BEIJING — Interim President Hunter R. Rawlings III spent his last day in Beijing competing in a friendly match of pingpong with Tsinghua University President Binglin Gu. Prof. Jian Chen, history, and Rawlings donned authentic Cornell baseball jerseys and challenged not only Gu but also Tsinghua’s pingpong team coach and their champion player. While no official score was kept, according to Chen, Rawlings held an early lead during his two games with Gu but lost out to a late-game surge by Tsinghua’s president.
Rawlings also gave a speech to over 300 Tsinghua students describing the long history between Cornell and Tsinghua. His speech kicked off the first of several Cornell-Tsinghua computer science workshops.
Kent Fuchs, dean of the college of engineering, and several faculty members from the computer science department including Prof. John Hopcroft, computer science, and Prof. Paul Francis, computer science, joined Rawlings at Tsinghua to conduct the workshop. “Today’s workshop focuses on information science and computer engineering — disciplines that have already transformed our world,” Rawlings said to Tsinghua students. “As the Tsinghua-Cornell partnership grows, we expect that there will also be a two-way exchange of knowledge in nanotechnology, advanced materials, mechanical and biomedical engineering, energy and the environment.”
According to him, between 1908 and 1950, Cornell graduated 76 students from China, several of which went on to become founding members of the engineering school at Tsinghua. This is in addition to graduating several famous engineers of China’s railroads and bridges, such as S.C. Thomas Sze 1905.
Yesterday’s workshop further indicates the importance of strategic partnership between Cornell and Tsinghua.
“In order to excel, the best universities of the 21st century will need to recruit the best faculty members and students from throughout the world and to invest in their own infrastructure,” Rawlings said. “They will also need to build partnerships that expand their capabilities and their reach and that provide avenues for their graduates to participate in the global economy.”
In his speech, Rawlings quoted an analogy from Thomas Friedman’s latest book The World Is Flat, wherein he compared a gazelle and a lion, whose lives depend on who runs faster than the other. “China has adopted a competitive spirit in its drive to build a small number of world-class universities, including Tsinghua,” Rawlings added.
Rawlings and Fuchs expect that such a workshop will take place every two years.
Later yesterday afternoon, Rawlings and the Cornell delegation left Beijing for Shanghai. Upon arrival, the delegation went to the American consulate to greet Kenneth Jarrett ’75, the Consul General in Shanghai and a Cornell alumnus. Jarrett held a reception for Cornell alumni in the Shanghai area at the consulate.
The Sun’s coverage of Rawlings’ trip to China has been co-sponsored by Cornell University.