Top journalism educator to lead western China's think tank

08:18, January 12, 2010      

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Li Xiguang, China's most influential and respected journalism educator who founded Tsinghua University Journalism program 10 years ago, will lead a new academy at the country's booming city Chongqing while he continues leading the internationally-known institute Tsinghua University International Center for Communication(TICC).

Photo taken on Jan 12 shows Li Xiguang (L), China's most influential and respected journalism educator, Cui Zhiyuan (C), co-president of the Academy of World and China Agendas, Professor of Tsinghua University and Zhao Qizheng (R), Honorary Dean, Academy of China and World Agendas and Department Director of Foreign Affairs Committee, CPPCC National Committee pose for picture at the conference.

Li has accepted a joint appointment from Southwestern University of Political Science and Law(SUPSL) where he will serve as the dean of the School of Global Journalism and Communication and the president of the Academy of China and World Agendas.

China's leading political scientist Cui Zhiyuan who has recently published articles and given speeches on "Chongqing Model" will be the academy's co-president.

The former minister of information Zhao Qizheng who is also the Chairman of the foreign relation committee of Chinese Political Consultative Committee has agreed to be the honorary president of the academy. Zhao pioneered of Chinese government spokesperson system which aimed at building a transparent politics in China.

"I believe the new academy will make great intellectual contribution to the next step development of Chongqing," said Huang Qifan, the mayor of Chongqing, in his speech opening the academy on Jan. 12. Chongqing is China's largest city located on the upper reach of Yangtze River with a population of 30 million people and enjoyed a 13 percent economic growth in 2009.

"My research and teaching will split between Beijing and Chongqing from now on, " Li said, ”I hope that my dream of a brand new journalism school which I blueprinted 10 years ago at Tsinghua will come true in Chongqing.”

Southwestern University of Political Science and Law(SUPSL) has appointed Seymour Topping, an emeritus professor at Columbia University and former Administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, be the chairman of the School of Global Journalism and Communication. Hugo de Burgh, the director of China Media Center at Westminster University, has been appointed by the university as the international dean of the school.

"The school under the leadership of Prof. Li Xiguang who framed the Chinese model for journalism education at Tsinghua will certainly play a key role in international development of media and advanced journalism education," wrote Prof. Topping in a congratulatory message to the president of SUPSL, "We are living at a time of critical transition in media and concomitant journalism education. Workers in those fields throughout the world will be looking to the school for fresh ideas to enhance global communication and journalism education in the service of human kind."

Observers in Beijing believe that the two new educational institutions at SUPSL will not only have big impact on the country's journalism education but are sure to have significant implication for the country's press and political reforms.

Li Xiguang has been well known for masterminding the spokesperson system for the Chinese government and the Chinese military for the last ten years in addition to his policy papers advising the government for a transparent political system. Li and TICC has been designated by both the national government and provincial government as the training base for Chinese government spokespersons, having trained over 10,000 government spokespersons around the country.

Li started reforming China's poor journalism education system when he launched Tsinghua International Center for Communication (TICC) with the support of late veteran political figure Wang Daohan in the summer of 1999 when Li came back from the Shorenstein Center for Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University. Since its establishment, TICC has provided a platform of open dialogues for Chinese and international academics and journalists.

During the outbreak of SARS in 2003, Li Xiguang and TICC served as a leading think tank and advisory body to the national government and Beijing municipal government. Proposals like setting up an open press system and a spokesperson system have been accepted by the State Council since.

Over the years, Li Xiguang's warmth and painstaking work for a brand new journalism education has attracted substantial support from the industry and the private sector. "He has raised close to 100 million yuan for Tsinghua University in cash and in kind, equivalent to 20 years of the country's national funding to journalism studies," said an official with Tsinghua Education Foundation.

Huang Qifan, acting mayor of Chongqing municipality delivers a speech at the conference on Jan. 12.

