Vice Premier of China Visits Confucius Institute

Liu Yandong meets with President Knapp, tours GW Confucius Institute and attends celebration in Charles E. Smith Center.

Vice Premier Liu and President Knapp
Vice Premier Liu and President Knapp with children from the University of Maryland's Confucius Classroom.
November 22, 2013

Vice Premier of the People’s Republic of China and Chair of the Council of the Confucius Institute Headquarters Liu Yandong visited the George Washington University on Wednesday to tour GW’s recently opened Confucius Institute and give remarks at a celebration held in the Charles E. Smith Center.

Vice Premier Liu, the highest-ranking female government official in China, came to GW as part of a four-day visit to the U.S., during which she inaugurated the Confucius Institute U.S. Center in Washington, D.C. The new center will provide assistance to all U.S. Confucius Institutes. She also attended Thursday’s fourth annual U.S.-China High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange with Secretary of State John Kerry and met with Vice President Joe Biden. 

Vice Premier Liu said on Wednesday that the efforts of Confucius Institutes, like GW’s, would feature prominently in the People-to-People Exchange.

“We all know that the George Washington University is named after the great founding father of this nation. It has produced many outstanding people in the political, economic and scientific communities. I truly hope that the Confucius Institute here will take advantage of the prestigious status of this university and its strategic location in the capital area,” she said.

The university unveiled its Confucius Institute last April. Confucius Institutes are international centers designed to promote cultural exchanges between China and other countries. GW is one of approximately 90 American colleges and the first D.C.-based university to open a Confucius Institute. President Steven Knapp was named one of 10 members of the Council of the Confucius Institute Headquarters, a two-year term he will start in December.

Vice Premier Liu also announced that the council will support GW’s Confucius Institute by awarding 10 scholarships, donating 1,000 books and Chinese reading materials and inviting 30 faculty members and students to a language-focused summer program in China.

“The Confucius Institute will provide excellent service to all the students here and help build stronger people-to-people ties and friendship between our two countries,” Vice Premier Liu said.

Dr. Knapp met Vice Premier Liu and several Chinese dignitaries on Wednesday at GW’s Confucius Institute, housed in a renovated building at 2147 F Street. Dr. Knapp gave the vice premier a tour of the space before escorting her to the Charles E. Smith Center.

The celebration in the Charles E. Smith Center featured remarks from Dr. Knapp and a poetry reading by Andrew Chester, B.A. ’13. Mr. Chester recited the poem “Farewell to Cambridge” in Chinese. The poem was written by Chinese scholar Xu Zhimo. Julian Panero, B.A. ’13, served as the host and seamlessly led the program in both English and Chinese. Both alumni also participated in the Confucius Institute's ribbon-cutting ceremony in April.

Vice Premier Liu told the audience how impressed she was by the Chinese she heard the program participants speaking. If she had closed her eyes, she never would have believed that the event’s host was American, she said.

“Having heard such fluent Chinese and having seen the deep attachment of the teachers and students toward Chinese culture, I wish to extend my sincere gratitude and express my warmest regards to all the students and teachers at George Washington University for their commitment and support to the Confucius Institute,” she said.

Dr. Knapp said he was thrilled with GW’s broad and deep relationship with China. He described the university’s many partnerships with Chinese institutions, like Renmin University, Fudan University and Suzhou Industrial Park, and added that GW served as an education partner at the 2013 Fortune Global Forum in Chengdu. Additionally, more than one-third of the university’s international students come from China, and hundreds of alumni are living and working in the country.

“Globalization is a pillar of our strategic plan,” Dr. Knapp said. “China is one of the George Washington University’s most important priorities in that global strategy.”

Dr. Knapp added that the university also organized an academic council of 30 faculty members with expertise in China, led by Provost Steven Lerman. Dr. Knapp said GW is committed to partnerships with China in shared interest areas, including sustainability, business, public health and medicine.

The celebration also featured a group of children dressed in traditional Chinese clothing who were a highlight of the event when they took the stage to perform a Chinese song and dance. The children were from the University of Maryland’s Confucius Classrooms, which unites K-12 schools and Confucius Institutes across the country to promote Chinese culture and language.