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Belt and Road boosts int’l academic collaboration

Author  :  ZHAO SANLE     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2019-03-19

The Belt and Road (B&R) initiative has yielded fruitful results in the economic arena. At the same time, education and academic development in the countries involved are also important aspects of the initiative. Scholars detailed the role of the B&R in promoting international academic cooperation and the potential challenges and opportunities.

Maximilian Mayer, an assistant professor in International Studies at the School of International Studies at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China, said that the B&R provides many opportunities for academic cooperation in science, engineering and energy.

Tai Wei Lim, a senior lecturer at Singapore University of Social Sciences, said that Singapore and China have their unique advantages, and this creates potential for cooperation. The B&R provides a platform for enterprises, governments and academic institutions to take part in such cooperation. Specifically, companies can contribute by funding research, academia by holding international academic seminars and forming think tank coalitions, and governments by establishing research centers and institutions. Such trilateral cooperation can be realized on platforms such as jointly-held academic forums and events for social networking among scholars.

Ilan Alon, a professor of strategy and international marketing at the University of Agder, Norway, said that academic cooperation and economic growth can complement each other. The B&R can provide more funding for scientific research projects, and research projects can in turn benefit economic and social development.

For further academic cooperation, Alon advised that China should be more attractive to other countries and their scholars. To achieve that, China needs to work on building its soft power. Also, Chinese academia needs to be more confident and propose more original ideas and knowledge. At the same time, Chinese scholars need to be both critical and unbiased toward opinions and ideas.

Mayer said that talent-exchange programs benefit academic development on both sides. However, most of the universities co-founded by China and foreign countries are based in China. Promoting international academic cooperation requires not only foreign universities coming in, but also Chinese universities going out. China and other countries along the B&R route can deepen academic cooperation by jointly establishing universities in and outside China.

Alon said that as China becomes an international research powerhouse, Chinese universities will also make appearances more frequently in the international research arena.

Mayer said that academic cooperation in the social sciences is insufficient. Before China can carry out more international academic cooperation in this field, the country needs to build the social sciences into a stronger academic discipline and make it more visible to the general public.

Lim pointed out that, to deepen academic cooperation, China and the countries along the B&R route can start from specific projects. For example, the cultivation of high-level language talent, including those who specialize in simultaneous interpretation, can help overcome language barriers among countries.

Lim also advised enhancing mutual recognition of the education qualifications between Chinese and Singaporean universities. Cutting-edge technologies, such as virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence can be used to build electronic classrooms, breaking the distance barrier and reducing the cost of international academic cooperation.

Mayer said that Chinese scholars should actively explore more academic topics and seek common academic interests in the social sciences for more opportunities to cooperate with other scholars.

When talking about future international academic cooperation within the B&R framework, Mayer said that there has already been successful academic cooperation in science, technology and engineering. For example, China and some Eastern European countries are conducting joint academic projects in space exploration that promise significant results.

Lim said that China should have more and deeper interactions with scholars from Southeast Asian countries, thereby enhancing mutual understanding. Singaporean scholars should take the lead among Southeast Asian scholars and pursue common interests and consensus to promote international academic cooperation.

Editor: Yu Hui

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