Studying abroad remains vital ingredient of US foreign policy

Knowledge and understanding of other countries dispels stereotypes

Citing an old Chinese saying, personal experience and a handful of examples, US first lady Michelle Obama avidly encouraged students to study abroad in “a new era of citizen diplomacy” on Saturday.

“As the Chinese saying goes: It is better to travel 10,000 miles than to read 10,000 books,” she told more than 100 students when delivering a 15-minute speech at the Stanford Center at Peking University.

“We believe that relationships between nations aren’t just about relationships between governments or leaders. They’re about relationships between people, particularly our young people,” said the Harvard-educated lawyer from a working-class family.

Calling study abroad programs “a vital part of America’s foreign policy”, Obama said study abroad could help young people from different countries better cooperate with each other and know they all have a stake in each other’s success, and then to tackle their shared challenges.

“No country can confront them alone, the only way forward is together,” she said, citing issues including climate change and economic opportunities.

Wang Enge, president of Peking University, echoed Obama’s view, saying “mutual understanding is the very first step” for China to fully integrate into, and be fully accepted by, the world.

Wang also spoke of his anticipation of more US students coming to China, including Obama’s two teenage daughters joining Peking University, which triggered applause from the audience.

Christianna Madson, a 23-year-old US student at Peking University, said foreign students, representing their own country, could be a

cultural bridge to carry out citizen diplomacy.

“The more you know a country, the more you dispel the stereotypes,” said the student majoring in linguistics.

Madson, who learned Chinese for five years, said she planned to work in China to continue “building the bridge” as more foreign companies and organizations came to China and more Chinese enterprises kept expanding throughout the world.

According to the US first lady, China is currently the fifth most popular destination for Americans studying abroad.

“The US government actually supports more American students in China than in any other country in the world,” she said.

In 2009, US President Barack Obama announced the 100,000 Strong Initiative to encourage more US students to pursue studies in China.

China is the largest source of foreign students to US universities with more than 200,000 students studying there.

Zhang Yunqi, a sophomore at Peking University, said her willingness to study in the US became stronger after hearing the strong support from Michelle Obama.

“I believe it will be a trend for the US to be more open to Chinese students, with more scholarships provided,” she said.

Jia Qingguo, dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University, said the US also wants China to be more open.

“The differences between the two countries should not necessarily force them to be antagonistic to each other. Instead, it calls for understanding and cooperation,” he said.

Michelle Obama, who is on a weeklong maiden trip to China with her daughters and mother, has sought to promote education and youth empowerment since her arrival in Beijing on Thursday.

Must-see cultural sites for foreign dignitaries visiting China


Must-see cultural sites for foreign dignitaries visiting China 


Queen Elizabeth II visits Xi’an, China on Thursday, Oct. 16, 1986. Queen wears blue outfit. Warriors are brown-grey. [Photo/]

Must-see cultural sites for foreign dignitaries visiting China

Former US President Bill Clinton, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, and their daughter Chelsea take a tour ofthe Terracotta Warriors, June, 1998, Xi’an. [Photo/]

Must-see cultural sites for foreign dignitaries visiting China

Actor and former Californian governor Arnold Schwarzenegger smiles waving as he visits the Terracotta Army in Xi’an, Northwest China’sShaanxi province, 5 December 2013. [Photo/]

Must-see cultural sites for foreign dignitaries visiting China

This picture taken on June 30, 2013, shows Park Geun-hye, President of the Republic of Korea (ROK), during her tour of EmperorQinshihuang’s Terracotta Army Museum in Xi’an.  [Photo/]

Must-see cultural sites for foreign dignitaries visiting China

German Chancellor Angela Merkel smiles between two horses of the Terracotta Army in Xi’an, China, 17 July 2010. Mrs Merkel celebratesher 56th birthday in Xi’an, her Chinese zodiac is the Horse. Chancellor Merkel is on a five-day visit to Russia, China andKazakhstan.  [Photo/]

Must-see cultural sites for foreign dignitaries visiting China

On October 17, 2004, Russian President Vladimir Putin visits The Terracotta Warriors Museum, located near the burial vault of EmperorQin Shi Huang, the legendary emperor who unified China around 200 BC.  [Photo/]

Must-see cultural sites for foreign dignitaries visiting China

Former US President Bill Clinton, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, and daughter Chelsea laugh as they stroll along a section of the GreatWall of China, June, 1998. [Photo/]

Must-see cultural sites for foreign dignitaries visiting China

Former US President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan visit the Great Wall of China, Saturday, April 28, 1984, Beijing.[Photo/]

Must-see cultural sites for foreign dignitaries visiting China

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and wife Laureen visit the Great Wall of China at Badaling in Beijing, China on Thursday,December 3, 2009. [Photo /THE CANADIAN PRESS/]

Must-see cultural sites for foreign dignitaries visiting China

US President Barack Obama tours the Great Wall in Badaling, China, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009.  [Photo/]


Beijing set to host global tourism center

The delights and flavors of the world’s leading cities are coming to Beijing with the opening of a center dedicated to replicating what tourists will see.

A trial run for the experience center will start on Thursday as one of the major events during the Fragrant Hill Summit for world tourism cities from Sept 11 to 14.

The interactive center, located in the city’s Shijingshan district, will showcase the scenery and attractions of more than 60 global cities through the use of digital displays and three-dimensional technology, according to the World Tourism Cities Federation, the center’s operator.

After the trial run, the center will open to the public during the National Day holiday in October, said Yan Han, deputy head of the federation, at a news conference on Thursday.

Yan said the second phase for the experience center will house the foundation’s headquarters and will also serve as a theme park dedicated to tourism.

