Friday, August 15, 2008

International Relations students from Jilin University, China with their colleagues from Yonsei University, South Korea with professors during the first Annual Graduate Workshop on “Globalization and Regional Integration in East Asia” in April 26 this year in Changchun, China. The international students come from all over the word, including PNG (Mathew in red middle raw far right) and Fiji (Leba in red far left back row) to study in China under the Chinese Government Scholarship.

Olympic diplomacy to student diplomacy

By Mathew Yakai in Changchun, China

VINCENT W. Sumale is the current Counselor at the Embassy of Papua New Guinea in Washington D.C., United States of America.

He sent me an email on July 22, 2008: “Which part of China are you studying? I used to study Mandarin (Chinese language) at the Beijing Language Institute (Beijing Yuyan Sue Yuan) and later at Beijing University (Beida) studying International Political Relations.”

Vincent’s email was in response to my earlier email of July 12, 2008 to Ambassador Evan J. Paki who was appointed in March 2003, and concurrently serves as PNG’s High Commissioner to Canada and Ambassador to Mexico.

“I am so impressed with the embassy’s website and your representation in U.S. Keep up the good job,” I mentioned in my email to Ambassador Paki.

What inspired me of Vincent is that he attended one of the best universities in China, Beijing University.

The 21st Century Business Herald, the first authoritative financial and economic newspaper published that Tsinghua University in China is ranked first with a 270.74 score, and Beijing University and Zhejiang University took second and third places respectively.

Sometimes, Beijing University ascends to the top placing.

Jilin University which I attend is one of the top ten in China apart from Fudan University, Nanjing University, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Shanghai Jiaotong University, Wuhan University and Zhongshan University.

Almost all Chinese students dream of attending Beijing University, Tsinghua University, or the top ten universities mentioned earlier.

“I was one of the first two Papua New Guineans to study in China under the Chinese Government Scholarship. It was fun to study in China although the first two/three months were extremely difficult,” said Vincent.

When writing this commentary, I am aware of many PNG students currently studying throughout China, majoring in various subjects at renowned universities under the prestigious Chinese Government Scholarship.

They include language students, undergraduates, postgraduate (MA and PhD), senior visiting scholars and general scholars.

Last week, I checked the list of incoming international students for this September and I was excited to discover a PNG student’s name. He (name) works with the Foreign Affairs Department in Port Moresby and will major in International Relations.

In the evening, I called a PNG student (name) and boast that eventually I will have a fellow Papua New Guinean at my university. He told me that there would be more then 15 PNG students coming to China.

The figure was not confirmed with the responsible authorities, though attempts were made.
China welcomes students from all over the world, including PNG students to study, while experiencing its 500 years old history under its scholarship scheme.

Chinese Government Scholarship scheme was established by the Ministry of Education in accordance with educational exchange agreements or understandings reached between Chinese government and governments of other countries, education organs, institutions and relevant international organizations to provide both full and partial scholarship to international students and scholars.

Since the reform and opening-up policy in 1987, China has received over 300 thousand overseas students from more than 160 countries.

They include language students, undergraduates, postgraduate (MA and PhD), senior visiting scholars and general scholars. Financially, they are divided into two groups: scholarship students and self-supporting students.

In the 2007 Chinese Scholarship Council (CSC) Annual Reports, latest available statistics of international students under the Scholarships reveals that undergraduate students and diploma students top the list with 2,811 and 2,886 (28%) respectively.

Others include masters with 2,554 (25%), doctoral with 1,250 (12%), advanced diploma with 571 (6%) and short term program with 123 (1%).

The Report states that in academic year 2007 to this year, a total of 4,363 first year Chinese Government Scholarship recipient from 156 countries were received by 119 Chinese universities, with a recruit rate of 93.05 percent.

Among which, 2,338 were degree students, accounting for 53.59 percent of the total and representing a 1.89 percent increase over the previous years; 2,025 were non-degree students, accounting for 46.4 percent of the total; the number of graduate students, students of advanced learning and visiting scholars amounted to 1,800 representing 41.26 percent of the total; and 539 student were taking courses offered in English representing 12.35 percent of total.

In 2007, a total of 10,151 Chinese scholarship recipients from 168 countries studied in 118 universities, of which, 4,171 from Asia, 2,733 from Africa, 2,107 from Europe, 954 from America and 186 from Oceania (PNG included).

