Chinese students offer advice to Ventura

by Tom Ford

Prior to his trade mission to China, Gov. Jesse Ventura discussed last week the merits of Beijing beer and how to deal with street traffic with a group of University Chinese students and visiting Chinese municipal officials.

As one of Ventura’s last briefing sessions before his weeklong trip, it came as no surprise that the meeting took place at the University.

Boasting the largest Chinese student population of any North American school, the University has sustained a decades-long connection with China, said University China Center director Hong Yang .

Yang, a member of Ventura’s traveling delegation, said a primary factor in the University’s popularity is the approximately 8,000 Chinese alumni who have formed alumni associations in many major cities.

“Those graduates who worked here, they’ll bring University of Minnesota history back to China. That’s why they attract more students and scholars,” Yang said.

Chao Xu, a civil engineering graduate student and president of the campus’ Friendship Association of Chinese Students and Scholars, came to the University two years ago.

Xu said conversations he had with a professor who was a University graduate and his friends who were attending the school helped direct him to Minnesota.

Jennifer Wu, a third-year education graduate student, said personal relationships played a large role in selecting a school to attend.

Wu said she never would have decided to come to Minnesota if an adviser in China hadn’t urged her to choose the University.

Despite the state’s cold climate, Wu said, she has been promoting the University to friends back in China.

“I’ve been telling them this is a great place,” Wu said. “(Chinese students) tend to choose Florida if they know nothing else.”

Many members of the University’s Chinese community – who currently number approximately 1,200 students – and scholars from mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong came to the state through China Center programs.

Established in 1979 after diplomatic relations between China and the United States normalized, the center coordinates 22 student exchange programs and offers approximately 20 travel grants to University faculty.

“We were one of the first universities to get back in touch with our exchange partners in China in 1979,” said Joan Brzezinski, assistant director of the center.

Besides strictly academic-related programs, the center also has expanded the scope of its activities.

For example, the China Center is currently hosting 17 Beijing city officials who are receiving six weeks of leadership training in areas such as public policy and U.S. culture and business practices. This is the program’s first year.

“All this just makes (Chinese) leadership be ready for world affairs and globalized markets,” Yang said. “(This program) makes their young leadership know how we do business.”

Yang said one of his missions during the China trip – which began Friday and ends the following week – will be to promote and recruit for the center’s services.

Tom Ford welcomes comments at [email protected]