“As China moves closer to the center of the world stage, Tsinghua University is far-sighted and strategic in its move to offer this class,” said Ni Jian, China ambassador to the UAE, commenting on the Global Competence on Belt and Road course. Ambassador Ni added that the course “is of great significance for students to have a deep understanding of the contemporary world and to open up their international perspective.”
Earlier this year in January, the program organized 10 students from different faculties to conduct research in the United Arab Emirates under the leadership of two professors of the School of Journalism and Communication, Hu Yu and Zhang Li. They visited businesses, communities, institutions and university to explore the opportunities and challenges for the future development of China and the UAE, and to understand the role and power of today’s youth in intercultural communication. During their eight days and eight nights in the UAE, Tsinghua students were not only learners and explorers, but also communicators and agents.
In this mysterious middle-eastern country, students on the field tore away their preconceived notions of the country. In the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, they explored religious beliefs and multiculturalism; in Dubai’s Silicon Valley, they discussed the city’s innovative development. “Cultural diversity” “internationalization” “openness and inclusiveness” were words that came to mind as they evaluated words frequently used to describe the UAE.
In Chinese enterprises in the UAE, students offered opinions on Chinese enterprises’ business competitiveness, brand communication and aspects of management. In these visits they truly felt the boldness and social responsibility of state-owned enterprises and the dynamism and audacity of private enterprises.
In local government agencies and enterprises, while students learned the UAE’s development model and contrasted it with China’s, they drew lessons from UAE’s experience and its possible implication for China. In the students’ daily debriefing sessions, they mentioned in multiple occasions that the UAE development model deserves to be adopted by China, but on the pretext that it is based on China’s conditions rather than being simply copied.
During this overseas research trip, students not only actively posed questions and took the initiative to delve into their own research topics during the visits, but also investigated civil and cultural customs of the local society and distributed questionnaires about China’s national image. In addition, in their exchanges with the local youths, they served as an emissary of intercultural communication.
While interacting with teachers and students from the UAE, Tsinghua students not only introduced Tsinghua and China to them through promotional videos, but also brought together the youth from the both countries through songs and dances. After the exchange, some local students took the initiative to express their hope to become ambassadors of Chinese culture in the UAE University. One of the professors on the trip, Zhang Li, commented that, "Carrying out on-site survey and research in a foreign country is itself an exercise and test to spread China’s image.”
It is worth mentioning that, in this trip, teachers and students met many Tsinghua alumni. Some of them are engineers who challenge engineering difficulties of the world by overcoming the harsh environment of the desert. Some are oil developers carrying the burden of the country in the chaos in the Middle East. Some are university professors who set up educational bridges between China and the UAE. Some are PhD students joining the program for developing countries. Although they are engaged in different fields, they carry the same professional pragmatism and familial feelings of belonging to Tsinghua.
As Prof. Hu Yu said, “Youth issues are a national security issue, and where there is youth development, there is national development. This is the crux of the Global Competence course to the UAE, to go out of China to see the world and to see China from the world. As China is moves closer to the center of the world stage, it needs more outstanding young people, youths who truly love their own country and understand different countries.” During the exchange with other excellent youths, the students realized more deeply the mission of being the younger generation in contemporary China and the responsibility they bear as a Tsinghua person.