February 22, 2006

Chinese Consul General of NYC Visits Cornell

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As part of a broader effort to improve its ties with the People’s Republic of China, the University welcomed Liu Biwei, Chinese consul general from New York City, to campus last week for a two-day visit. Liu delivered a speech, translated from Mandarin, to an audience of about 200 during his visit on the topic of U.S.-China relations, touching upon a range of issues including Taiwan, the trade deficit, intellectual copyright laws, and the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

“This is my first time here at this world-famous institution of higher learning. … It is no wonder that [Cornell] is ranked as America’s most scenic university. Cornell … is a perfect combination of academic vibrancy and residential tranquility,” Liu said through a translator. “It is my privilege to be given this opportunity to share with all of you the latest developments in China, as well as the Chinese people’s commitment to world peace and prosperity.” According to Liu, the first Chinese university, now known as Tianjin University, was nicknamed “Cornell of the East.”

In an earlier lunch with interim President Hunter R. Rawlings III, Liu spoke of “renewing” China’s ties with Cornell, acknowledging the century-long history that China has had with the University. The first Chinese student at Cornell graduated in 1901, and in recent years, approximately 10 percent of our PhDs are awarded to Chinese students.

“[Liu’s visit] is part of a long and distinguished history, one that has been to a great benefit to the University and, we hope, also to China,” said Prof. David Wippman, vice provost for international relations, when introducing Liu at the lecture. “Cornell has made it a priority to develop and expand and deepen our connections to China, and it is within that context that we welcome the ambassador [to Cornell].”

One of the first issues that Liu tackled was that of China’s economic status. He said that China has become the fourth largest economy in the world, and the largest market for cell phone usage, as well as the world’s top tourist destination. At the same time, Liu acknowledged that “there are still 26 million people living in abject poverty in China,” indicating problematic uneven development.

Along with China’s rapid economic growth, Liu pointed out that Chinese has become the second most popular language to learn in America.

During the earlier lunch, Prof. Sherman Cochran, the Hu Shih Professor of Chinese History, described the new China and Asia Pacific Studies (CAPS) major to Liu, who praised its originality, as no other U.S. college has yet to offer such a program. Liu was surprised to hear that CAPS majors will likely end up taking upper level courses in Mandarin during their semester at Beijing University, and agreed with Cochran that the original country is a particularly effective environment for learning a language and familiarizing oneself with its culture.

“China is the biggest developing country in the world, while the U.S. is the biggest developed one. … Now our relations are moving in a progressive and positive direction. In recent years, the two nations share common interests on many critical issues such as trade, counterterrorism, nonproliferation … to the environment, … HIV/AIDS, to avian influenza,” Liu said. “All of the relevant problems [between China and the U.S.] can be settled so long as our two countries treat each other with respect and seek common ground.”

Another significant issue was the Taiwan question, which Liu spent the latter part of his speech discussing. Liu expressed his hope that the U.S. would remain true to the One-China policy, as it has nominally in the past, in order to assure peace and stability across the strait.

“Taiwan has always been an inseparable part of China’s territory. … China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are indisputable,” Liu said. “We will never tolerate Taiwan’s independence, nor will we allow anyone make Taiwan secede by whatever means.”

According to Prof. Allen Carlson, government, in GOVT 282: China and the World, Liu can be considered “the second-highest ranking diplomat from China in the United States today.”

“[Liu’s visit] offers students and faculty with an interest in China an opportunity to exchange views with a representative of the Chinese government,” Wippman said of Liu’s visit later to The Sun. “I think it was a very successful visit and we hope to follow up by having the Chinese ambassador — from the embassy in [Washington] DC — visit in the fall.”

Attendees felt ambivalent toward the lecture’s issues. One participant’s question addressed the general aesthetics of the Beijing Olympics, while another wanted Liu to talk about intellectual property rights.

The lecture was sponsored by the Office of the Vice Provost of International Relations.