Schwarzman scholarships can help to improve Sino-US trust
Ties between America and Europe fostered global stability and prosperity in the 20th century. Those between China, America and the rest of the world are key to hopes for the 21st century. Academic exchanges among future leaders in the West were instrumental in advancing these values, foremost among them Rhodes scholarships to Oxford University for thousands of Americans. If Schwarzman scholarships to Beijing's prestigious Tsinghua University come to rival them, they could play an equally positive role.
They will be named after Stephen A. Schwarzman, billionaire founder of private equity firm Blackstone, who has pledged US$100 million as a personal gift and to raise another US$200 million to endow the programme. It is unprecedented educational philanthropy from the West towards China.
The capitalist funding may seem ironic, but the Wall Street mogul's reasons for partnering with Tsinghua make sound business sense. China's economic growth and rising global influence would define this century as America's ties to Europe did the last one, he said. China was no longer an elective, but core curriculum. "For geopolitical stability and global prosperity, we must build a culture of trust and understanding between China, the US and the rest of the world."
Congratulatory letters from presidents Xi Jinping and Barack Obama, read out at the announcement ceremony, lent weight to that sentiment. From 2016, about 200 students each year - 45 per cent from the US and 20 per cent from China - will take part in a one-year master's programme at Tsinghua in public policy, economics and business, and international relations or engineering. They will be chosen on similar criteria to the Rhodes, expressed by Schwarzman as academic credentials, extracurricular interests and leadership potential.
Schwarzman's education foundation and the university will govern the programme. He says it will enjoy academic freedom and that no topic will be taboo. For the sake of the goal of trust and understanding, we hope that will be so.