Monday, 16 December 2013

Xiamen Malaysia Campus - Update

The China Education News (中国教育报) today reported on the continuing development of China's first overseas branch campus.  

Chinese Original Language Source: 

Xiamen University, one of the prestigious Project 985 universities announced in January 2013 that they would establish a full-research would establish a branch campus in the city of Salak Tinggi.   Salak Tinggi is the capital of Sepang District, Selangor, Malaysia and lies approximately 40km to the south of Kuala Lumpur.  

As reported in back in January of this year, this is the first instance of a Chinese university establishing an overseas branch campus operation.  

In that last report, available here  I argued that this was part of a range of policies aiming to utilise Chinese HE as the vanguard of a soft power strategy, which itself falls within the CCP and PRC strategic scope of China's Peaceful Development (中国和平发展), an idea central to China's development ethos in the 21st century.  These "going out" (走出去) strategies are coupled with "inviting in" (请进来) initiatives to build greater understanding of China and between China and other nations.  

Today's announcement goes into further detail as to the development plan which is receiving full financial backing from the highest levels of the Chinese government.  The Xiamen University Malaysia Campus is to be fully funded by the China Development Bank (国家开发银行), one of the three main policy banks under the direct control of the State Council.   The China Development Bank (CDB) is the most important of China's infrastructure and industrial policy institutions.  CDB Governor Chen Yuan (陈元) holds government rank equivalent of a Cabinet Minister and reports directly to the State Council.  Chen has held the position of Governor of CDB since 1998, and is himself the son of one the CCP's 8 Immortals, Chen Yun (陈云).  The CDB has been repsonsible for all the key infrastructure projects in China in the modern era, including the Three Gorges Dam.  In fact, it would not be an overstatement to say that the CDB has been and continues to be the central pillar of China's industrialist policy at home and increasingly abroad.  It has loans in excess of double that of the World Bank.  

XU's Malaysia plan aims to establish a campus covering in excess of 600,000sqm (150 acres) with over 300,000sqm in constructed facilities on that campus and capable of facilitating 10,000 students.  

The plan aims to recruit students at the undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral level, with a first intake of 500 students to take place in 2015.  The first phase will see the following schools developed:

School of Chinese Linguistics and Culture
School of Oceanic and Environmental Studies
Business School
Medical School
School Computer Science

Phase II will see the further introduction of:
School of Chemical and Energy Engineering
School of Electronic Engineering
School of Biological Engineering
School of Materials Science and Technology
School of Cultural and Creative Animation

In addition to the CDB full financial backing, it is reported that RMB200m has been donated by Malaysia's richest man, Kuok Hock Nian, for the construction and establishment of the library at XU Malaysia.  

Furthermore, Xiamen University has some excellent advantages in this region. Firstly, it was established by Tan Kah Kee (Chen Jiageng 嘉庚) as the University of Amoy (Amoy being the old name of Xiamen). Tan was a wealthy and famous Fujian-Singaporean philanthropist and is extremely well-known and revered in SE Asia. Secondly, along with Tan, most of the Chinese diaspora in SE Asia are descended from Fujian immigrants and speak the Fujian dialect or a slight variation on it (known as Hokkien throughout the SE Asian region). This gives an incredibly strong connection to Fujian and Xiamen amongst a great deal of the Chinese population in Malaysia. In fact, knowing how the Chinese HE sector is so strategically controlled, it is impossible to see this as an internal Xiamen initiative. The cultural suitability of Xiamen for this project is such, and when considering the high level ministerial approval needed, that it can only really be viewed as a national-strategic initiative to kick start Chinese HE as a major regional power in the Asia Pacific.

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