Official trip aimed at advancing goal of UW-Madison presence in China

Representatives of the University of Wisconsin–Madison have returned to China this week, where they are seeking to expand the university’s engagement and move toward the goal of creating a physical UW–Madison presence there.

“On this trip, we are exploring exciting opportunities to establish a distinctive UW-Madison footprint in China,” says Gilles Bousquet, dean of the Division of International Studies and vice provost for globalization.

Bousquet and Laurie Dennis, associate director of the Wisconsin China Initiative (WCI), are scheduled to visit Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai, where they will meet with government, business and education leaders, including many who are UW–Madison alumni. They are being joined for meetings in Hong Kong and Shanghai by François Ortalo-Magné, Albert O. Nicholas Dean of Wisconsin School of Business.

“We have developed an understanding with our partners in Shanghai—the Minhang District government and Shanghai Jiao Tong University,” Bousquet says. “Together, we are seeking to create a unique UW presence that is consistent with the Wisconsin Idea and highlights the strengths of our world-class university, matched to the needs in China.”

The UW–Madison Law School has worked with the Minhang District for several years, providing training in law and public administration. UW–Madison and Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU), one of China’s leading universities, have had a variety of connections and exchanges, including reciprocal visits by their top leaders. One of SJTU’s campuses is located in the Minhang District, near the Zizhu Science-based Industrial Park.

“I am encouraged by the progress, but we still have details to iron out to make this a reality,” says Bousquet, who is making his fourth official trip to China in the past two years.

“If we are successful, UW-Madison will have a strong base for expanding learning opportunities in China and across the region for our students and faculty,” he says. “This will also better position the university to collaborate with the State of Wisconsin and Wisconsin companies to advance our state’s economic interests in this important part of the world.”

A UW presence in Shanghai, specifically, could open doors to a wide range of opportunities. Shanghai—China’s largest city, with 23 million people—has become a major global center for finance and commerce. The State of Wisconsin has a trade representative based in Shanghai, and several top Wisconsin companies, including Johnson Controls and Promega, have a presence there. China ranked third last year among Wisconsin export destinations, after Canada and Mexico, and is growing quickly.

UW–Madison already has a variety of connections with many of the top Chinese universities in Shanghai, including SJTU, East China Normal University, Fudan University, East China University of Politics and Law, and Tongji University.

The current trip is the latest in a series of official visits by UW–Madison delegations to China and Chinese delegations to Madison. The university’s engagement with China has accelerated in recent years, leading to the creation in 2007 of the Wisconsin China Initiative to help lead and coordinate these activities.

“Opening a UW–Madison office in China ranks among the top priorities set by the WCI Board,” says John Ohnesorge, WCI chair and director of the Law School’s East Asian Legal Studies Center.

“We recognize the critical importance—both for the university and state—of developing and maintaining strong academic and economic relationships in China,” says Ohnesorge. “We are fortunate that the University of Wisconsin enjoys a strong reputation in China.”

Chinese students currently represent the largest segment of international students—more than 1,500—enrolled at UW-Madison, and China has been rising in popularity—currently ranked third—as a study-abroad destination for UW students.

A long list of high-level UW–Madison visits to China—from Emeritus Chancellor Irving Shain’s ground-breaking trips in 1979 to former Chancellor Biddy Martin’s two visits in 2010—has reinforced the sense of UW–Madison’s interest and commitment there.

“Our long, consistent history of engagement there provides us with a solid foundation on which to build fruitful relationships far into the future,” says Interim Chancellor David Ward. “I am eager to move these important efforts forward.”

Kerry G. Hill