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UMD and China Relations

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Dear Members of the University Community:

I am writing to report to you on my recent seven-day China visit with Governor Martin O'Malley.

The purpose of the Governor's visit was to promote China's direct investment and job creation in Maryland. My purpose was to expand and deepen the network of UM-China relationships in order to advance the educational, research, and economic development missions of the University.

I was accompanied during the entire visit by Saul Sosnowski (current Associate Provost for International Affairs), Jonathan Wilkenfeld (APIA, starting July 1), and Kai Duh (Director, UM International Business Incubator). We went to Shanghai, Nanjing, and Beijing.

This visit to my ancestral land—where I had once been a visiting Professor of Law at Peking University, Beijing—turned out to be successful in advancing our University's missions on a transnational level.

We had productive meetings with:

  • The leadership, faculty, staff, and students of seven national universities.
  • The Minister of Education, who approves all new educational programs, and is supportive of new joint ventures between UM and Chinese institutions; e.g., a Joint Institute on Global Change and Earth System Science with Beijing Normal University.
  • The senior staff of the Ministry of Science and Technology who oversee some 100 national R&D parks. The Minister, whom I met earlier in Washington, D.C., supports the establishment of China's high-tech enterprises in UM's International Research Park under China's "Go Global" policy.
  • The director of Confucius Institutes worldwide: she and her predecessor worked with President Dan Mote to create the first such institute in the world at UM with a $1M grant and $250K annual funding. There are now some 300 institutes in 90 countries.
  • A member of the State Council, China's highest governing body: she discussed the new policy of providing scholarships for 10,000 PhD students and 10,000 undergraduates to study in the U.S., after President Obama's "100,000-strong initiative" to send Americans to China. We currently send about 100 UM students yearly to study in China.
  • Provincial governors, city mayors, and other sub-national government officials who have a stake in strong international collaborations. Over the past decade, UM has trained some 1,500 officials from Jiangsu Province. Many now serve in senior positions.
  • CEOs of private Chinese enterprises: I signed licensing agreements with four companies that will establish R&D operations in solar energy, biotech, and water technology in UM's international business incubator. One of these companies pledged an investment of at least $3M in the State of Maryland. President Mote and the former Minister of Science and Technology created at UM the first and only China research park in the U.S.
  • Reporters from Xinhua (national news agency) and CCTV (national TV), resulting in prominent news coverage about UM throughout the country.

Vignettes of our other meetings include:

We held a special graduation ceremony in Nanjing for 25 mid-level officials (agency directors and deputy mayors) of Jiangsu Province who had completed one year of study in College Park. Dean Don Kettl awarded their Executive Master's in Public Management diplomas, to the cheers of their families. Governor O'Malley delivered the commencement speech.

We visited Nanjing Normal University where the faculty of our #1 ranked Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice has been offering the M.A. for the past decade. We met with the enthusiastic graduates of that program who now serve in high-level positions, such as chief judge of the Jiangsu Supreme Court, chief prosecutor, and university faculty members. We were pleased to learn that they plan to convene in College Park next year to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their graduation.

A new "University Town" just outside of Nanjing is an intriguing new model of higher education where 12 universities, with a total of 150,000 students, have relocated together. A similar education park is under development in Suzhou. There are opportunities for UM to develop partnerships with clusters of adjacent universities as well as with individual schools.

At Renmin University in Beijing, which has some top-ranked social sciences and humanities departments, I introduced Governor O'Malley--recognized in the U.S. as the "Education Governor" and the "Innovation Governor"--for a keynote lecture on performance-based management. His approach to governance resonated well with the rising Chinese leadership.

In Shanghai, Governor O'Malley signed an agreement with a global bio-pharmaceutical company to establish a $40M R&D plant in Montgomery County, which will create jobs in Maryland. This firm and UM will be discussing the establishment of leadership training in College Park for its managers.

At Shanghai Jiao Tong University, the 3rd-ranked institution in China with strong programs in STEM and research-based innovation (an R&D park with 300 new start-up companies), we visited the Physics Department and met with a UM professor currently on leave there. SJTU funds his research on "dark matter" and he shuttles monthly between College Park and Shanghai, supervising student research at both places. We also met with 150 students at a SJTU-affiliated high school, many of whom are interested in applying to UM.

At China Agricultural University in Beijing, which features the most renowned agricultural programs in China, Dean Wei, Dean Caramello, and I met with some 80 students, several of whom will enroll as undergraduate 2+2 transfers or as PhD students at UM. CAU officials expressed interest in the possibility of multi-year faculty appointments at CAU for new PhDs from UM to teach in a variety of disciplines (in English), funded by CAU.

UM's Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering (CALCE) hosted firms in Beijing that are current or potential partners to make use of its expertise in electronics reliability analyses.

To sports fans, I would like to note that everywhere in China, we saw posters of Yao Min and other NBA stars, and of new tennis star Li Na. Next year is the 40th anniversary of "ping pong diplomacy" in Cole Field House that marked the resumption of U.S.-China diplomatic relations. I expressed my hope that we will soon have athletic as well as academic exchanges, so that China fans, like American fans, will learn to "Fear the Turtle."

In conclusion:

At my inauguration last April, I identified four strategic priorities: student opportunity; innovation and entrepreneurship; internationalization; and service to the people of Maryland. The China visit is a step forward in advancing each of these goals.

The seeds for my visit to China were planted last January when I was invited to a luncheon with the President of China, hosted by the Secretary of State in Washington, D.C. This led to an invitation by the Chinese Embassy to meet with the Minister of Science and Technology, a former president of Tongji University in Shanghai, an institution we also visited at his invitation. Governor O'Malley then invited me to join his trade delegation to China. My participation was an opportunity for the Governor to see how UM can help advance his economic development agenda for the state of Maryland.

I learned two things from this visit:

  • The "University of Maryland" brand is widely recognized and highly valued in China. This gives us an edge over the scores of U.S. universities now entering the China market.
  • The opportunities for mutually beneficial UM-China partnerships are limited only by our imagination and engagement.

During this visit, I repeatedly said to the media and officials that the Asia-Pacific region is the world's center of gravity in the 21st century, and that the U.S.-China relationship is at the strategic core. Our two nations must learn to work together—rather than against each other--to advance mutual security and prosperity. I am confident that the academic and economic exchanges between UM and China will contribute to the flourishing of this bilateral relationship.

Governor O'Malley summarized our China visit as follows:

"By reaching across borders, we can share knowledge and research, generate promising partnerships, and leverage the power of innovation to create jobs and expand opportunity to make our children winners in this changing, global economy."

I could not agree more with the Governor. The real winners from our China trip will be our students as we become a more globally networked, innovative, and entrepreneurial University in service to Maryland and the nation.

I have formed a China Task Force co-chaired by Dean Darryll Pines (Engineering) and Dean Cheng-i Wei (Agriculture and Natural Resources). I look forward to receiving from this faculty/staff group a strategic China vision and plan for UM in the context of the broader internationalization of our University.


Wallace D. Loh
University of Maryland