In 1997, there were only 36 students from Oceania, 119 in 1998 and 165 in 1999, according to the previous Annual Reports.

Last year, another 14 universities have been approved to receive Chinese Government Scholarship recipients from all over the world for the first time.

The rationale behind stating all these statistics is to give you are picture of China’s intention of opening up since 1978, by not only sending its students overseas to top foreign universities to be educated and later recruited in notable governmental positions, but also providing financial aid to foreign students from other countries to know more about China.

Vincent stated that he was one of the first two PNG students during his time to study in China.

Today, more PNG students have committed their time to learn more from China so that they can return to contribute their knowledge towards the development of PNG.

China education and research network states that the number of foreign students studying in China has risen more than 20 percent annually over the past five years by quoting a Chinese educational official in Beijing.

"The Chinese government values educational cooperation with foreign countries and welcomes more foreign students to study in China," said Liu Baoli, vice director of the international cooperation department of the Ministry of Education (MOE).

He said there were 110,000 foreign students studying in China in 2004 and this has increased tremendously over the past years, reports China education and research network.

"China wishes to know more about the world and allows the world to know more about China," said Liu.

The ongoing attack on the Chinese communities in PNG and other pacific island countries is the cause of ideological and historical differences. Liu believes that one of the ways to bridge this gap is through education, by bringing not only PNG students but students from other countries to study in China, to know more about China and accept its genuine global presence and regional power.

Foreign graduates, Liu said, have contributed positively to friendly exchanges between China and other countries in the world in diplomatic, economic and cultural fields. Vincent is one good example.

Liu is correct and PNG must look beyond Liu’s comment.

China is growing rapidly in economic terms. Its GDP has tripled recently and now plays a major role in the region and the world affairs.

China is here to stay, so it’s PNG’s role to understand Beijing’s presence so that the two countries can work together for win-win situation.

China is also providing an educational avenue where students from all over the world can live, study, interact and exchange opinions based on research outcomes amongst themselves and the Chinese students in their respective fields of studies.

After all, these students will be the leaders of their respective countries, region and the world.

Rayn Pini, PNG’s gold medal hopeful, Dika Tau and rest of PNG’s athletes in the current Olympic in Beijing have represented PNG well in their respective sports. But they will stay here for only 17 days, the duration of the Game.

For those students who will join others already in China this coming September will stay for a year, or more.

Some may make China their home for the rest of their lives, thanks to globalization.

This reminds me of the late Okuk’s remark at UPNG Forum Square during the time of his best political career, “today we educate Papua New Guineans to work in PNG but tomorrow, Papua New Guineans will compete in the world job markets.”

China is now opening the door for PNGans to reach the global job opportunities. But importantly, to understand China very well and allow China understands PNG well too.

Congratulations to those students, who will take up studies, come September. This commentary salutes your time and commitment, not only for the benefit for your family and tribe but significantly, for PNG and world.

If Beijing Olympic slogan is ‘One World – One Dream” searching for a better future that sports can provide, then in the academic arena, the intellectual enrichment to “think globally and act globally” for common prosperity in peace, harmony and humanity is also China’s aims and dreams.

“Student’s diplomacy” will make a great impact in this China’s aims and dreams by upholding the bilateral relationship between Great China and PNG.

From domestic politics (protecting ones sovereignty), to regional politics and the international politics, at the end is the game of great men and women of big dreams and wisdoms to leave lasting legacy for future generations.

And that great dream in the 21st century can only emanate from great young people with great thinking, including those PNG students who will take up studies in China.

From this land far away, thousands of miles from Waigani, I see my beloved PNG, the country that gave me blood to survive. When I hear the winds whisper that the “big man” steals from “little man”, and makes him starve to death, it adds more courage to step forward.

The only way to stop the “big man” starving the “little man”, PNG needs vibrant intellectuals to reach the highest pinnacles of their scholarly reasoning, with accumulated wisdoms from experiences and exposures through education. China is providing the opportunity today.

It is heartbreaking to leave behind the affection of home, friends and relatives, but, PNG needs you in the future to rescue the “small man”.

Come and join rest of PNG students here in China. You will find new friends, new families and warm homes, that will make you become a global citizen with PNG nationality.

Note: “Asia-Pacific Perspective: China +” looks at Chinese society, culture, economy, governance and China’s role within the Asia-Pacific region and the world over. It mainly focuses on how Oceania can learn from China’s experience. The writer is a PNG student in China