College to enhance intl studies
Kunming institution seeks to promote exchanges with neighbors in the region
Yunnan University, the most prestigious school in the province, is to boost its international studies by building a more-diverse curriculum and forging closer ties across South and Southeast Asia.
That is the message from its president, Lin Wenxun, who has pledged to make the best of Yunnan’s geographic advantage to develop international studies with the assistance of language education such as Vietnamese, Laotian and Thai.
The college in Kunming has enjoyed an enormous advantage in the province, which shares a border of about 4,000 km with Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar.
In addition, the university can also benefit from efforts to further promote exchanges with countries in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS), which includes Thailand and Cambodia.
This year, 948 of the more than 1,700 foreign students received government scholarships at Yunnan University.
The number of international students is expected to increase to 4,000 in five years, Lin said.
The university has more than 100 specialists for international studies and also provides education in some rarely used languages in Southeast Asian countries.
“However, the next step for my university is to integrate a country’s language into the overall studies,” Lin said. “In the big picture, the international studies will embrace all fields for researching a particular country.”
The province has 26 ethnic groups and enjoys clean air and well-preserved natural landscapes, and Yunnan University has been striving to establish its leading role in ethnic and ecological studies.
More importantly, some of these ethnicities share the same origin with ethnic groups in the neighboring countries — Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam. Having the same language and customs will endow the university a natural influence in the three neighbors.
The university has spent 10 million yuan ($1.7 million) to integrate and upgrade the international studies department, Lin said.
Moreover, Yunnan University has sent a number of teachers to coach Mandarin in Bangladesh, Iran and Myanmar. In Bangladesh, 28 teachers from the school have been providing Chinese classes at North South University.
“The teachers have worked for the Confucius Institute for years and also function as a base for my university. When visitors from Yunnan arrive in Dhaka (the capital of Bangladesh), they can contact local researchers and officials,” Lin said.
Lin has approved funding for a plan to publish two books about Bangladesh this year.
At North South University, a research center has also been established to promote communication and exchanges with Yunnan University and other institutes in China.
Yunnan has several international rivers that closely connect the province and neighboring countries. The Lancang River flows through the Xishuangbanna Dai autonomous prefecture in the south, where it becomes the Mekong River and continues through five other GMS countries.
The Nujiang River in western Yunnan flows south into Myanmar and becomes the Salween River. Lin said establishing a research institute on multinational rivers is one of his top priorities in the next several years.
The university also performs the role of a think tank.
Yunnan has been designated by the central government as the frontier for reform and opening-up in southwestern China.
It’s increasingly important to have a full understanding of neighbors in the region, President Xi Jinping said at a conference on diplomatic work involving neighboring countries in October.
The university will set up a social research center for neighboring countries this month to follow new developments in South and Southeast Asian countries as a reference for government policies, Lin said.
Meanwhile, Lin also has shown enthusiasm for public diplomacy. Yunnan University holds a large number of lectures by foreign professors and scholars, and Lin said the school will invite more scholars from Southeast Asia.
The school will also send its soccer team to play games with colleges in the neighboring countries.
“I strongly recommend the faculties go abroad to meet teachers in other countries, especially physical education teachers or athlete coaches. Sports are a very good way to develop friendships and have in- depth communication,” he said.
On April 20, Yunnan University celebrated its 90th anniversary and held activities to explore the university’s history.
“Our predecessors created a strong tradition, and my colleagues and I will continue the enterprise to enhance the international reputation of Yunnan University with hard work and sincerity,” Lin said. Contact the writers at firstname.lastname@example.org and liyingqing @chinadaily.com.cn
Till Kuentelcamr (right), a 31-year-old student, learns tai chi moves from his Chinese teachers at Yunnan University in December.