"I was slightly disappointed that in the speech of the Dutch ambassador to China Xi'an Jiaotong University was not mentioned". He Changzhong (the deputy director of the university's department of international cooperation) says it with a smile, but he is serious nevertheless.
At the energetic Sino-Dutch Higher Education Forum, hosted by NUFFIC, He Changzhong explains why Xi'an should not be overlooked. "Xi'an is the cradle of Chinese civilization and culturally the gateway to the real China. Some people describe New York city as the world's crossroads; Xi'an has the same function for China."
China in space
Jiaotong University is the second oldest university of China, dating back to 1896. Jiaotong was a founding member of China's Ivy League, the so-called 'C9': China's nine most prestigious institutions of higher education. "One third of all aerospace research is done here: We actually contributed to the recent first manned space flight", He Changzhong adds.
It's He Changzhong's first trip to The Netherlands and he is rather impressed by the environmental protection he sees around him and the Dutch dedication to make the country one of the leading countries in the world.
Jiaotong University is highly interested in the match making programme offered by NUFFIC and its Chinese counterpart CEAI, although it has already developed many ties with European counterparts. "We have joined several Erasmus Mundus programmes and are cooperating with the University of Gent, among others", He Changzhong explains.
Great plans for Xi'an
The vision for Jiaotong University can be traced back to the government plans for Xi'an: the city should develop into an 'international metropolis', and higher education plays an important part. "Our university already has some 1.700 international students on our campuses." On a total of 30.000 students, that percentage is still relatively low.
That explains why the university has employed He Changzhong, a former Chinese diplomat to the US, to become the 'university ambassador'. "I rather talk to you than have lunch. Besides I'm on a diet", He Changzhong concludes with a smile.