I’m sure you will have heard about the vote by the British to leave the European Union, and you may be wondering what it means for our Chinese family of students, alumni and partners.
British politics are in uncertain times, but what our politicians have done, and will continue to do when G20 leaders meet in the Chinese city of Hangzhou in September, is to tighten the bond between China and Britain, to benefit our nations for generations to come.
The first thing to say is that the people of my university, the University of Sheffield, like many others, are united in welcoming young people from China, and this will not change. The welcome these students receive will be just as warm and sincere as in the past.
The EU referendum result did not reflect the hopes of young people or British universities. Almost 75 percent of British citizens aged 18 to 24 voted to remain in the bloc. They will not get their wish, but there is still great pride that the EU connected different and far-flung nations in a progressive and inclusive bond. Turbulence in politics does not overturn the hope of academics, but only makes their work more worthwhile.
Like the young people I speak to, I still look at Britain and see a very European country. I still look within British communities and still see warmhearted people who are generous with their time and are welcoming to strangers, including those from abroad. I look at the student community and think about how resilient they are to political campaigning that has sometimes verged on the mendacious and unbecoming, and to a vote that, at worst, could leave their livelihoods highly uncertain.
It is not just in Europe that young people are finding friends. According to studies by the Pew Research Center last year, the younger you are in the UK, the more likely you are to have a favorable opinion of China. The same research into global attitudes also found that the greatest proportion of British citizens – 41 percent – saw China as the world’s leading economic power, above the United States.
In international politics, as in personal life, your greatest source of certainty and dependability comes from your friends and allies. And in Britain, it is our Chinese friends that take this mantle.
We are deeply proud of our Chinese students and delighted with the increased numbers who have come in recent years. They often speak of the warm welcome that our British city has given them. This warmth will not fail, and we will continue to welcome many of you in the years ahead.
We are making sure that studying in Britain is the right preparation for a successful career, and the university has been investing in its research and teaching facilities in recent years.
Sheffield is a place where Chinese students can become part of the culture, a city that is based on technology and high-value industries, and where we are learning from Chinese expertise in high-tech civil engineering and urban planning of the kind that made great cities like Chongqing and Chengdu key strategic locations on the map of Chinese industry.
We are not just open to new ideas and disciplines from all over the world, but we also invest in them. Our largest investment project, the Diamond Building, was completed last year at a cost of 81 million pounds ($107 million; 96 million euros) and opened in September. It is an interdisciplinary study and research center, where departments collaborate and integrate, and traditions collide in the true spirit of academia.
The building’s fabric is made from recycled galvanized steel and glass and has facilities for rainwater harvesting and smart energy management to reduce energy waste.
Chinese students will be familiar with the spirit of environmentalism and sustainability that is manifest throughout the building. China has already boosted Britain’s nuclear energy capabilities and is our main partner in developing new solar technologies. It is a place where new energy technologies have met with industrial dynamism that countries like the UK and the US must try to match.
It is in cities like Sheffield, home of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, and Manchester, home of the National Graphene Institute, that we are powering up to achieve that dynamism that makes the UK China’s research partner of choice. This is a mission that we’re always taking forward.
In Sheffield, our students also become members of the country’s top student union, which offers all students wonderful facilities and support for those living in another country, perhaps for the first time.
Indeed, Sheffield is one of the few UK universities to have a dedicated international student officer, and we work closely together on our campaign to celebrate international students and to ensure they feel at home, as nations throughout the world increasingly look outward to seek the ideas and training that amount to the best education cuanto cuesta la viagra.
Like other British cities, Sheffield knows what Chinese students need and has developed the accommodation, restaurants and shops that Chinese students enjoy. Sheffield is even building a Chinatown.
Our industrial researchers also work closely with China. Our Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, for example, collaborates with the Chinese Nuclear Power Corp, and we have strong and treasured partnerships with a growing number of Chinese universities.
In October, I helped to welcome President Xi Jinping on his state visit to the UK – a proud moment of friendship between our countries. As ever, what had brought Xi and I together was a commitment that we made to future generations at the annual conference of Confucius institutes in the UK, where we reaffirmed that efforts to break down walls and build bridges between the UK and China must begin with young generations.
Confucius institutes exist because mutual understanding does not only come from sharing language; sometimes that can be used to outline people’s differences. Instead, words, actions and cultural understanding as a whole must be learned in order for us to speak on the same platform, as many British and Chinese aspire to do.
So Sheffield University has a distinguished link to China through our Confucius Institute, which was recently again named Confucius Institute of the year.
Britain is still pleased to share with China the honor of membership of the G20. We are looking, like China, for ways to make technology improve the world and liberate us, rather than dividing us, and keep our environment clean, not polluted. And we’re looking in China for partners in research and peers in learning.
I hope that all this reassures you of our lasting commitment to the people of China, whose students have become our friends and family. I wanted to give you my personal commitment that there is no need to worry about EU changes, as there will be little direct effect on Chinese students coming to Sheffield.