New $300 million scholarship for foreign students in China

Programme will be open to Irish students


Wall St mogul Stephen Schwarzman, whose Blackstone firm is one of the most biggest global players in the private equity arena, has announced the establishment of a $300 million (€230 million) endowed scholarship programme in China for students from around the world, based on the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.

The endowment will allow 200 students each year to take part in a one-year master’s programme in public policy, economics and business, international relations or engineering at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, starting in June 2016.

The US tycoon reckons it’s the largest philanthropic gift with foreign money in China’s history. “Blackstone invests all over the world and we, and I, have to think globally and where the world is going to go. I wanted to deal with the issue of China continuing to grow at two or three times the rate of the developed countries. China is producing 10 million jobs a year, while the developed world has very low or no job creation,” Mr Schwarzman said in a telephone interview.

He said it was highly likely that tensions will increase over time in this kind of scenario – trade tensions and even military tensions. “It’s important to address this by training a group of leaders, like the Rhodes scholars, of which Bill Clinton is a well-known example.

A year in China
“This is a paradigm change,” said Mr Schwarzman. “The students will spend the year in China, be assigned a mentor and learn how it works, then go back and interpret what’s going on.”

“We’re looking for people who we think will be thought leaders in their fields. We’re not interested in just one type of focus,” said Mr Schwarzman.

There was enormous enthusiasm from the Chinese side, and the project had been endorsed by President Xi Jinping.

“It’s a great blessing by the state. They send 200,000 students a year to the US, we send 26,000 to China, so it’s great to have the top level of students,” said Mr Schwarzman.

There will be four places available to students from Ireland and the UK.

“Ireland is really quite an internationally facing country compared to most of its size and location. It has a progressive approach to taxation policy and Ireland has created a terrific flow of co-operation with the US and elsewhere,” said Mr Schwarzman. “The first step is to complete raising money for the projects. I have given $100 million, and in the last six months another $100 million has been raised from private donors,” Mr Schwarzman said. These private donors include BP, which is the biggest donor, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Boeing, GE, JPMorgan Chase, Bloomberg Philanthropic, Caterpillar, Credit Suisse and Deloitte.

Highly visible
He was confident funding would come from Chinese firms because the programme was so highly visible in China.

Schwarzman said 45 per cent of the students would come from the United States, 20 per cent from China and the rest from other parts of the world.

Both President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping sent congratulatory letters, which were read out at the announcement ceremony at the Great Hall of People – China’s symbolic heart of political power. Tsinghua is one of China’s top universities, and has produced many of China’s senior leaders, including both President Xi and former President Hu Jintao. It was set up 1911, when the US used the indemnity money paid by the Chinese government after the anti-foreigner Boxer rebellion to establish a preparatory school for students later sent to study in America.

The programme’s advisory board includes former world leaders such as France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, Britain’s Tony Blair, Canada’s Brian Mulroney and Australia’s Kevin Rudd. Former US secretaries of state Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice are also on the board, as well as top cellist Yo-yo Ma.

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