On Thursday, the 27th of September, the University of Johannesburg Confucius Institute (UJCI) was paid a special visit by the Vice-Mayor of one of the largest cities in China, Nanjing(which had recently also hosted 29 UJCI students as part of its 2-week Summer Camp program, Mr Yang Xuepeng.
The Vice-Mayor's visit comes just after two weeks since the Vice-Minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology, Professor Xu Nanping, had paid a visit to the University and the Confucius Institute.
The meeting also drew participation from the Internationalisation Office of the university (represented by Professor Judy Peter, Director: Division for Internationalisation), as well as other South African universities namely Wits University, University of Pretoria and the University of Cape Town (represented by the newly appointed Co-Director of its Confucius Institute, Mr Liu Wenyu. Also present was the First Secretary for Education in the Chinese Embassy, Mr Wang Daoyu.
Following the formalities, Professor Peng Yi, Co-Director of the UJCI and Chair of the meeting, introduced the UJCI (1 of 5 Confucius Institutes in the country) and reiterated its openness to cooperation and collaboration with various partners in China and in South Africa. Professor Judy Peters thanked the Vice-Mayor for the visit on behalf of the Vice-Chancellor of UJ and Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Internationalisation, Professor Saurabh Sinha.
She recalled memories of her office's 2016 three-week visit to Nanjing as part of the lead-up to the opening of the UJCI, which was jointly established by UJ and the Nanjing Tech University (NTU) in 2014.
In his remarks, the Vice-Mayor, who had just recently arrived from Germany, spoke on the growing cooperation between China and South Africa at the national and local levels, including at the city-to-city level, as well as in higher education. He, therefore, thanked the hard work of the Internationalisation staff, students, academics and the general leadership and management of the university.
People-to-people exchanges and student scholarships in the pipeline
Vice-Mayor Yang also stated that he welcomes and encourages South African students to study in his city, as well as budding entrepreneurs to establish their start-ups there. Both these processes, he stated, will receive much support from his office, which is part of an administration of a city of well over 8-million people, and a US$145-billion economy as of 2017. The city is also home to over 53 higher education institutions, and over has 400,000 researchers in various fields. Yang highlighted, therefore, that his city was ready and open for South Africa's best and most talented students.
Mr Wang, speaking on behalf of the Chinese Embassy, reiterated and concurred with these sentiments, highlighting that they had already sent hundreds of students to China under scholarships from the Chinese Government. The scholarships, he added, "cover tuition, dormitories, medical care and around R8000 for daily spending." He also spoke of the mandate of all Confucius Institutes' roles as lying in their Chinese Co-Directors being integrated into their countries of operation and partner universities so that they could understand and help both achieve their aspirations and needs.
China, UJ and Industry 4.0: Paths to deepened cooperation
Professor Peter, detailed the university's structures, as well as ongoing projects, including the establishment of the medical school, decolonisation, and integration into the 4th Industrial Revolution. "The University is uniquely situated in this regard because it has the highest concentration of PhDs in Artificial Intelligence in South Africa," she said. China, she added, has many advantages as far as Industry 4.0 is concerned and that UJ would benefit from collaboration with its institutions, one of which, the NTU, had signed a MoU for a joint master's program in August of this year during the VC's trip there.
In his closing remarks, Dr David Monyae (Co-Director: UJCI) stated, that the university appreciates this important meeting and that it was a crucial step towards deepened cooperation through youth and students, who are to be granted opportunities to study in China and thereby gain crucial skills and niche qualifications, as well as appreciate and understand the Chinese worldview. He also relayed the university's leadership's looking forward to visiting Nanjing this December for a Global Confucius Institutes conference, as well as sending another 20 students to Nanjing City around the same time for the Winter Camp.