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“Showing the strong resilience of the governance system” -- Interview with Sibrandes Poppema, former president of the University of Groningen, the Netherlands

By Zhang Penghui (People's Daily)    10:00, November 04, 2019

Abstract: Sibrandes Poppema believes that the grand celebration ceremony shows China's growing comprehensive national strength, "China's military, economic, social development is of balanced development, showing the strong resilience of the governance system." In exchanges and cooperation with Chinese universities, Prof. Poppema observed that the research of Chinese universities is in line with international standards, and even some aspects lead the world.

Sibrandes Poppema (File photo)

“The grand military parade and mass parade held in Tiananmen Square are really spectacular and amazing!” recalling the scene of the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in Beijing, Sibrandes Poppema, former President of the University of Groningen, a famous clinician scientist was still excited.

"On China's National Day, in Tiananmen Square, it is not only China's advanced military equipment, but more important and even more touching. I saw the faces of young people who participated in the celebration bloom. Their bright smile shows a real happiness and joy.” Prof. Poppema believes that the grand celebration shows China’s growing comprehensive national strength, “China's military, economic, social development is of balanced, showing the strong resilience of the governance system."

Born in Emmen, the Netherlands, Prof. Poppema is 70 years old, the same of age with PRC. Since his first visit to China in 2003, Prof. Poppema has traveled to China for more than 60 times. From 2008 to 2018, during his tenure as the president University of Groningen, Prof. Poppema actively promoted academic exchanges and cooperation between the University of Groningen and Chinese universities and research institutions. Prof. Poppema witnessed the rapid development of China's higher education.

“My colleagues in China communicated with better English. Chnese students' English was significantly improved. They have an international vision and are willing to in touch with the outside world.” Prof. Poppema served as a visiting professor at Jilin University. He remembered the medical laboratory of Jilin University 15 years ago. At that time, the equipments, research methods in China were left behind the international standard. Now, Jilin University has modern research equipments, follows the latest scientific research methods. They also has excellent research staff. "The research environment of Chinese universities is completely in line with the international standards, and even some aspects lead the world. At present, in terms of physics, chemistry, medicine, engineering, etc., China is one of the strongest countries in the world. But in medical research, China is still behind the US and Europe" Prof. Poppema said.

Through long-term observation of the Chinese development in the past decades, Prof. Poppema pointed out two advantages of the Chinese governance system: First, the Chinese leadership can listen to different opinions, especially the views of professional experts in the universities, focusing on the long-term goals, rational discussion, and scientific decision-making process. In doing so, China is on the right direction for a long time. Second, China can maintain long-term policy stability. “Through the five-year plan, China has a consistent philosophy and policy that enables scientific decision-making to be implemented.”

Despite engaging in natural science research, Prof. Poppema also attaches great importance to social and cultural exchanges. He is an enthusiastic supporter of Chinese language teaching. With his help and support, Groningen Confucius Institute of, founded by the University of Groningen and the Communication University of China, was established in 2011. More than 10 high-quality Confucius Classrooms were developed in the Netherlands, which was widely welcomed by the students. Prof. Poppema also served as a council member of Hanban, the Confucius Institute Headquarters.

Prof. Poppema believes that learning other languages and cultures will help to promote the in-depth exchanges between different civilizations of human beings. The Confucius Institute originated in China and is an international project, involving people of different cultural backgrounds, which critically needs opinions from different backgrounds. "I hope that by contributing to the Confucius Institute I can contribute to a better understanding of people from different parts of the world."  

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