A group of 8 Stanford graduate and undergraduate students entered the gates of Stanford Center at Peking University (SCPKU) on September 21st. They are participating in the inaugural fall quarter of China Studies in Beijing, an overseas, pilot program being offered by the Freeman Spogli institute for International Studies in partnership with Peking University. Jay Gonzalez, a Stanford junior, already described his experience as “life-changing” – “exactly what I dreamed of and more.”
(From left to right): Lucas Hornsby (sophomore), Jenny Zhao (SCPKU’s Beijing program coordinator), Isaac Kipust (junior), Cathy Dao (sophomore), Minhchau Dinh (second year, Master’s in International Policy), Jenn Hu (sophomore), and Jay Gonzalez (junior) walking towards SCPKU for China Studies in Beijing orientation.
China Program faculty from different Stanford departments and two Peking University faculty are offering intensive courses on contemporary Chinese society, politics, international relations and economic development. And each of the students brought their energy, curiosity and long-standing interest in China to the fall program. With an array of exposure to China – from one whose Chinese begins and ends with “ni hao (hello)” to another who calls China his adoptive home -- their interests vary from a passionate interest in the Belt Road Initiative; China-Africa relations; geopolitics; technology and Chinese entrepreneurs; Chinese domestic politics; and, literally, “anything China.” Many recognize China’s central role in the world and the critical importance of acquiring a nuanced understanding of this global power.
(Clockwise, from left to right): Isaac Kipust, Jay Gonzalez, Prof. Andrew Walder, Lucas Hornsby, Prof. Thomas Fingar, Josh Cheng (Executive Director, SCPKU), Jenny Zhao, Prof. Jean Oi, Jenn Hu, Cathy Dao, and Minchau Dinh
Each of the Stanford China Program faculty teaching in the overseas program has dedicated his or her professional life to engaging with and understanding China. These students have unparalleled access to foremost China experts like Prof. Thomas Fingar, Shorenstein APARC Fellow and former chairman of the National Intelligence Council who has devoted himself to U.S.-China relations since the “ping-pong diplomacy” days in the early 1970’s. Prof. Jean Oi, Director of the China Program and the William Haas Professor in Chinese Politics in the department of political science; and Prof. Andrew Walder, Denise O’Leary & Kent Thiry Professor in the Department of Sociology, were among the first group of U.S. scholars to conduct fieldwork in China after Deng Xiaoping’s Open Door policy was announced in 1978. Prof. Scott Rozell, Senior Fellow at FSI and Co-director of the Rural Education Action Program is the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions, including in 2008 of the Friendship Award, the highest award given to a non-Chinese by China’s Premier.
(Clockwise, from left to right): Prof. Thomas Fingar, Isaac Kipust, Prof. Scott Rozelle, Prof. Andrew Walder, Jennifer Choo (Associate Director, Stanford China Program), Lucas Hornsby, Drew Hasson (second year, Master’s in International Policy), Jenn Hu, and Prof. Jean Oi on the Yalu River looking over at North Korea.
The program is simultaneously exposing students to China’s contemporary politics, society and economy in the classrooms and pairing them with lived experiences -- through real-life conversations with PKU professors and PKU classmates; ordinary citizens of Beijing; and through visits to diverse parts of China. To date, the group has traveled to historic Chengde (承德); a mining equipment factory in Jinzhou city (锦州); the China-North Korean border in Dandong (丹东); and the strategic port city of Dalian (大连). Each of these areas embed layers of history and reveal artifacts from different eras: the Manchus who ruled the Han Chinese during the Qing Dynasty (Chengde); the SOE restructuring in the 1990’s that devastated China’s Northeastern “rust belt” (Jinzhou); massive human casualty suffered by the Chinese during the Korean War (Dandong); and the Sino-Russo-Japanese tug-of-war that marked Dalian’s fate throughout the 19th and 20th century. Through these experiences, students are gaining insights into how the world might look to their counterparts in China and elsewhere.
Below are pictures and reflections from students’ own experiences at Jinshanling (金山岭) Great Wall, Chengde as well as in China’s Northeast (东北) region.
Jinshangling (金山岭) Great Wall
Jenn Hu and Minchau Dinh (holding up the Stanford banner) at the Great Wall
Chengde City (承德市)
The city of Chengde in Hebei Province, located 155 miles northeast of Beijing, was an imperial summer resort during the Qing Dynasty. Emperor Kang Xi (1662-1723) discovered this rare scenic spot during a hunting trip and turned it into a “Mountain Resort.”
As one student noted, these field trips “supplement academic discussions with . . . diverse representations of China – from historical kingdom to innovation contender (Cathy Dao, Stanford sophomore).”
