Harvard President Visits China, Meets Jiang

Now in the middle of a historic swing through East Asia, President Neil L. Rudenstine last week became the first sitting Harvard president to visit China, meeting with Chinese President Jiang Zemin and speaking to a standing-room-only crowd at Peking University.

Rudenstine met with Jiang at the Chinese central governmental headquarters last Tuesday.

During their hour-long discussion, Jiang and Rudenstine focused on promoting more academic exchange between Harvard and the Chinese people, both in terms of shared ideas and visiting students.

Other topics of discussion included the rapid economic growth of China, Chinese literature and culture, American history and Americanized pop culture.

Jiang also reminisced during the meeting about his Nov. 1 visit to Harvard and his speech at Sanders Theatre, remarking that his visit reinforced in his mind the importance of the exchange of ideas between countries.


Jiang's visit was marked by protest, but Rudenstine found a far warmer welcome for his address at Peking University.

Students stood in line for more than an hour to hear Rudenstine, and eventually nearly 1,000 students and faculty squeezed into an auditorium designed for 800.

In his address, Rudenstine emphasized the importance of the liberal arts education, along with the need for the university community to extend beyond across national borders.

"Universities can work to create "neutral spaces" for serious discussion, based on a shared commitment to free inquiry, to rigorous research and analysis, and to open dialogue," Rudenstine said.

Rudenstine ended his speech by emphasizing the need to be "energetically pursuing the ideals of openness, free inquiry, and the free exchange of ideas."

Student leaders of last November's protests said they were skeptical about Rudenstine's motives for the trip.

"Why is he going there? Is it for the greatergood and open discourse or is it a monetarything?" said Whitney K. Bryant '99-'00,urgent-action coordinator for Harvard-RadcliffeAmnesty International.

"[Amnesty International condemns] human-rightsviolations, but I personally as a moral humanbeing want to know: what is in it for Harvard andwhy didn't human rights come up?" Byrant added.

President Rudenstine's address at PekingUniversity opened celebrations commemoratingPeking University's centennial year. PekingUniversity was founded in 1898 with the help ofHarvard faculty and administrators.

Rudenstine continued his tour last Wednesday inthe newly Chinese city of Hong Kong. He iscurrently in Taipei, visiting with educationalofficials and local groups of Harvard alumni

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