Clemson-Tsinghua Program for Future World Leaders

By Dr. Xiaobo Hu
October 01, 2013

China’s economy today is more than ten times larger than it was a short thirty years ago, and it is still growing at an annual rate of more than 7 percent. Many of us expect such growth to continue for at least another decade or so. According to a recent prediction by Avind Subramanian, the Dennis Weatherstone Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, D.C., the second largest economy in the world will become the largest by 2030, with an 18 percent share of the world economy, increased from 12.3 percent in 2010. The United States shared 13.3 percent of the world economy in 2010.

China’s economic development results from continuous reforms that started in the late 1970s. Many of the reformers graduated from Tsinghua University, which has been ranked No.1 among all Chinese universities. Tsinghua graduates include, most noticeably, governor of the People’s Bank of China, Mr. Zhou Xiaochuan; former premier of China, Mr. Zhou Rongji; former president of China, Mr. Hu Jintao; and current president of China, Mr. Xi Jinping.

This is part of the reason Clemson University has built a strong relationship with Tsinghua University. As a result of the pioneering efforts of Clemson University Center for China Studies, a select group of Clemson students has been able to work on the enormous Tsinghua campus with the smartest students and future leaders in China every summer over the past three years.
Each summer, Tsinghua University goes around the world to recruit 100 of the best students from the premier schools in English-speaking countries and bring them to the Tsinghua campus to work with its 3,000 plus rising sophomores. Clemson University sent six students this past summer, a 100 percent increase from three Clemson students a year ago.

For Tsinghua, their students have the unique opportunity to learn English and learn about the different English-speaking cultures, lives, and ambitions of the future leaders from around the world. For our Clemson students, they have the unique opportunity to teach English and American culture, traditions, and values to the future leaders of China, to learn about Chinese students’ lives and ambitions, to bond with them, and to dream about a brighter future together. In addition to sharing college experience and developing a common basic value system with the new generation of future Chinese leaders, our Clemson students also have the unique opportunity to bond with future world leaders from other English-speaking countries and other top schools. Of the hundred student leaders this year, 15 came from Oxford University, 10 from Cambridge University, and about 10 from Harvard University.

Many of our Clemson students have rated this as the best experience of their education. Our Architecture student Clair reported “Teaching at Tsinghua turned out to be one of the most efficient ways to learn a new culture that I have experienced. Because I was with real citizens, I learned the culture from their points of view … I found that there is so much more to China than the limited view provided by the media, and it is truly a richly unique cultural place.”

A student in pre-Med, Jimmy, told me, “Working at Tsinghua University gave me an awesome opportunity to connect with some of the world's brightest students on a personal level, and also cleared up a few previous misconceptions about Chinese students. Although Chinese students are extremely focused on their schoolwork, it was good to see that they also love to have fun, and have a very entertaining sense of humor about them … As far as my future career choice is concerned, this program was an extremely awesome résumé builder, and also gave me the opportunity to network with people from all over the world. I have a few different potential internships lined up for next summer directly related to connections I made while in Tsinghua. One is a research internship at Tsinghua, another is research at Harvard, and there’s also potential for research for Procter and Gamble. If I hadn’t gone on this trip, I wouldn’t have made the connections necessary to set me up with these internships.”

Clair further explained, “Think of [Tsinghua] as the Harvard of China, except that Tsinghua chooses from China's population of 1.344 billion versus America's population of 313.9 million. To put it mildly, these students have almost superhuman intellect. Most of China's prime ministers and high government officials are Tsinghua alumni, and tourists flock to the campus daily to get a glimpse of the facilities of China's best and brightest. Finding myself in a place of such stature was impressive.”

A double major in English and Chinese at Clemson, Dorothy was impressed by some of Tsinghua students’ English vocabulary, “bigger than many of my Clemson classmates.” The Tsinghua experience helped land her a Fulbright scholarship to Taiwan upon her graduation. Jimmy declared, “The most rewarding time was on the last day of classes when I received dozens of letters and gifts from all of my students showing their gratitude. It was truly heartwarming. I can honestly say I have never had an experience like the Tsinghua camp, and I doubt I ever will again.”

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