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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

UMASS, CHINA SHAKE HANDS, AGREE UPON NEW INSTITUTE

UMass-Boston is setting a new standard throughout New England for enhancing the understanding of Chinese language and culture.

Last week, the University of Massachusetts signed a letter of intent to establish a Confucius Institute on campus. The agreement is between the university and the China National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (Hanban), based in Beijing.

“This new collaboration is an important extension of the University’s longstanding efforts to facilitate educational and cultural exchanges throughout the world,” said UMass President Jack M. Wilson. “The University of Massachusetts has a well-established history of promoting international student and faculty exchanges and of creating collaborative relationships with colleges and universities in many other nations.”

The Confucius Institute at UMass Boston will be a non-profit public institute incorporated with Boston and Hanban. There are five other such institutes across the country, but this will be the first in New England. Massachusetts has the nation’s second highest number of high schools that teach Mandarin Chinese classes. In 2004, statistics show that 11% of UMass students are of Asian descent.

President Wilson’s travels through China have taught him the importance of connecting with the rich culture overseas and hopes the new Institute will increase everyone’s familiarity in multiple levels.

“The mutual understanding of language and culture can only help to improve our future collaborations centered on our shared values,” said President Wilson.

UMass-Boston Chancellor Michael F. Collins weighed in on the news, stating, “This dynamic international center, which builds upon our award-winning education partnerships, will help improve teacher training and curriculum development, offer campus and community events, and build a world-class clearinghouse of Chinese language and cultural materials.”

China’s economy has changed considerably over the last few decades and has become geared towards significant involvement in the global economy, a major change from recent history when China secluded itself from international trade.

In last years United States Senate, former Vice-President hopeful Joseph Lieberman and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee introduced legislation in hopes of improving business and cultural relations with China. The legislation, labeled the United States-China Cultural Engagement Act, called for $1.3 billion over five years to fund Chinese language teaching in schools across the country.

“Senator Alexander and I are convinced that this investment will have big payoffs by smoothing the exchange of commerce and culture between our great nations and reducing misunderstandings into the future,” Lieberman said.