The federation is a nonprofit and international nongovernmental organization founded in Beijing in 2012. It has 68 members from various global cities and 39 institutions from around the world. Representatives from more than 100 members of the federation have confirmed their participation in the event, including mayors from about 30 cities.

In May this year, the federation’s status as an international organization was recognized by the United Nations.

The tourism experience will allow Beijing residents to see their tour destinations before they make their travel plans, said Yu Debin, deputy director of the Beijing Commission of Tourism Development.

It will also help Beijing learn from the experience of member cities, Yu said.

In 2012, visitor arrivals in Beijing exceeded 231 million, bringing revenue of 330 billion yuan ($53.9 billion). The added value contributed by the tourism industry accounted for 8 percent of the gross domestic product in Beijing in 2012, according to official statistics.

During this year’s Fragrant Hill Summit, the second World Tourism Cities Expo will be held, and forums for media, aviation operators, tourism services and relevant enterprises will also be held during the summit, authorities said.


CHINA – Demand for luxury goods driving commercial real estate market

By Wu Yiyao in Shanghai (July 12, 2012 16:06)

Aggressive expansion by luxury and fast-fashion brands in China is driving the country’s retail property investment market, according to the latest report released on Thursday.

A report by Cushman & Wakefield, the privately held commercial real estate services company, said rapid growth in the second half in consumer expenditure and surging enthusiasm for luxury brands, are pushing up demand for retail property, especially in Beijing and Shanghai.

Citing a recent survey by Bain & Co, which pointed out that luxury sales in China had experienced 25 percent growth in 2011, the Cushman report said luxury consumption in China shows no sign of slowing down, with the country now the world’s third-largest luxury market.

The result is rising rents and limited supply of top retail space in key city center locations, said the report.

A typical example of the type of luxury name vying for the prime spots is Italian style icon Gucci. The number of Gucci stores in the Chinese mainland has increased from four in 2004 to 46 in 2011 and continues to grow in 2012, the report said.

The Chinese market accounted for 22.6 percent of Gucci’s total revenue last year and its year-on-year growth reached 15 percent in the first quarter of 2012.

In the first half, transaction volumes within the overall luxury sector in Shanghai reached $2.52 billion, of which retail property transactions reached $110 million, accounting for 4.2 percent of the city’s total retail transactions.

Shanghai’s five key retail areas all saw increasing rents in prime retail space.

Representing a 1.03 percent quarter-on-quarter growth, average monthly retail property rentals climbed to 1,904 yuan ($299) per square meter.

Nanjing West Road saw average monthly rentals hit 2,100 yuan per square meter in the second quarter, the highest among the five key areas.

Overall market vacancy rates in Shanghai remained almost unchanged at just 6 percent.

Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Beijing, Suzhou, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Tianjin and Wuhan are regarded as the most attractive cities among retail realty investors, with vacancy rates of current retail property all below 7 percent, the report said.

Retailers are also taking up office buildings as they find a growing need for decent space for administration.

In Shanghai, about 29 percent of prime offices have been leased to international retailers, the report added.

“We are seeing strong competition from retailers for prime sites in both Beijing and Shanghai. While high levels of new supply will keep overall rental growth in check, we believe there is potential for further growth in prime rentals in both cities in the medium term,” said James Hawkey, executive director of retail services for Cushman & Wakefield China.

Fast-fashion brands are also expanding rapidly, especially in second- and third-tier cities.

Established names such as Zara and H&M opened more than 20 stores in 2011, while Uniqlo had more than 120 stores in the Chinese mainland by the first half of 2012, the report said.

The number of fast-fashion stores in 45 cities across China in the first quarter of 2012 saw a 9.5 percent quarter-to-quarter increase, the report said.

Retail investment in China has also been growing aggressively during the past two years.

In 2011, China’s retail investment volume reached 46.9 billion yuan in 2011, double the amount of 2010, according to the report.

With ongoing real estate curbs, developers are facing increasing pressure on financing, said Jack Ye, Cushman’s national director of capital markets in China.

With interest rates dropping, domestic investment will become more active, said Ye.

Zhang Ping, the company’s director of research, meanwhile, added that investing in China’s retail real estate is inevitably risky, especially for institutional investors, but in the long run, retail realty investment presents growth potential.

The company noted that increased investment in the sector by individuals, as the residential sector has cooled.


Beijing property market rebounds in July

Beijing property market rebounds in July
Xinhua (July 12, 2012 16:38)

BEIJING — Beijing’s housing market perked up in early July, with home sales jumping to 8,862 units, 44 percent more than early June, according to official figures released on Thursday.

Trading volume for homes jumped 86 percent compared with the corresponding period in 2011, according to data released by the municipal commission of housing and urban-rural development.

Both new and second-hand home sales volumes rose sharply compared with early June and the same period last year.

The average price of a new home in early July was 20,932 yuan ($3,284) per square meter, similar to the figure released for the previous month, according to data from 5i5j Real Estate, a major Chinese real estate company.

The People’s Bank of China announced on July 5 that it would cut the benchmark interest rate for one-year deposits by 25 basis points and that for one-year lending by 31 basis points.

It marked the central bank’s second interest rate cut in two months, with the move apparently intended to stimulate borrowing as the economy is expected to slow further in the second quarter of 2012.

First-time buyers and purchases of luxury homes jointly contributed to the increased demand, said Hu Jinghui, vice president of 5i5j Real Estate.

Lower prices from developers and the reduction of interest rates also prompted the rebound, Hu said.

Hu said he does not expect a rebound in the second half of the year, as the government has voiced its determination to continue to curb speculation in the property sector.

A slew of measures put in place since 2011, including restrictions on second-home purchases, higher down payments and the introduction of property taxes, have cooled the property market to a certain extent and made buyers hesitant to purchase.