In ‘gesture of friendship,’ China Vice Premier visits Pitt


Liu Yandong, the vice premier of the People’s Republic of China, paid a visit to Pitt on Friday in what both she and University officials called a show of friendship.

Yandong visited Pitt as part of a three-city tour in the U.S. Earlier in the day, Yandong met with Mayor Bill Peduto. Yandong is expected to end her time in the U.S. at the sixth China-U.S. High-Level Consultation on People-to-People and Cultural Exchanges in Washington, D.C. on June 23 and 24. There, Yandong will meet with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Yandong met Chancellor Patrick Gallagher outside the Cathedral of Learning Friday at 2:30 p.m. before meeting with the Chancellor privately in his office. At approximately 3:55 p.m., Gallagher and Yandong entered Alumni Hall to a chorus of welcome from young children as part of Pitt’s wide-reaching branch of the Confucius Institute, a Chinese language and cultural center. Yandong was scheduled to hear a presentation on Pitt and UPMC as a model for health care after the ceremony.

At the ceremony, Yandong heard presentations by Albert Novak, the chair of Pitt’s Confucius Institute, and performances by the students of the Berks County Confucius Classroom. Gallagher and Yandong bookended the ceremony with speeches.

“This is an exciting time to be in Pittsburgh,” Gallagher said. “Pitt, as we call it here, is now one of the best in the country.”

Gallagher praised the cooperation between Pitt and Sichuan University, a university in Chengdu, China. Pitt formed a partnership with the institution in 2013 and broke ground for the Sichuan University-Pittsburgh Institute, a joint engineering institute, last July.

Friday’s ceremony, though, wasn’t Yandong’s first interaction with Pitt. In 2008, 2010 and 2013, Pitt’s Confucius Institute won Confucius Institute of the Year, and its director, Michele Heryford, won Outstanding Director of the Year in 2011 and 2012. Yandong presented some of those awards to Pitt.

Novak said Pitt students learning Chinese through the Confucius Institute and Friday’s ceremony are steps in the right direction for improving relations between the U.S. and China.

“The best way to become friends is to understand each other,” he said.

Nicole Constable, director of the Asian studies center said stronger relations between the U.S. and China would benefit both the Confucius Institute and the Asian studies center.

“[We all] share the goals of cultural understanding, and all work together to promote good and mutually beneficial relations with China,” Constable said.

In addition to the ceremony, Yandong announced that she would invite 50 students and teachers from Pitt’s Confucius Institute to travel to China for a summer camp. The flagship Confucius Institute will provide 10 scholarships for Pitt students to China and the Chinese government will donate 1,000 Chinese language books to Pitt. In return, Gallagher presented Yandong with a published book of “thank yous” written in Chinese by Confucius Institute students.

“If Chinese young people can learn English and young people here can learn Chinese, it opens up opportunities for deeper cooperation and friendship,” Yandong said.