Nottingham University "standard bearer" in the study of contemporary China
A NEW centre for the study of modern China could become a worldwide standard bearer in its field, according to the Chinese ambassador.
Mr Liu Xiaoming praised the University of Nottingham for taking the initiative in promoting the understanding of China.
It opened a campus in Ningbo, China, in 2005 and this week the ambassador formally opened the Si Yuan Centre at the university's Jubilee campus in Nottingham.
It is home of the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies, the China Policy Institute and the Confucius Institute, named after the Chinese philosopher.
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It takes its name from the Hong Kong-based Si Yuan Foundation set up by wealthy businessman Dr Chen Tseng Tao.
Mr Liu who returned from China last week having attended the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, told guests that there was enormous interest in China from British policy-makers, business leaders, media and think-tanks.
Earlier this week, he had played a key role in discussions at Wilton Park, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office executive agency, about the implications and potential opportunities for greater prosperity following the congress.
Mr Liu, making his second visit to Nottingham, said: "There is enormous interest in China-UK relations and how our two countries can work together to build stronger relations."
Describing the Si Yuan Centre as "prestigious", Mr Liu said it was an excellent example of how the university continued to deepen its links with China.
It was appropriate because, in Chinese, it meant "thinking about the source".
"It is from an ancient Chinese saying: 'When eating fruit, think about the tree. When drinking water, think about the source'.
"When studying China, we also need to think about its source.
"Traditional culture is the root of the Chinese nation.
"The Chinese language is the foundation of Chinese culture."
Mr Liu noted that more than 1,000 students have signed up at Nottingham University for a Chinese language course – the highest number of any university outside China.
He said the school broke with the stereotype in that it was not a conventional school of Chinese studies but for studying contemporary China.
Research was breaking frontiers, studying China's financial markets and commercial economics.
Mr Liu noted that the Si Yuan Centre attracted a very strong contingent of teachers and scholars from around the world, all of whom were leading experts in contemporary China, becoming champions of new Sinology.
He congratulated the university on its achievements adding: "This has made them leaders in Britain, even the world."
He drew on words by the British prime minister Sir Winston Churchill who said: "We should shape our buildings. Thereafter, they shape us."
Mr Liu added: "I urge students and scholars to carry on the spirit of innovation and openness in your future study and analysis of China.
"I hope you will see progress and development of modern China from a comprehensive, objective and reasonable perspective.
"Nottingham University can play a bigger role in promoting understanding between China and the UK and China and the rest of thee world.
"I hope the Si Yuan Centre will become not only a landmark of Nottingham University but also a standard bearer of Britain, even the entire world in contemporary Chinese studies."
Mr Liu said the university's pioneering campus in Ningbo was a "symbol" of the collaboration between the UK and China in the field of education.
"It is a win-win. The students learn to understand the UK in particular and western culture in general," he told the Post.
But he pointed to an imbalance in the number of Chinese students, about 120,000, studying in the UK and only 3,000 British students studying in China.
Earlier in the day, Mr Liu visited Nottingham Castle to learn something of Nottingham's history and culture.