November 18, 2005

Rawlings Continues Asia Visit in Shanghai

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SHANGHAI — Spending less than 18 hours in Shanghai, Interim President Hunter R. Rawlings III met with the vice mayor, the chairman of the presidential committee of East China Normal University and the deputy secretary of the Shanghai Municipal committee.

Despite the short stopover, Rawlings said he felt the meetings were quite substantive and useful. In fact, Prof. Jishun Zhang of East China Normal University, upon hearing of the China and Asia-Pacific Studies agreement with Peking University, offered a similar foreign exchange program in Shanghai, where Cornell students could visit East China Normal and study there.

“This is a very important point [that Zhang made]. We would accept this offer very happily,” Rawlings said. “Shanghai is a major international center, and Cornell students should come here to learn about Shanghai. We would welcome the chance to help develop these ideas.”

Michael Chiu ’66, former trustee and strong supporter of the CAPS program, took the opportunity to offer an all-expenses paid trip for Zhang and two of her colleagues to visit Cornell.

“I was listening to these discussions, and I felt that the time was just right for it,” Chiu said. A smaller delegation will return to Shanghai and Beijing in May to further negotiate with East China Normal. The University also plans to translate scholarly documents to share with East China Normal, such as declassified documents about Chinese-American rapprochement and declassified Chinese documents on the 1954 Geneva Conference.

“The more we can open up these documents for wider availability, the better we can [foster] more understanding between China and the U.S.,” Rawlings said.

Rawlings also met Xiaodu Yang, the vice mayor of Shanghai, to discuss potential agreements between Cornell and Shanghai’s universities. Up until the night before, however, the Cornell delegation was unsure whether Yang would meet with Rawlings. The president suspected that Yang’s hesitance was due to latent doubt about Cornell’s association with Denghui Lee ’68, regarded as the former president of Taiwan. There was a diplomatic incident in 1995 concerning Lee’s visit to the United States that remains significant to many Chinese individuals. Fortunately, due to a very successful meeting in Beijing with Ji Zhou, the Chinese minister of education, Rawlings believed Yang heard positive word from the ministry and subsequently scheduled a meeting with him to strengthen Cornell’s ties with Shanghai.

Members of the Cornell delegation believe that the success of this trip to China has been a strong indication that the University has overcome any potential misunderstanding between Cornell and Chinese universities.

“I found these discussions to be very refreshing and very substantive,” Rawlings said.

Mere hours before flying to Hong Kong for the last leg of the trip, Rawlings met with Yichi Yin, deputy secretary of the Shanghai Municipal Committee. In the meeting, Yin, to the surprise of the delegation members, mentioned the diplomatic incident involving Lee briefly, in the larger and more significant context of encouraging greater ties to institutions of higher education in Shanghai. After the meeting, Rawlings was particularly enthusiastic and optimistic about continuing to find ways to connect Cornell with Shanghai, and felt that morning’s meetings were “the most substantive” he had attended during the entire trip.

Upon arrival in Hong Kong, Rawlings was greeted by several dozen Cornell alumni in a warm reception at the Hong Kong club. For the remainder of the weekend, he entertained alumni in the region. He returned to Ithaca last night.

The Sun’s coverage of Rawlings’ trip to China has been co-sponsored by Cornell University.