Prof. Jean Oi and Isaac Kipust engaged in discussion at the imperial summer resort of Chengde
China’s Northeast region (东北)
Jinzhou City (锦州市), Liaoning Province
Jinzhou Mining Machinery (Group) Co., Ltd
Faculty and students enter the factory at Jinzhou Mining Machinery (Group) Co., Ltd. with the company’s senior managers
Stanford students and faculty toured a mining equipment factory in Jinzhou city in Northeast China. Massive worker lay-offs and closures of state-owned enterprises devastated this “rust belt” region throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s. The company’s senior management sat with students and faculty and described its current reincarnation as a private shareholding company. They also opened up about their difficulties in attracting talent; local tax rates and land use fees; and their inability to enforce contracts and redress payment defaults.
As Jenn Hu (Stanford sophomore) remarked, “One thing I found particularly fascinating [was that]. . . it was not unusual for [the company’s] clients to bail on contractual obligations . . . . [T]he company allowed their client to pay them back in the form of raw materials, essentially engaging in barter trade . . . The fact that an increasing number of clients are unable to pay back, a trend party leaders have dubbed the ‘new normal,’ is also indicative of China’s slowing growth.”
Jay Gonzalez and Jenny Zhao pose in front of a giant painting of “model workers” at Jinzhou Mining Machinery (Group) Co., Ltd.
Dandong City (丹东市)
War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea Railroad Museum (铁路抗美援朝博物馆)
Group photo in front of the old railroad tracks in Dandong, Liaoning province, that helped transport Chinese troops into North Korea during the Korean War
Jenn Hu reading the captions at the “War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea” Railroad Museum
Dandong’s small “railroad museum” displayed images, quotes and photos from the Korean War – better known as “War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea” in China. Nearly 3 million People’s Liberation Army troops overwhelmed the U.S. troops and allies in 1950; and China tragically lost anywhere from 149,000 to 400,000 soldiers in the war.
Students heard the Chinese perspective on the war, which focused on U.S. aggression and China’s rightful defense. The museum’s guided tour, in fact, ended with an anti-American sing-along that praised China’s bravery and denounced U.S. imperialism. As one student commented on her blog, “[f]rom the ends of the room, [the museum’s visitors’] voices rose in unison, and swelled into a chorus of song -- 抗美援朝鲜，打败美帝野心狼! (‘Resist America, help Korea, defeat the American imperialists with their wolf-like ambitions!’) (Cathy Dao, Stanford sophomore),” giving substance to the reality that history is, indeed, political.
Prof. Scott Rozelle, Senior Fellow at FSI and faculty member for China Studies in Beijing, engaged in a heated debate with the local guide from Dandong who argued that North Korea’s decision to start the Korean War was to defend its motherland against U.S. military aggression.
Sino-North Korean Friendship Bridge that links Shinuiju, North Korea, to Dandong, China.
Lastly, students traveled to Dalian, the “pearl of the East” founded by the Russians in 1898 and built in the style of European cities at the turn-of-the-century. The site of intense battles during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904, the city now boasts a Sino-Soviet Friendship Monument built in 1996.
Group photo in front of the Sino-Soviet Friendship Monument in Dalian city
Whether it be “[t]he sheer size of a small city like Jinzhou”(pop: 3.1 million) or the “‘little’ city” of Dalian (pop: 6.2 million), these cities drove home for students the sheer scale of a country like China – its significance, complexity, and import.
Students have written blog pieces posted on FSI’s Medium site in which one student also described a fascinating solo backpacking trip to Tibetan communities in western Sichuan and, another, the quotidian challenges of everyday life in Beijing. Regardless of their subject matter, however, their words echo the program’s success in enabling students to perceive the world through vastly differing lenses – lenses that often show a place and people that are deeply warm and welcoming and, at other times, reflect a world that proves decentering and unclear. Yet, the complementary experiences in the classroom and outside the curriculum are enabling students to develop an imagination that can encompass the “other” and nurture a humility that can feed a lifetime of questions. As Cathy Dao commented upon visiting the “War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea” Railroad Museum, “I realized that such hostility is a function of history. How each country portrays conflicts [such as the Korean War] strongly influences the perceptions that its people have. [But] [s]hould we learn how one another views history, we can see the humanity in what would otherwise be an abstract and incompatible ‘other.’”
(Counter clockwise): Julie Gu (second year, Masters in International Policy), Pan Xue (Beijing program assistant), Jenny Zhao, and Lucas Hornsby taking a group selfie in Dalian city
For information regarding similar opportunities, please visit FSI Student Programs or email Patrick Laboon, FSI’s Academic Program Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org for all updates regarding the many international student opportunities offered through FSI.