China comes to ASU
Arizona Republic
Oct. 19, 2007


University partners with sister-school to create new Confucius Institute

 by Kendall Wright

ASU will unveil its new Confucius Institute Monday in hopes of changing the perception of China as foreign country to that of a rising and influential global leader, officials say.

The Institute, which will be on the Tempe campus, is a result of a new partnership between ASU and its sister school, the Sichuan University in Chengdu, China.

It will serve as a resource to educate students of the University and the Arizona community through a variety of programs, said Madeline Spring, an ASU Chinese professor and co-director of the Confucius Institute.

"Twenty-first century students must be prepared to function as global citizens and leaders," Spring said. "The Institute will hopefully help this by increasing awareness of the importance of Chinese language and culture within and beyond the university setting."

One of the main focuses of the Institute will be on education in Valley schools, she said. The Confucius Institute's main outreach program will collaborate with public schools that offer China-related programs as well as heritage schools such as the Contemporary Chinese School of Arizona to teach the Chinese language and culture, Spring said.

"In Arizona we have found many educators, students and their parents who share this increased enthusiasm for an increased awareness about China," Spring said. "Language acquisition at an early age has proven to be most effective in giving students a strong foundation both in the language they are studying, and also in learning how to learn a language."

Students in Arizona should be able to learn both Chinese and Spanish, Spring added.

The Institute has been funded through the Council on International Language Training in China.

ASU President Michael Crow's China Initiative program also helped fund the Institute. The program was created to implement the New American University agenda, said Stephen West, a Chinese professor and director at the Center for Asian Research.

In recent years, West said the Chinese population has expanded immensely to the western United States, and the Asian population in Arizona has more than doubled.

West said there are many reasons why the Institute is important to have.

America's culture has been infiltrated with Anime, martial arts and Chinese movies, while the economy is now a major trading partner with non-English speaking countries, he said.

"In this environment, in which the total possibilities of interaction range from ideological and practical conflict to cooperation, there is very little actual cultural or linguistic knowledge about China available to citizens of Arizona," West said in an e-mail. "Arizona State University has recognized this and has made internationalization, particularly Asia, one of the major initiatives of its New American University model for the 21st century."

Christoph Weber, a political science and Chinese junior, said he believes the Confucius Institute will be a good investment that will serve many purposes for students and the community.

With knowledge of the country and its culture, he said he believes future relations with China have a better chance at being a positive, as well as opening up many opportunities for international business ventures.

"I think this is a great investment for ASU, the community of the Valley, and really for anyone that gets involved in the Institute," Weber said. "Our world is continuously globalizing, and it is no longer acceptable for Americans to be ignorant of it."

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