NU, China sign agreement for culture center

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By Michael Wunder, News Editor

The University of Nebraska and Xi’an Jiatong University in China have signed an agreement to establish an American Culture Center in Xi’an China, said University of Nebraska President James Milliken Oct. 19.  

The center will be one of 10 in the country to receive U.S. seed funding and will expose students and faculty at XJTU to American government, art, law, medicine, history and culture.

“The students in Chinese universities today will be the business and governmental leaders of China tomorrow, and cultural understanding is an essential ingredient to peaceful and constructive relationships,” Milliken said in a press release. “Too often, impressions of the United States are formed through films, television and other artificial mechanisms rather than interaction with real Americans. Assuring a physical presence of Nebraska students and faculty in Xi’an with the ability to interact on a personal level will provide a better and more balanced view of the United States.”

The American Culture Center will boost faculty and student experiences in both China and Nebraska, Milliken said.  Xi’an, with a population of around 10 million, is a gateway to western China and plays a vital role in furthering China’s position as a global decision-maker.

The center would act as a sort of reciprocal agent to the existing Confucius Institute at UNL.  Established in 2007, the institute’s mission is to teach Chinese language and culture in Lincoln and foster an understanding and appreciation of the culture throughout Nebraska.

Recently. China’s central government named Xi’an the country’s third “international city,” giving the city the same global sheen as Beijing and Shanghai.  Despite a high rate of tourism, the city still doesn’t receive the same amount of exposure to American culture as its colleagues.

The center will sponsor student exchanges to permit students of each institution to study at the other for a year, semester or shorter periods, as well as an American Culture Week, according to a press release. The center will also feature faculty lectures, cultural performances and instructional courses.

Discussions between NU and XJTU began during Milliken’s November 2010 China visit, where he and XTJU President Zheng Nanning kindled talks of a possible cultural exchange center.  The idea was then encouraged by former U.S. ambassador to China—and current candidate for the GOP presidential nomination—John Huntsman.

The American Embassy in Beijing selected NU from a host of competing universities as a recipient of $100,000 seed funding for the project.  The federal government encourages university-to-university relationships as a “critical component” in increasing mutual understanding between the U.S. and China, Milliken said.

UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman led discussions with Xi’an Jiaotong and signed the official agreement.

“Xi’an Jiaotong is providing us with good space in which to house the center, and we are planning an ‘American week’ in the spring where students and faculty from Nebraska can interact with their counterparts in Xi’an,” Perlman said in the press release. “This deepens the relationship between XJTU and the University of Nebraska and opens up expanding opportunities for student exchanges and joint research.”

Officals from XJTU didn’t respond to messages left by the Gateway.

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