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Ambassador Zhang addresses the University of Waterloo

On February 24, His Excellency Zhang Junsai, Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to Canada, visited the University of Waterloo (UW) and delivered a keynote speech on China-Canada exchange and cooperation in education and science and technology. Despite the spring break, Ambassador Zhang's speech attracted a large group of faculty members and students. Ambassador Zhang also met with UW's President Mr. Feridun Hamdullahpur and Associate Provost Mr. Bruce Mitchell.

Ambassador Zhang spoke highly of UW, saying that it is one of Canada's leading universities and that it has placed first as the most inventive Canadian university for 19 years in Maclean's university rankings.

Ambassador Zhang stressed that the Chinese have a fine tradition of respecting the teachers and prioritizing education. After the reform and opening up, China made education the pillar for its long term development. With years of hard work, China now provides free nine-year compulsory education to all kids in the villages and cities. China's education endeavors are fully backed by its fiscal policy. In 1949, around the founding of the People's Republic, China's illiteracy rate was as high as 80 percent. The Chinese Government's continuous efforts have paid off. Statistics by the United Nations Development Program showed illiteracy rate among young and middle aged Chinese dropped to 6.7 percent in 2009.

Ambassador Zhang said that while improving education at home, China is turning its eyes abroad. One of China's major policies is encouraging more Chinese students to study overseas. Meanwhile, China has become a main destination for foreign students. This is the result of 30 years of reform and opening up and economic development. Recent years have seen rapid growth in educational exchanges between China and Canada. The educational departments and universities in the two countries established various forms of extensive partnership and conducted frequent mutual visits. There are over 30 Canadian Studies Centers in China, which have become the windows for Chinese people into Canada. The eight Confucius Institutes and 16 Confucius Classrooms in Canada are great places for Canadians to learn the Chinese language and culture.

Ambassador Zhang proposed three suggestions on how to strengthen China-Canada education partnership. First, the two countries need to continue to encourage more Chinese and Canadian students to study in each other's country. Second, the two countries need to promote friendly cooperation between more Chinese and Canadian universities. Third, the two countries need to build on their university exchanges, develop joint R&D programs and speed up technological transformation, in order to draw on each other's strength.

Ambassador Zhang later took questions from the audience on China-Canada R&D cooperation, how to improve courses on environment protection and what influence academic exchanges have on ideas.

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