.S., Levin said, and this trip will help forge the cultural understanding that is needed on both sides to keep relations peaceful.

    “[Hu] believes, as I do … that cross-cultural interaction and people-to-people contact is the best investment we can make for international security in the long-run,” Levin said.

    After Levin’s talk, trip participants had a chance to mingle at a reception, which also offered them a small taste of China — in the form of dumplings and beef skewers.


    Trip participants mingle at the reception following Levin’s address. (Michael Blank/YDN)

  3. Bush meets with Yale delegation to China

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    WASHINGTON — President George W. Bush ’68 met Friday afternoon with Yale President Richard Levin, China’s Ambassador to the United States Zhou Wenzhong and other participants in the upcoming Yale trip to China.

    At the Oval Office meeting, Bush conveyed his greetings to Chinese President Hu Jintao, who invited the Yale delegation to China in a speech at Yale in April 2006. The group of 100 faculty, students and administrators is expected to meet with senior Chinese government officials during the 10-day trip, which begins May 15.

    Oval Office Visit

    Participants on the trip to China meet with President Bush. (Courtesy Eric Draper)

    Levin said the idea for the presidential sendoff originated with Zhou, and was organized by Yale. Bush has granted similar meetings to other Yale groups, including a number of Chinese officials participating in the China-Yale Senior Government Leadership Program last summer.

    At Friday’s meeting, Bush spoke about the diplomatic importance of personal connections between Americans and the Chinese in overcoming American “protectionism” and “Chinese nationalism,” which he called the biggest prospective stumbling blocks to friendly relations between the two countries.

    “The best diplomacy is … person-to-person diplomacy,” Bush said.

    Bush voiced concern about some Americans’ belief that China is stealing jobs from the U.S., suggesting instead that the Chinese should create a better pension and old-age health care system so that Chinese consumers will save less and consume more American goods.

    But Bush also referred to historic tensions between the United States and China over the issue of Taiwan, and when Zhou asked Bush to continue to keep an eye on Taiwan’s activities, Bush reiterated his opposition to any “unilateral” change — from the mainland government or from Taiwan — to the status quo.

    A discussion of Sudan also exposed some disagreement between the two countries. Although cooperation between China and the U.S. over Sudan has improved in recent months, China — which invests heavily in Sudan and relies on its oil exports — has in the past been reluctant to intervene to stop violence in the Darfur region. When Zhou told Bush that China now plans to send a delegation of engineers to Sudan to pave the way for peacekeepers, Bush expressed appreciation for China’s willingness to become involved but also asked what engineers could do to save lives. In the event that Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir does not allow peacekeeping troops into the country, Bush said, he is prepared to follow through on his earlier promise of sanctions.

    Before the meeting at the White House, Zhou hosted a luncheon for the Yale group at his official residence. Wishing Levin and the students “bon voyage,” the ambassador described the trip as setting “another record for Yale” because sending a delegation of this size and composition is relatively unprecedented.

    Topics of conversation at the lunch ranged from the next round of Chinese elections, expected to take place next year, to Chez Panisse — the Berkeley, Calif., restaurant started by Alice Waters, who also spearheaded the introduction of sustainable food to Yale dining halls.

    The full delegation to China includes 62 undergraduate and graduate students and 38 faculty and administrators. The group will travel to Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai, and their itinerary includes stops at major tourist destinations as well as meetings with professors and students from local universities.