The important lessons China has for the world

A US billlionaire is setting up a $300m scholarship scheme at to fund Americans studying Shanghai’s elite Tsinghua University - but what will they actually learn?

Share

China has long been serenely confident of its centrality, and this will be bolstered even further by the news that Stephen Schwarzman, a US billionaire, has set up a $300m scholarship scheme for students from all over the world to study in the country. Based at Shanghai’s elite Tsinghua University, it is designed to rival and perhaps eclipse the Rhodes Scholarships that sent the likes of Bill Clinton to Oxford, it will bring 200 students from around the world for a one-year Master’s programme, all expenses paid.

But what might the Schwarzman Scholars actually learn? What does China, in its present mighty manifestation, have to teach us?

“Uses of a redundant ideology” would be one fascinating module. Besides Deng Xiaoping’s pithy “to get rich is glorious”, is there a more inflected explanation of how the class struggle culminated in the  re-establishment of the Chinese bourgeoisie, this time as the clients of the Communist Party? And if so, could it be taught without both teachers and students risking imprisonment?

Other courses might include:

Managing minorities: The Chinese approach to Tibet seems similar to how the Americans dealt with their Indians, but those pioneers could at least claim that they were strangers in a strange land, and that some of the natives were armed and dangerous. Tibetans and Chinese, by contrast, have been neighbours for millennia, and while Tibetans did once, very long ago, invade Han China, Tibet was for several centuries a sort of guru country to China. Nor are Tibetans renowned for their aggression: the Chinese have difficulty persuading the outside world that self-immolation – more than 100 Tibetans have set themselves alight in the past four years – is a terrorist act. China’s Tibet policy is pitiless, relentless and apparently unstoppable, so for any students wishing to acquire those attributes, it would surely repay close study.

Futurism, Chinese-style: The Chinese have always taken a far longer view than the rest of us, thanks to extreme venerability of their civilisation. So what do the modern sages see in their crystal balls? Once they have dammed every river, covered the countryside with new cities and airports; once the one-child policy has borne its final fruit in a population where the aged vastly outnumber those working; and once the few, or few hundred million, young people who remain prefer swanning around Beijing’s chic Sanlitun Road in Maseratis to assembling iPads at Foxconn – then what? Where will China go from there?

Foreign policy. The point of foreign countries is to bring tribute to the central kingdom. If they don’t do that, they might as well not exist. That, in a nutshell, has long been China’s view of foreign affairs. The question everyone wants to know, from President Obama down, is whether, with the creation of a so-called “string of pearls” – a network of hospitable ports – in the Indian Ocean, with the ongoing spats over the Spratly and Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, and with the rapid expansion of the Chinese navy, that ancient and largely passive posture is set to change. Everyone hopes not.

But undoubtedly the most useful lesson China can teach is enshrined in the scholarship scheme itself, one of the world’s largest educational endowments. While Mr Schwarzman is giving $100m of his own, other big donors include Boeing, JP Morgan Chase and Credit Suisse, BP, and the personal foundation of Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York. The advisory board includes Henry Kissinger and the ubiquitous Tony Blair. None of these is known for chucking money around carelessly. All desire a stake in China’s future and know how to go about it. In the past, lavish presents and the kow-tow were required to gain the Emperor’s favour. Today, $300m will probably suffice.

Silvio is still in the game

Terrible news from Italy: that old fox Berlusconi has done it again. He may have failed to get elected either President or Pope, but the deal stitched up this week between his party and the centre-left Democratic Party ensures that he will continue to bulk large in Italian politics, at least for as long as the new government survives.

He will be there, as he has been ever since his debut in 1994, to protect his and his family’s and his companies’ interests, and those of the tax-dodging, state-hating business world in general, and to continue his long and successful campaign to stay out of jail.

He will also be better poised than ever to quietly and charmingly eviscerate what remains of Italian social democracy, which he calls Communism. Cutting deals with Berlusconi has been the fatal temptation of the left for 15 years and more; Massimo D’Alema was the first to succumb, flunking the opportunity to pass a conflict-of-interest law as the price of his friendship with the Cavalier. It will be argued that Italy’s gaping governmental vacuum had to be filled with something. But never have comedian Beppe Grillo’s warnings about the stink of corruption from the ancien regime seemed more apposite.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Education Recruitment Consultant- Learning Support

£18000 - £30000 per annum + Generous commission scheme: AER Teachers: Thames T...

All Primary NQT's

£100 - £120 per day + per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Description Calling a...

DT Teacher - Food Technology

£100 - £145 per day + Pension and travel: Randstad Education Maidstone: SUPPLY...

Supply Teachers Needed in Thetford

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Supply teachers neede...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Why black cats make amazing pets, and take good selfies too

Felicity Morse
Children of a bygone era  

Kids these days aren't what they used to be — they're a lot better. So why the fuss?

Archie Bland
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star