MIT-China agreements established

Councilor Yandong Liu visits MIT to confirm new program

On Wednesday, Chinese State Councilor Yandong Liu met with President Susan J. Hockfield for the signing of two important documents that will further strengthen MIT’s partnership with China. The first document confirmed the agreement between MIT and China to establish the China Scholarship Council Graduate Fellowship Program, a program that will be offered to MIT graduate students who are also citizens of the People’s Republic of China. The second document was a letter of intent calling for collaboration between MIT and the Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU).

According to Dean of Graduate Education Christine Ortiz, the new fellowship program will start in September 2012, and the primary point of contact will be the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education. Each year, the Chinese Scholarship Council (CSC) will select and fully fund five master’s degree candidates and five doctoral-track candidates to attend MIT. The candidates must also be granted admission to MIT.

For doctoral candidates, the CSC will provide two years of full support, while masters candidates will receive one year. “The CSC Fellowship program will enable outstanding Chinese students to study at MIT,” Ortiz said in an email to The Tech. “It will build bridges and create stronger connections in terms of research, education and innovation between MIT and China.”

The letter of intent signed last Tuesday may mark the start of future collaborations between MIT and SJTU. SJTU is one of the oldest research institutes in China, and according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities, SJTU ranks in the top 300 universities in the world and top 10 universities in China. According to the MIT News Office, possible opportunities that will be explored include but are not limited to research at the Shanghai International Campus for Research Excellence and Education, joint research, and educational opportunities at the two institutions.

People to People Exchange

The strengthened partnership between MIT and China is contingent on the U.S.-China People-to-People Exchange program, which was established to increase social engagement between Americans and the Chinese. The program works at multiple levels of interaction, including sports, education, tourism, technology, and research. Most recently, Sports Illustrated reported that the program announced that it will be sending the Georgetown basketball team to Shanghai and Beijing this summer to “play exhibition games, attend cultural events and take part in community programs.”

On Tuesday, the second annual high-level U.S.-China Consultation on People-to-People Exchange took place in Washington, D.C. Co-chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Councilor Liu, the program increased in size, allowing 10,000 additional student scholarships to study in China, bringing the total to 20,000. According to Councilor Liu, the People-to-People Exchange Program is a long term endeavor.

Councilor Liu’s visit to MIT

During her visit, Councilor Liu toured Professor Guoping Feng’s lab at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT. Feng presented his research that used mouse models to understand neural mechanisms underlying autistic-like behaviors. In an email to The Tech, Feng said, “I presented this because there is an increased awareness of autism in China.”

After the tour, Councilor Liu gave a talk at the MIT Wong Auditorium as part of the MIT China Forum, an ongoing lecture series on China that has been running for the past two years.

During the talk, Councilor Liu noted that while China’s GDP is one of the highest in the world, China’s GDP per capita is one-tenth that of the United States. Councilor Liu also said that 100 million Chinese citizens are living below the poverty line as defined by the United Nations.

Councilor Liu said that China has “to concentrate on our own developmental challenges.” The Chinese government needs to “address issues in China’s lack of balance, coordination, and sustainability in China’s development,” she said.

In order to make such improvements, Councilor Liu outlined a new strategic plan that entails five developmental goals for China: innovative development, green development, harmonious development, coordinated development, and peaceful development.

In order to solve problems like energy and resource consumption, China will have to innovate. Innovation “holds the key to the future,” Councilor Liu said.

Green development is an important goal for China. According to Councilor Liu, China has increased investment in controlling the environment by 90 percent in the past five years. China is also investing in new solar and wind power technologies and will be planting 12.5 million hectares of trees. “We will make efforts to make the sky blue, mountains green, and the water clear,” Councilor Liu said.

Coordinated development will be driven by consumption, exports, and investment, according to the Councilor. China is working to promote balanced growth in both the rural and urban areas — more specifically, she said that there are plans for supporting the poor in the western regions of China.

Harmonious development is about the people of China. “Putting people first is the philosophy of the Chinese government,” Councilor Liu said. China recently launched its 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) for socioeconomic development. The new plan will focus specifically on educational reform.

China’s last development goal is peaceful development, which concerns China’s influence on the world. Councilor Liu said that China’s development brings more opportunities to countries around the world. “Economic globalization has turned the world into a global village,” she said.

Councilor Liu noted that China’s development has been misunderstood by other countries. She said that sincerity is vital to a lasting friendship, and through the People-to-People program, the U.S. and China can strengthen their bond.

The Councilor ended her talk by quoting MIT’s motto, mens et manus, meaning mind and hand. She said that she believes the mind represents ideas while the hand represents actions, both of which are essential for building a successful future.

At the end of the talk, a short question-and-answer period was held. Councilor Liu answered predetermined questions about China’s strategic plan. One of the questions directed at Councilor Liu concerned the state of academic corruption in China. Liu acknowledged that corruption was an issue the Chinese government is handling with a strict no-tolerance enforcement.

To celebrate the day, Hockfield and Councilor Liu exchanged gifts on behalf of MIT and the People’s Republic of China. Councilor Liu presented Hockfield with a collection of over 100 Chinese literary classics that had been translated from ancient Chinese to contemporary Chinese and then into English. Councilor Liu said that in order to understand China today, it is essential to also understand its past and culture.

Hockfield presented Councilor Liu with a piece of artwork from MIT’s Glass Lab, citing the lab as a place where both faculty and students collaborate to innovate and design art. As she accepted the gift, Liu said that she would place it in her office back in China.

MIT and China have had a long history of collaboration. In 1994, the MISTI MIT-China Program was established. In 1996, MIT and China launched the MIT-China Management Education Project to improve the quality of management programs at several Chinese universities. The MIT Sloan School has also collaborated with China in such programs as Tsinghua University’s School of Economics and Management International MBA Program. MIT OpenCourseWare, launched in 2002, gives free access to over 2000 MIT courses; according to Hockfield, the people of China are the largest users.

Hockfield and Councilor Liu also met last year on June 22 to discuss possible future collaborations between MIT and China. According to state news agency Xinhua, Councilor Liu encouraged MIT to deepen its educational cooperation with China and promote student exchanges.