A special forum titled ‘China in the Eyes of Foreigners’ was held at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University this month.
Hosted by Professor Qiuling Chao, vice president for Student Affairs and Information at XJTLU, the forum saw three foreigners in the higher education sector share their experiences of living and working in China.
Professor David Goodman, vice president for Academic Affairs at XJTLU, was the first to present, introducing the audience to research he undertook on cultural reform in Shanxi province, China.
“Even until 1990, there was no such thing as an integrated Shanxi culture – what existed were various customs across the 106 counties within the province,” he said.
“Through a government-led initiative, the province went through a cultural integration process in the 1990s to boost the economy.
“It was only after this that vinegar, noodles and Chinese liquor became representative of the Shanxi province.
“Food, music, home; people’s concept of culture is important. After all, a shared culture is what a country, a nation all about.”
Professor Goodman also shared his experiences of coming to Suzhou for the first time, and the vast changes he has witnessed in the city over the past six years.
“When I first came here, I looked around and all I saw here were villages and fields – now all you can see are tall buildings and beautiful houses,” he said.
“My first trip to Suzhou from Shanghai took about three and a half hours by train. But now that same journey is only 25 minutes.”
Roger Coe, vice president of the Sino-American Educational Research Association, and Steven Smale, co-founder and chief global market initiative at INTO University Partnerships also spoke at the event.
Coe focussed his presentation on Yi Jing, an ancient Chinese divination text considered the oldest of the Chinese classics.
“With its unified, systemic description of the universe, Yi Jing finds a place for human existence that no other philosophical system can compare to,” he said.
Coe proposed that Chinese students should learn Yi Jing in English translation, in order to understand their own philosophical heritage while acquiring high-level English.
Smale, who works for an organisation supporting students to study abroad during university, discussed the increase in Chinese citizens going abroad to study or work.
“From my perspective, what has changed the most since I arrived in China is not the growing household incomes, but the increasing importance families place on going abroad,” he said.
“Students today want to perform on the global stage and become international citizens – studying abroad helps facilitate this.”
Professor Chao thanked all the speakers for sharing their unique insights and experiences of living in China.
By Heyang Liu, edited by Rosanna Galvin