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Harvard relocates its top language program to Taiwan amid a US-China tension amid the heat

Harvard relocates its top language program to Taiwan amid a US-China tension amid the heat

a popular Chinese-language program will be relocated to Taipei from Beijing, despite heightened academic and cultural tensions between the United States and China.

Jennifer L. Liu, the programs director, told The Harvard Crimson that the move was driven by a perceived lack of hostility on the part of the Chinese host institution, Beijing Language and Culture University. The planned move of this initiative from Beijing to Taiwan has been considered for some time and reflects a variety of operational factors, according to Harry J. Pierre, spokesman for Harvard.

In an e-mail statement, Pierre, Harvard's associate director of communications for the division of continuing education, said that the program' s new location presents a unique opportunity for our instructors and students to broaden their educational experiences.

Harvard, like many US universities, has a number of programs in China, including executive education courses and specialized training for Chinese doctors and hospital managers led by its medical school. The Harvard Beijing Academy, or summer language program, allowed students not only to advance their language skills, but to also explore China and learn about its history and culture.

According to an interview with The Harvard Crimson, Liu said the program had had difficulty accessing the Beijing Language and Culture University classrooms and dormitories, and that the university had been having difficulty obtaining access to the facilities, she added. She said the Chinese university told the program in 2019 that it could no longer host an annual gathering to commemorate the Fourth of July, during which students and faculty would eat pizza and sing the American national anthem.

Although China has tightened its pandemic restrictions, with many provinces experiencing snap lockdowns as coronavirus outbreaks have sparked, Liu said she believes the unwelcoming environment is due to a shift in the Chinese governments attitudes towards US institutions.

When asked for comment, Liu referred a reporter to Pierre, the Harvard spokesman. An employee at the Beijing Language and Culture University, who was reached by telephone Tuesday, declined to comment.

Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for Chinas Ministry of Foreign Affairs, spoke about Harvard stance during he/shed had gotten on with Harvard's move during an informal news conference Wednesday.

China has always welcomed foreign students, he added. We oppose any attempt to politicize people-to-people exchanges, the White House stated.

Taiwan, a self-governing island claimed by Beijing as 'a Chinese province', has long been regarded as an international hub for Chinese language study among diplomats, scholars, and reporters, though that status has declined in recent decades as mainland China opened up. Mandarin Chinese is Taiwan's primary official language, but it uses the traditional written alphabet while the mainland uses simplified Chinese characters.

The Harvard program, which began in 2005 and cost $4,500, was initially offered for $4,000. According to the Beijing Language and Culture Universitys website, more than 1,000 students had participated by 2015. In 2020 and this year, the program was canceled due to the epidemic. The Harvard Taipei Academy will be launched next summer at the National Taiwan University in Taichung under the name Harvard Tapeiko Academy. The new host institution said the program would provide its 60 or so students the opportunity to visit attractions in Taiwan and participate in cultural activities such as Chinese calligraphy and paper-cutting workshops, in addition to offering language courses over eight weeks.

It is hoped that in the free academic environment of National Taiwan University, we can lay a strong Mandarin foundation for Harvard students," the university said in obituary.

The relocation comes as ties between the United States and China have reached their lowest level in decades. As the tensions have increased, they have spilled over into the realm of people-to-people exchanges.

In 2020, the Trump administration suspended the governments Fulbright program in mainland China and Hong Kong. The suspension occurred several months after the Peace Corps announced abruptly that it was halting its China initiative. The withdrawal of the programs sparked criticism from some, who claimed that it closed off two crucial pipelines for Americans to better understand what was happening on the ground in China.

The Harvard programs relocation to Taiwan comes as the island has replaced Hong Kong as a center of free speech in the Chinese-speaking world, an idea that Taiwanese officials have been keen to emphasize.

Joanne Ou, a Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said the agency believes that the democratic and liberal system and pluralistic society will allow young american students to gain broader understanding of Taiwan and the Chinese-speaking world.

Only in a free environment where speech is not censored can the best results of learning be achieved, she added.

William C. Kirby, a professor of China studies at Harvard and he is also Managing Director of the Harvard Center Shanghai, claimed that the decision to relocate had been taken over all, for logistical reasons. Despite the ongoing geopolitical tensions and the countrys strict virus-related border restrictions, he added that the university was continuing to explore ways to maintain and deepen its other ties with China, even as the situation remains tense.

Once before, in the early 1950s, vibrant ties between the United States and Chinese universities were cut off, to our mutual loss, Kirby said. We shouldnt allow that to happen again, she added.

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