Harvard officials are working to bring Chinese President Jiang Zemin to campus at the end of the month as part of the first official state visit by a Chinese head of state since before the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989.
Chen Mingming, an official in the American section of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing, told The Crimson last night it is "very likely" Jiang will come to Harvard.
Then-President Li Xiannian was the last Chinese head of state to pay a state visit to the U.S., in 1985.
The University Marshal's Office, which is coordinating Harvard's efforts to bring Jiang to campus, is awaiting official confirmation from the Chinese government. An official announcement is expected soon.
University Marshal Richard M. Hunt said he will likely have a stronger confirmation one way or the other by the end of the week.
"We don't know what the chances are," he said. "It may well be, it may well not come about. At the moment, we're really just not making any comment."
A senior University official confirmed last night that "planning is going ahead on the assumption that he is coming," but added that "his visit still might not happen," in part because of communications barriers.
The official also said an advance team of U.S. and Chinese officials, including security experts, has visited the campus.
Ezra F. Vogel, Ford professor of the social sciences and director of the Fair-bank Center for East Asian Studies, said an announcement is likely by Thursday. "We hope it works out but we cannot confirm" the visit, he said last night.
Jiang is making stops in several U.S. cities, including Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles and Williamsburg, Va. P.J. Crowley, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, confirmed that Boston is also on the itinerary.
While the National Security Council and the State Department will be kept informed of Jiang's plans, officials at both agencies said they do not yet know the specific details of each stop.
The Chinese embassy in Washington did not return phone calls yesterday.
Beini Zhou '00, a student from China, said he would be proud if Jiang spoke at Harvard.
"I think [the trip to the United States] is a great opportunity to foster better relations between China and the U.S., and Harvard could serve as a bridge to build that relationship," he said.
A Controversial Visit?