New building for study of Mandarin

Updated: 2013-10-17 10:57

By Li Aoxue in Beijing (China Daily USA)

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It was more than a ribbon cutting ceremony for Florence Fang, who was present for the dedication of the building she donated to Peking University to teach the Chinese language to foreign students. It was the fulfillment of an important part of her China dream.

"I had dreamed of becoming a student of Peking University at a quite early age, and I hope the completion of the building will make a contribution of promoting Chinese culture to the entire world," Fang said on Wednesday in Beijing as more than 150 people including representatives from the university and from San Francisco and Oakland, California, attended the celebration of the Florence Lee Fang Building for the School of Chinese as a Second Language.

The Chinese American entrepreneur and activist in the United States has devoted herself to China's educational development. Fang, who has successfully managed multiple businesses, including being the former publisher of the San Francisco Examiner, is the chairwoman of the Florence Fang Family Foundation.

She was awarded the California Woman of the Year, in 1990 and 2003. In 2006, she donated $3 million to the University of California Berkeley's East Asian Library. She is an honorable trustee at Peking University, and an honorable trustee and an honorable professor at Wuhan University, to which she gave about $100,000 in 2008.

In 2010, Fang was the only Chinese entrepreneur who worked in support of the "100,000 Strong Initiative," which was announced in 2009 by US President Barack Obama as an effort to increase the number of American students studying in China to 100,000 over four years.

In 2010, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton formally launched the initiative in Beijing. Now known as the "100,000 Strong Foundation" and established through the support of the Fang Foundation and the Ford Foundation, it has been supported by the Chinese government with scholarships for Americans to study in China.

The foundation's goal is to strengthen the US-China economic and strategic relationship, and enhance global stability.

"The 21st century is a century of internationalization, and the Chinese language becoming international is an inevitable trend by cultivating foreigners who can master Chinese and then serve activities related to China when they go back to their home country," Fang said. "The School of Chinese as a Second Language plays an important role in promoting cooperation between China and other countries."

Teaching Chinese as a second language started at Peking University in 1952. Among 40 internationally acclaimed people who have studied in China, 60 percent chose to study at Peking University, including former US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, and Barry Marshall, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2005.

The School of Chinese as a Second Language was established at Peking University in 2002.

Wang Enge, president of Peking University, said the Florence Lee Fang Building will improve the environment of the language school and help promote Chinese as an international language.

"I believe the completion of the building will become a warm home and academic center for those who are interested in the Chinese language," Wang said.

Jean Quan, the first woman and the first Asian American to be elected mayor of Oakland, California, said Florence Fang has set an example for all Chinese living overseas.

"She never forgets that she is a daughter who belongs to China, and even if she does not live in China, she considers the country's development," Quan said. "If everyone had that same consideration, the world will become a better place."

Quan said she hopes the Florence Lee Fang Building will become a home to many international leaders, just as Peking University established itself for many influential people and others who wanted to speak Chinese.

She said because it is not possible for all of US students to go to China to study Chinese, an exchange program with Chinese language teachers should be set up.

New building for study of Mandarin

New building for study of Mandarin

(China Daily USA 10/17/2013 page2)