China impresses U officials on trip

Than Tibbetts

Two University regents and University President Bob Bruininks were among a group of Minnesotans that traveled to China last week as part of Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s delegation to the country.

The University administration’s delegates all said they were impressed with the level of energy and motivation within the country.

Bruininks, who was placed in charge of the education delegation, said China is investing a great deal of resources in education.

“The sense you have when you go to China is that while there are challenges clearly in human rights and other areas, this is also a country that is clearly making major efforts to improve itself and connect itself substantially to the rest of the world,” he said.

Bruininks said more than 8,000 people from China have graduated from the University since 1914, more than any other university in the United States.

Bruininks said a sense of urgency in China is “palpable.”

Regent David Metzen also said Chinese citizens have a sense of urgency that is lacking in America.

“Their government and their students are absolutely committed to learning,” Metzen said. “They’re on the move, they’re building campuses all over the country and it won’t be long and they’ll be passing America if we don’t change our ways.”

Hong Yang, director of the University’s China Center, said the trip helped further the University’s network of friends and alumni in China, which in turn will help encourage faculty members and students to travel to the other side of the world.

As a testament to the Chinese government’s commitment to education, Yang said, the number of first-year students enrolled in China has nearly quadrupled in eight years, from 1.2 million to 4.6 million.

While on the trip, University officials helped inaugurate a master’s degree program in health care administration in Hong Kong. They also opened a chapter of the University Alumni Association in Guangzhou in southern China, the sixth such chapter on mainland China, along with another in Taiwan.

Yang said this program is particularly valuable to China because two-thirds of Asia’s 90,000 hospitals are in the country.

“You can see the future of how the program will impact health care in China,” he said.

Board of Regents Vice Chairwoman Patricia Simmons said the University is well-placed to help address some of the needs of the Chinese people, just as U.S. citizens stand to benefit from the relationship.

“There is a large commitment to higher education in China,” she said. “They view that as critical to their future.”