The China Liaison Office
In its early years, Queen’s strived to be a national institution, one that drew students from all across Canada. Now, that ambition has grown, and Queen’s works to attract talented learners and thinkers from around the world. Since 2007, many of those people have found their way to Queen’s thanks to the work of the China Liaison Office.
In the 2000s, Queen’s had a small number of successful partnerships in China and was interested in pursuing more. The university was eager for more research collaboration, student exchanges and alumni relations in China, but differences in time, language and, of course, the vast distance, made these difficult. Queen’s soon realized that to make progress, the university would need an active and constant presence in China. In response, it opened the China Liaison Office on the campus of Shanghai’s Fudan University, making it the first Canadian university to have an office in China.
Political studies professor, Dr. Zhiyao Zhang, was named its director. Dr. Zhang was born, raised and completed his education in China, and before teaching at Queen’s, he had been a dean at China’s Jilin University. Dr. Zhang was a natural fit for the job and he has been running the office ever since.
In the nine years the China Liaison Office has been open, Dr. Zhang says the office has gone through three phases, each with a slightly different goal. In that time, it has had a remarkable record of success. For its first few years, the office staff were laying the foundations for strong relationships, making possible the research collaboration, alumni relations and recruitment that Queen’s had hoped for. The office re-established an exchange program with Fudan University, began partnership talks with other institutions and built relationships with educational and governmental authorities.
From 2010-14, the China Liaison Office moved towards cementing partnerships with Chinese universities, successfully making agreements and building on collaboration with universities like Tongji, Fudan, Beijing Normal University and Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, to name a few. At that same time, it also established a number of collaborative research platforms like the Sino-Canada Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development and the Centre for Canadian Public Policy Studies. Those agreements have led to academic activities like Sino-Canada Water Forum, the Sino-Canada Governance Roundtable and the Canadian Study Lecture Series at Fudan.
Since 2014, the China Liaison Office has been in its third phase. Now well-established, the office also has an admissions representative who helps inform prospective Chinese students about Queen’s programs and recruit them to campus. The office also facilitates the ever-growing number of faculty who want to collaborate with Chinese colleagues. With a burgeoning number of Queen’s graduates in China, they opened a Queen’s alumni branch in Beijing in 2016 and established the Queen’s China Alumni Scholarship.
Improving relations and opportunities between Queen’s and China is a broad mandate, which Dr. Zhang says is what makes the work so interesting. “Managing the China Liaison Office is actually managing very diverse tasks, because it’s not an office with a very specialized focus,” he says. On a given day, Dr. Zhang might work with government officials, university leaders, curious researchers and prospective students.
It’s a lot to juggle, but each day, the China Liaison Office makes it work. “The challenges come from the very different culture of universities in Canada and in China, which is why we need an office to bridge the two and to coordinate, communicate and get things done,” Dr. Zhang says.
Pictured above: Dr. Zhiyao Zhang