April 3, 2007

Chinese Ambassador to Address Cornell

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Zhou Wenzhong, Chinese ambassador to the United States, will address Cornell this Thursday in a speech entitled, ‘China-U.S. Relations and China’s Peaceful Development.’

The speech serves as a means for the University to further develop its relations with China, according to David Wippman, vice provost for international relations.

“President Skorton invited him to come up, since we wanted to strengthen our connections with China, and the ambassador said he would do it,” Wippman said.

According to Wippman, the large Chinese student population, as well as the growing popularity of China-related majors, were large factors in choosing the ambassador to speak at Cornell. With growing concerns about China’s rise to power, Zhou’s address comes at an important time.

“The speech is a reflection of the Chinese government’s view and it shows that China is paying attention to higher education, and particularly Cornell University,” said Prof. Chen Jian, director of China and Asia-Pacific Studies. “This is a very important visit. The ambassador himself was previously China’s vice foreign minister.”

As a former vice foreign minister, Zhou has a unique perspective on U.S. and China relations. According to Chen, Zhou can give an insider’s perspective about China’s recent growth and development. The speech should highlight some misconceptions about China, and aid in their resolution.

“Misconceptions are a very common thing between people with different cultural and historical backgrounds, and the U.S. and China have large cultural differences,” Chen said.

According to Wippman, the first step in resolving these misconceptions is to discuss the issues and to inform people of the matters at hand. While the title provides some insight into the topic of the address, the specific subject matter of the address remains unknown.

“We don’t really know what he’s going to talk about yet,” Wippman said.

Regardless, some members of the Chinese community at Cornell are looking forward to the address, and hope that it will help people understand China’s role in today’s world.

“People think that China is not going to be a peaceful rise. I think a lot of people believe that China will become a growing power and become an imperialistic country,” said Yuan Li Ren ’10. “They need the economic resources of other countries to grow, so they can’t become the independent dominant nation that people fear.”

According to Wippman, Zhou’s address will provide a unique perspective for the Cornell community.

“It will be good opportunity for students and faculty who are interested in China to hear the Chinese government’s perspective on the U.S. and China’s relations,” Wippman said.

Zhou’s address will be delivered at Kennedy Hall’s Call auditorium this Thursday at 4:30 p.m.