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Prof Zhang Brings Chinese Foreign Policy to Rhodes

Date Released: Tue, 31 August 2010 10:52 +0200

Professor Zhenjiang Zhang from the department of International Relations at Jinan University in China spent the last term teaching honours and master’s students at Rhodes the basics of Chinese Foreign Policy. The course covered topics such as China’s peaceful rise, China’s challenges, the history of the policy and also included a decade-by-decade look into the way the policy changed.
This is Prof Zhang’s second time lecturing at Rhodes and will certainly not be his last. This time he brought his family with him to experience the peaceful town and friendly people.
Initially he struggled with language issues but as time went by he got more fluent and more involved with the students as he educated them on Chinese international theory – a subject he felt they did not know enough about.
Prof Zhang knew that the third term would be short and he pushed his students to take in double the work so that they could get the full benefit of his time at Rhodes.
He was very pleased with the way the students progressed and was impressed by the type of questions the students were asking him. He believes that Rhodes students ask critical, deep and important questions that the quieter Chinese students might not ask, “the students here have very good discussions. I enjoy seeing the way they think.” he said.
The best part of the trip for Prof Zhang is seeing a growing interest in China and its foreign policy among Rhodes students. In 2007 when he came to Rhodes the first time he only had ten students. This time he has just over 20 students and their eagerness to learn about China, to him, seems to have grown.
He is also very excited to see how quickly the Confucius Institute was established, as a project started between him and Prof Bischoff, the head of department – Political and International studies. The Institute teaches the Chinese language and he feels it has built a nice bridge between his university and Rhodes – opening doors to many of his students coming to Rhodes and vice-versa.
One thing Prof Zhang finds interesting about Grahamstown is that we have a university on the one end of the main street, that involves scientific research and output, and on the other end of the street, a cathedral showcasing the spirituality of the ‘City of the Saints’. Two complete opposites in his mind, and something he always chuckles about.
When asked what he misses most about home he said, “In China there is a strong sense of community. In South Africa it seems you believe in individualism whereas in China we are into collectivism. We build strong relationships at work and in our community that last a lifetime. I miss the closeness of the community we live in.”