Educational exchanges with China enhance mutual understanding, benefit: U.S. educator

13:14, June 08, 2011      

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Educational exchanges can give a strong boost to China-U.S. relations as it not only deepens understanding between the two peoples but also brings huge economic benefits to both sides, said a veteran U.S. educator.

"Education can help improve the bilateral relationship in two primary ways. First, education is becoming more and more globally-orientated and requiring students to study another language and understand another culture. That is one way to better understand each other," Wallace D. Loh, president of the University of Maryland, College Park, told Xinhua in a recent interview.

"The second one is to do joint projects beneficial to both nations, thus contributing to the economic developments in both countries," said Loh, 65, the first Chinese American to take the helm at the university since it was founded in 1856.

"The most important bilateral relationship in the 21st century is between China and the United States. To have a very good relationship, it is very important for people from both countries to really understand each other, not just at a tourist's level, but understand deeply the culture, mindset, values of each other," he said.

"They (The two countries) may not always agree. But if you can understand the other side, you can manage the disagreements rather than let them become conflicts," he said.

Loh said he strongly believes in the power of understanding because of his multi-cultural backgrounds.

Born in Shanghai and brought up in Peru, he went to the United States for higher education and eventually earned a doctor's degree. Since then he has built a career as an educator. He was the provost at the University of Iowa before taking over in November as president of University of Maryland, College Park, the largest university in the Washington Metropolitan Area.

The fast growth of China's economy gave another important rationale for Loh to get more actively involved in promoting educational exchanges between the two nations, and that is also the reason that he came with the governor of Maryland to visit China this time.

The purpose of his current visit is to encourage Chinese companies to set up their subsidiaries and R&D operations in Maryland that can involve American students, Loh said.

Loh's university is the only one that has a Chinese business incubator in the United States and about six or seven Chinese companies are establishing their presence there.

Loh said he would expand and deepen traditional relations with China and many other places in the world. But the strategic focus is China because it is the most important foreign relationship for America.

During the current China trip, he visited a number of Chinese universities such as Shanghai Jiaotong University, Fudan University, Nanjing University, Beijing Teachers' University, China Agriculture University and Renmin University to discuss plans for cooperation, including students and faculty exchanges, creation of new companies and products, innovation and entrepreneurship.

A frequent visitor to China during the past three decades, Loh said he was impressed by China's dramatic change over the years.

"What China has done in past 30 or 40 years, I think, is unique in history... No other country in history has ever done that. As I have Chinese origin, I am very proud that China has been so successful."

He also owed his personal success to many of the traditional Chinese values he learnt at a very young age.

"My mother always told me to eat bitterness, work very very hard, have respect for parents and elders. These are the values that Americans need to develop more," said Loh.

"On the American side, there are values that Chinese can also learn from, such as the emphasis on individual thought and creativity," he added.

As a veteran educator, Loh offered a piece of advise for the younger generation of both countries.

"I like to remind students that only one in 1,000 people on this planet has the opportunity for university education. Therefore you have a special privilege to go to university and also a special responsibility. And that responsibility is to give back, to your society, to your community."

Source: Xinhua
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