The Vice Prime-Minister of The People’s Republic of China, Mme. Liu Yandong, led a delegation of senior ministers and university presidents to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem yesterday, to participate in the Opening Ceremony of a new Confucius Institute at the Hebrew University.
The Confucius Institute will promote the deepening of academic research into Chinese culture and history; serve the wider community through seminars on China’s society, economy and government for Israeli government officials, civil servants and business executives; and enhance mutual understanding between Israel and China.
The Chinese delegation included senior ministers and university presidents, who met with the leadership of the Hebrew University and leaders of Israeli universities and academia. Taking place at the Hebrew University's Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, the meetings were followed by a festive ceremony featuring Israeli and Chinese poetry, song and dance.
Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, president of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said: "A Confucius Institute begins with Chinese culture and language, but it also connects us to a network of 400 such Institutes around the world. It enables those who study Chinese to be connected to China, but most of all it creates a future of relations between countries and institutes of higher education and science."
Mme. Liu Yandong, the Vice Prime-Minister of The People’s Republic of China, said: “The Hebrew University is a symbol of the renaissance of the Jewish people in its original land. In particular, this university is renowned in such areas as mathematics, physics, computer sciences and economics, and you have cultivated a galaxy of excellent people, including 8 Nobel laureates.”
She continued, “Peking University and the Hebrew University will work together and succeed in building a research-oriented Confucius Institute, and this will serve as an important platform for young Israeli people to learn the Chinese language and get a better understanding of China. And I believe it will play an important role in promoting the friendly ties between our two countries." She added, "I believe this Confucius Institute will prove to be the best one around the world”.
Mme. Yandong also announced several gifts to Israel on behalf of the headquarters of the Confucius Institute: an invitation for 100 students from Israel to come to China for the Chinese Bridge summer camp; the contribution of 3000 copies of Chinese-language materials and cultural reading materials to the Hebrew University's Confucius Institute; and a commitment to send 500 college students to study in Israel and provide 100 scholarships to Israeli college students over the next five years.
Delivering pre-recorded greetings were Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Prof. Robert J. (Yisrael) Aumann, winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Economics, who teaches at the Hebrew University's Center for Rationality.
Expanding Relations With China
The Hebrew University currently has 17 agreements with academic bodies in China, ranging from student and faculty exchanges to joint research projects and workshops. In May 2013, Hebrew University's president Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson led the university’s first high-ranking delegation to universities in Beijing and Shanghai. A highlight was the signing, in the presence of Israeli and Chinese leaders of a cooperation agreement with the headquarters of China’s Confucius Institute. A joint project with Peking University (PKU), the Confucius Institute network promotes the Chinese language and culture in partner countries.
According to Prof. Yuri Pines, Head of the Hebrew University's Institute of African and Asian Studies and one of five Chinese-speaking faculty members: “The establishment of a Confucius Institute at the Hebrew University is the highest form of recognition for our Chinese studies program. Our new Confucius Institute builds upon our extensive relationship with Peking University (PKU), allowing us to develop elite cultural and academic exchanges and strengthen our connections in the humanities and business studies. We are also expanding the Department of Asian Studies’ library resources and the academic databases used by researchers to identify trends in Chinese society.”
The number of Asian students at the Hebrew University has more than doubled in recent years. The recent increase is attributed to the growing number of Chinese students, due in large measure to the availability of scholarships for Chinese students provided by Israel’s Council for Higher Education (CHE) and by university supporters. Of particular note is the gift of Chinese business leader and Hebrew University Governor Zhao Hanqing, which offers scholarships for Chinese students for studies in areas such as agriculture, mathematics and computer sciences.
Today 300 Hebrew University students are learning Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Tibetan, Hindi and Sanskrit. The university offers several scholarships for studies in Asia, but the traffic is increasingly two-way, with an entire class from Peking University studying Hebrew at the Rothberg International School (RIS) this year.
In response to global economic trends, the university is also launching two double majors that combine Asian studies with other fields: business administration, and political science and international relations. The university’s reputation has also attracted Chinese students to Professor Eyal Winter’s five-week International Summer School in Economics Education, offered by the Department of Economics with the Rothberg International School.
In summer 2014, 25 Chinese students will be eligible for CHE scholarships for a summer program in agricultural sciences at the Division for International Studies in the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, while 12 Chinese students on CHE scholarships are due to start the RIS’ international Master’s program in Islamic and Middle East Studies in October 2014. They will join the 71 postdoctoral researchers from Asia — 35 from China and India funded by the CHE — currently pursuing research in areas such as medicine, chemistry and agricultural science.
An Active Player in the International Arena
The Hebrew University is an increasingly active player in the international arena, with 238 academic agreements with institutions in 43 countries; 78 competitive research grants from the European Research Council (ERC) since 2007, totaling over €120 million; student exchange agreements with 56 institutions in 24 countries; 90 courses for the study of some 30 languages; 177 postdoctoral researchers from 26 countries; and an annual enrolment of almost 2000 students from 80 countries at the Rothberg International School. In September 2012, the Hebrew University became one of the first institutions to join Coursera, which partners with leading universities to offer free online courses to people everywhere. The Hebrew University is currently ranked 59th in the world, and first in Israel, in the annual Academic Ranking of World Universities conducted by Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China.