Eight visiting students from New Asia College in Hong Kong led a four-part symposium on globalization and identity at the Afro-American Cultural Center Wednesday afternoon.

The symposium explored economic consumption, the English language and the city of Hong Kong as a way of understanding how each has contributed to a globalized Chinese identity. The visiting students, who arrived over the weekend and will spend two weeks in New Haven, are at Yale as part of the Yale University-New Asia College Undergraduate Exchange, a 15-year-old program funded by the Yale-China Association.

[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”12727″ ]

Every year, eight students from each school are selected to visit each other’s campuses to explore a theme of interest to both schools. Past themes have included youth culture, public health and the media’s role in society. This year, students are exploring “globalization and identity.”

Exchange organizers said they hope participating students will gain broad exposure to new cultures and new academic ideas.

“The friends that are formed among and between the two sides will hopefully have lasting and profound influences on the students’ way of thinking about America, China, other cultures and themselves,” said Kristen Chin, a program officer for the Yale-China Association.

The Chinese students began Wednesday’s symposium by talking about how Chinese national identity is both a reaction to and component of global consumption. Globalization has led to a surge in the number of people learning English, the students said, and that surge has influenced how the Chinese perceive themselves.

“Many Chinese think of learning English as an investment,” exchange student Jonathan Poon said.

As the presentation continued, the focus shifted to Hong Kong’s global identity. That identity has been heavily influenced both by Western colonialism and Chinese nationalism, the students said.

“Even though people are more and more accepting of Chinese identity nowadays, it seems unlikely that the unique double identity we see will disappear,” presenter Dennis Chiu said.

The symposium was only a part of the schedule YUNA has prepared for its Chinese visitors. Over the course of their stay, the students will visit Washington, D.C., and New York City. Events at Yale include a meeting with Naya Chandra, editor of YaleGlobal Online Magazine, and a lecture in professor Jonathan Spence’s “History of Modern China” course.

Shazan Jiwa ’09, one of the Yalies who will travel to Hong Kong as part of the exchange over spring break, said many of the program’s participants are not as well-versed in East Asian affairs as participants in years past. But that may be a result of an emphasis on giving students broader exposure, he added.

“I think Yale is stressing the importance of giving students who might otherwise not have traveled abroad to Hong Kong the opportunity,” Jiwa said.

The eight Yale undergraduates selected to participate in the exchange will travel to Hong Kong to present their own research on globalization and identity in March.