US-China Relations: Harvard University Moves Language Program From China to Taiwan

Harvard University will move its Chinese language program from Beijing to Taipei next year, claiming that the relations between the United States and China are still tense.

According to the Harvard Crimson student newspaper, the Harvard Beijing Academy will no longer collaborate with the Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU), but the academy is expected to move to the National Taiwan University in Taipei.

The Program Director Jennifer L. Liu told Harvard Crimson that the step was taken due to unfriendliness of the host institution in China. Liu said that the program started to see difficulties in recent years in terms of accessing classrooms and dorms.

“BLCU did not provide a single dorm for all the students, instead requiring the program split the students into two different dorms of different quality, or to find a hotel that could keep their students together,” Liu added.

She further said that the unwelcoming environment might have been created due to a shift in the Chinese government’s attitudes towards institutions in the United States under President Xi Jinping, highlighting that in 2019, BLCU did not allow the program to host the Fourth of July small party, which in the past years, was held every summer.

Meanwhile, William C. Kirby, a professor of China Studies and Chair of the Harvard Center Shanghai, told the paper that the Harvard Beijing Academy relocated to Taiwan for “purely logistical reasons” as Harvard has been building closer ties with China.

“This is not a time in which this university is retreating from its engagement with China — it’s actually seeking every way possible to deepen it,” Kirby said.

According to National Taiwan University, the program will begin next summer in Taipei with some 60 students who will attend classes for eight weeks.

The Harvard Beijing Academy, which was established in 2005, is a nine-week program set up by Harvard University and BLCU. The university has hosted many students from the US universities, including Harvard and Yale University, who have studied Chinese language and culture as well as had the chance to participate in exchanges with Chinese families.

According to BLCU’s website, since its establishment, the university has trained a total of 220,000 international students from 184 countries and regions who are now proficient in the Chinese language and familiar with the Chinese culture.

Under the Trump administration, the visas of some 500 Chinese students who were expected to pursue postgraduate studies as STEM majors (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) at universities across the United States, have been rejected.

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