An educational foundation based in Hong Kong has set up scholarships for Chinese and Japanese students to help increase their understanding of each other’s countries.
It is also hoped the programme will join other efforts to ease the historic tensions between the two Asian giants.
The Bai Xian Education Foundation plans to offer students about US$25,000 a year to help them study at universities in China, Japan and other Asian countries.
The main backer of the scheme is the businessman Ronald Chao, who was born in Shanghai, but spent part of his education at the University of Tokyo.
“It concerns me to see the abnormal tension between China and Japan for a while,” he said. “Benefiting from a cross-culture education, I’ve been considering doing something to help promote exchanges between China and Japan.”
The Asian future leaders scholarship programme has initially worked with six universities in China and Japan: the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Peking University, Zhejiang University, Hitotsubashi University, Kyoto University and Waseda University. The programme is also hoping to form partnerships with universities in South Korea and Singapore.
“I felt ready to fund the education foundation,” said Chao. “I may not be able to see in my lifetime that the future leaders that graduate from the programme make an impact. But young people have hope. The foundation is planting the seeds of goodwill.”
It is hoped about 100 students will receive scholarships.
The foundation has business and political leaders from Hong Kong, the mainland and Japan acting as advisory council members.
These include the former Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-hwa.
“It is crucial that these two important nations in this region, China and Japan, coexist in peace and build a lasting friendship for generations to come,” said Tung in a speech at the launch of the programme on Tuesday in Beijing.
“The most important element is that younger generations strive to understand each other, respect each other and cooperate with each other,” he said.