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Harvard moves summer program from unfriendly Beijing to Taipei

Harvard moves summer program from unfriendly Beijing to Taipei

Harvard University's Chinese language program will relocate to Taipei from Beijing, citing a hostile environment in China amid strained diplomatic relations between the world'' two largest economies.

The Harvard Beijing Academy will leave the Beijing Language and Culture University, where it has been since 2005, according to Harvard Crimson student newspaper. The academy will establish a new partnership with the National Taiwan University next summer.

According to the Crimson, the program decided to change because of a perceived lack of friendliness from BLCU, according to program director Jennifer Liu. That included limiting students' ability to have a Fourth of July party in 2019 and requiring them to use classrooms and dorms, Liu added, adding that the change was due to President Xi Jinping's changing views on the United States.

Liu's account was disputed by a BLCU representative and warned that such statements could impede people-to-people ties between the two countries. The university fully supports efforts by academy students to use facilities and organize activities on school grounds, the representative said, adding that administrators only responded to a noise complaint about Fourth of July celebrations in 2019.

According to BLCUs website, the academy is a nine-week program jointly run by the universities that allows Ivy League students to learn their local language and culture while also acting as if they were merely observing friendship between China and the United States. The program was suspended last year because of the Covid-19 epidemic, according to the BLCU representative.

Ma Xiaoguang, a Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman, said that several joint education programs are still in place between the two countries, adding that one institution relocating was nothing to hype.

The announcement comes as Beijing and Taipeis rivalry intensifies, and the United States raises criticism of China escalating military pressure on the self-ruled island. While Washington and Beijing have been reestablishing communication lines in recent weeks, the program departures highlight lingering tensions between the two sides after years of disputes that focused on education among other things.

Under a Trump-era policy that aims to prevent Beijing from obtaining U.S. technology with potential military uses, at least 500 Chinese students have been denied visas to the United States. According to media reports, a U.S. government-funded language program for university students was relocated from Beijing to Taipei in 2019, partly due to political tensions.

William Kirby, the Harvard Center Shanghai chair, told the Boston Crimson that most organizations affiliated with the school werent relocating and that the Beijing Harvard Academys move to Taiwan was purely logistical reasons.

Joanne Ou, a Taiwanese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, applauded the decision, calling for Harvards best and brightest to study Mandarin in Taipei.

Bloomberg L.P. (2021)

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