In April of 2004, CEO of Ogilvy Group Miles Young came to Tsinghua to set up a public branding program and joined Li Xiguang in training government spokespersons. In November 2004, leaders of Bayer Group came to Tsinghua to launch a health communication program. In Spring of 2007, Chairman and CEO of Global Sources Merle A. Hinrichs came to Tsinghua to deliver a donation for building a Global Sources Hall and global business journalism scholarships. The largest donation came from real estate tycoon Yang Guoqiang who gave the university 30 million yuan.

"I am sure that, like everything else Li Xiguang has done in the past, this new initiative will have a great impact," said Serge Dumont, who in December 2006 came to Tsinghua with Omnicom Group CEO John Wren to deliver a donation to renovate the J-school building, which was renamed " the Omnicom Building"."I have enjoyed working with Xiguang and look forward to a continued cooperation with him ."

In fall 2007, Li Xiguang launched the Global Business Journalism Program a two-year master’s degree program jointly with International Center for Journalists, which is taught entirely in English, aims to produce top-quality journalists who can analyze international business and China's place in the global marketplace.

Li "is cited for advancing press reform in China, and he has stated publicly that, as dean of the journalism school, he wants to challenge the existing way of teaching and doing journalism in the country," Academe reported in a lengthy article published early 2009. Li wants to move Chinese journalism forward "by teaching journalistic ethics, professionalism, and fact-based reporting," reported the magazine which was published by the American Association of University Professors.

As a national leader of China's journalism education reform, Li Xigang is currently leading a UNESCO program "Reforming China Journalism Education and Rewriting Journalism Curriculum". The First Symposium of Journalism Education Reform was held in December 2008 and attracted about 30 deans of journalism and communication schools from around the country.

Through the gateway of Chongqing, Li hopes to transfer some of the most popular courses he taught at Tsinghua such as News Reporting and Writing, Writing on the Road, HIV/AIDS Reporting, Human Rights Reporting, Global Communication, Global Media Literacy to China's underdeveloped areas such as the ethnic minority regions in Sichuan, Yunnan and Tibet where Li Xiguang traveled every year to give lectures to local journalists, NGO people and government officials about the topics such as the prevention of HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B, anti-smoking and the protection of the rights of ethnic minorities.

Writing on the Road for the past 10 years has taken freshmen along the Silk Road, Inner Mongolia, Tibet, Siberia. In 2009, Li opened the course Writing on the Road to international students. The first group of international students from Stony Brook in the summer of 2009 and they traveled along the legendary Marco Polo's road from Beijing to Dunhuang.

"Since Chongqing is the gateway to Tibet, Yunan and Sichuan, I will take students to Tibetan areas to write stories every summer," Li said.

Li’s coming two books are "The Future of Journalism Education" and "Intellectual Dialogues of Tibet".

Li Xiguang is a prolific author in journalism education. Over the past 10 years, he has published hundreds of academic papers and dozens of books including Handbook of Spokespersons, Journalism in Transition, Soft Power and Global Communication, A Handbook of Human Rights Reporting, Reporting Against Stigmas: HIV/AIDS Stories from China, Core Journalism, Media Power, New Global Communication and Next Media.

Li's works and teaching have received numerous awards from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Ministry of Education, the Chinese Association of Journalists, the United Nations and even the Pakistani President. He was elected the country's top 10 educators in 2004 and was awarded a prize by UNAIDS for his outstanding contribution to China's anti-AIDS campaign for his nationwide program training thousands of journalists and NGO people against stigmatization of AIDS patients.

"Our first project at Chongqing will train local journalists and government officials in our program against HIV/AIDS," Li said.

The Academy of China and World Agendas at Chongqing will also organize international conferences every year on issues such as media literacy and journalism education, Chongqing development and China model, the Three Gorge and environment, HIV/AIDS and global epidemics, the peace and development of Himalaya region.

Contributed by People's Daily Online reporter Wang Xiaoli
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