Usually when one thinks of educational exchanges between the United States and China, the image is of ambitious Chinese engineering and business students heading westward. But with a global awareness of China’s growing role in world, more American students than ever are heading east to better understand the country’s unique culture, language, and business environment.
China is now the fifth-largest destination for American students, with more than 14,000 studying abroad in China in 2010, a large jump from 3,000 students a decade ago.
But the number is still a long way from the goal set by the 100,000 Strong initiative, a program backed by U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao in 2009 to boost the number of students studying in China by 2014.
The initiative was a clear sign on the part of Washington to bring down the language and cultural barriers that often divide the two economic superpowers.
Shanghai, the country’s business and economic capital and arguably its most international city, has been the preferred destination for the numerous American universities that seek partnerships with major local universities.
One of the most international and respected universities in the city is Shanghai International Studies University (SISU).
SISU offers twenty-five foreign language degrees, as well as nonlinguistic degrees in subjects such as international business and trade, finance, law, international politics, journalism, and various MBA programs for international students.
“SISU especially focuses on getting students immersed in a multicultural environment, and the goal is to ensure that by 2015, at least 50 percent of our full-time students will have studied or stayed in a foreign country for a brief or extended period of time,” said SISU president Dr. Cao Deming.
“SISU has now established partnerships with 218 institutions of higher education from forty-eight countries, and has maintained close exchanges and communication with international organizations, including the United Nations and the European Union,” he added.
“Shanghai’s higher education system is quite well developed, boasting internationally recognized prestigious universities as well as universities that are specialized in a certain discipline or multiple disciplines,”
- Dr. Cao Deming, SISU President
Among the thirty-two U.S. institutions of higher education that have partnerships with SISU are California State University Long Beach, Kent State University, and Kennesaw State University. SISU and the College Board have been implementing various forms of exchange and cooperation programs that “provide students, faculty members, and scholars from both sides with great opportunities.”
Regarding the development of education in China’s commerical capital, Dr. Cao expressed huge optimism in its long-term future.
“Shanghai is striving to become an international center in terms of economy, finance, trade, and transportation. On one hand, China’s input to education keeps increasing in recent years and the quality of higher education is being steadily improved,” he said.
“Shanghai’s higher education system is quite well developed, boasting internationally recognized prestigious universities as well as universities that are specialized in a certain discipline or multiple disciplines,” he added.
- This Special Report on Shanghai Education originally appeared in the July/August 2012 edition of Foreign Affairs