Chinese tuition offers solutions for Africans Thursday, June 24, 2010

One man's meat is another man's poison. While there are those quick to criticize China's venture in to Africa for strong presence, Edward Kadozi views it as a golden opportunity for his country to benefit from the various facets of China's development successes.

"In Africa, we talk about bringing the Asian dragons or tigers to the continent," says the program specialist from Rwanda's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.

"We want to learn how China could manage a population of 1.3 billion and at the same time develop at a fast rate."

He's one of the many African government officials sponsored by China's Ministry of Commerce to study at postgraduate level at Tsinghua University's School of Public Policy and Management.

Lecture in English

The school, just a decade old, has benefited from the intellectual exchange and diversity of backgrounds and experiences among its foreign officials and students. It boasts three public policy programs including an international program taught in English, an accomplishment considering a decade ago it was a rarity for universities in China to offer courses in English because of the language barrier.

It's a different story these days at the school. Half of its faculty members are fluent in English and are trained abroad, says Lan Xue, dean of the school.

The first such professional institution in China, the School of Public Policy and Management is gaining more ground in promoting understanding and building trust among its foreign students, who are mostly officials from developing countries where China has existing or potential interests - economic or otherwise.

Sponsored by the Ministry of Commerce, the one-year full time international Masters of Public Administration grants full scholarships to all enrolled foreign officials. Begun in 2008, the program is designed for mid-career officials recruited by the ministry's offices located worldwide. So far, the program has 37 graduates and another 30 are expected to graduate this summer.

"Having them here is enlightening for us and vice versa due to the lively and thought-provoking exchanges. Some of them are pro-US, pro-India, pro-West, pro-Asia and so forth. We would rather have the debates in the classrooms than in the battlefields," he says.

Speaking about the school's role and mission, Lan - a frequent traveler and eloquent speaker who can comfortably take criticism about China - says: "It is our way of showing the nation that many people don't know. China is more open than most people think."

The school has proved that it has something valuable to offer. As a sign of recognition for its achievements and contribution to the next generation of leaders, the US-based MacArthur Foundation awarded a grant in 2009 to the school