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USC U.S.-China Institute Conference

Remarks by Steven B. Sample
President, University of Southern California
April 20, 2007

As this is the first conference held by our U.S.-China Institute, I’d like to give you a brief account of its genesis. We announced our plans to create the institute last May during our trustee delegation to China. One of the advisors to the U.S.-China Institute is USC trustee and alumnus Herbert Klein, for whom the keynote lecture of this conference is named. A journalist who was White House director of communications during the Nixon administration, Herb Klein played an important role in the success of our trustees’ trip to China, and he is making significant contributions to the advancement of this new institute.

The USC U.S.-China Institute is unique because of its location at a major research university and its university-wide scope. Many universities have Asian research centers. However, these centers usually focus on Asian history or the humanities. The USC U.S.-China Institute has a much broader scope. Its focus is on modern China and the rapid changes taking place there. These changes range from economic to social trends, and from cultural to political trends.

I should note that outside the academy there are think tanks and other groups studying modern China and its relations with the United States. However, elite research universities such as USC possess some distinct advantages. These include expertise on China in a broad range of disciplines, the linking of research to teaching, and the combined talent of their top faculty, researchers, postdocs, and students.

There are many reasons why USC created the U.S.-China Institute. Some are obvious. They include globalization and the rapidly accelerating economy of China. However, there are three attributes that make our university and the U.S.-China Institute a perfect fit.

  • First, USC is a truly global university.
  • Second, USC is located in the city that is the de facto capital of the Pacific Rim.
  • And third, USC is dedicated to meeting the needs of both our students and society as a whole.

 

Now let me briefly explain each of these points.

First, USC is a global university. We’ve been educating international students for more than a century. In fact USC enrolls more international students and has more international alumni than any other American university. We have more than 3,000 alumni in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao and currently enroll over 1,600 undergraduate and graduate students from these areas. All together, students from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao represent the largest cohort of USC’s international student population.

USC has also established some important alliances. Our university is a founding member of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities. In addition, the Pacific Council on International Policy is a premier nonprofit organization that has its headquarters on our campus.

USC’s connections to the Pacific Rim bring me to my second point, which is its location in Los Angeles. As many of you know, L.A. is a creative and cultural powerhouse. Its ports are America’s busiest trade centers, and it is home to the largest Asian population in the United States. Los Angeles – and Southern California – have flourished in many ways because of the innovative research and the intellectual capital that USC and other neighboring universities produce. I would add that USC is also contributing to – and benefiting from – the vitality of our Pacific Rim neighborhood.

USC’s third attribute is its goals of meeting the needs of both our students and the global society in which we live. The U.S.-China Institute – and the work accomplished at this conference – will help USC fulfill its international goals. I’ve emphasized USC’s top ranking in terms of international students. However, our students – both international and domestic – are well aware of how important it is for them to be prepared for life and work in a global society. For example, the number of USC students enrolled in Chinese language courses has doubled in just a few years.

We at USC are also building on our location in Los Angeles to meet societal needs, which in many cases are global in scale. As an urban paradigm for the 21st century, greater Los Angeles is a microcosm of the larger world. A living laboratory of 13 million people, it is an extraordinary place in which to study and conduct research in subjects such as education, law, urban planning, medicine, environmental quality, economic development, and energy. These are also some of the topics that will be discussed at this conference. The insights and expertise provided during these discussions will spark new ideas and forge new alliances for your institutions and for the U.S.-China Institute. I’m delighted with the momentum of this young institute. It’s less than a year old, but it has already accomplished much. The institute is working closely with other USC schools and other research centers, including the USC East Asian Studies Center and the USC Center for International Business Education and Research. It is also funding the China-related research of our faculty in disciplines such as cinematic arts, social work, gerontology, and urban policy.

In addition, the institute is advancing the community’s understanding of East Asia through public performances, lectures, and training seminars for secondary school teachers in Southern California. These seminars on East Asian history and cultures for private and public school teachers are funded by grants from the Freeman Foundation. Using the knowledge they gain from these seminars, the teachers – some of whom are attending this conference – will be able to engage their students in the life and culture of East Asia.

Because of the support and talent of outstanding scholars, I have high hopes for what this conference and the U.S.-China Institute will achieve. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I believe I can safely predict that the future of the U.S.-China Institute is bright. The institute will be a beacon attracting top scholars from around the world. It will be the go-to resource for students, policymakers, journalists, and government officials. And it will help build the bridges that will broaden our understanding of the world and improve the lives of all peoples.