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University Heads Meet for Better Ties
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Presidents of dozens of colleges and universities in China and Japan attending a two-day forum in Shaanxi's provincial capital, Xi'an, are not letting their countries' frosty diplomatic relations stand in the way of finding new ways to further academic study.


"Chinese and Japanese universities face similar challenges and issues and the cooperation between the two academic communities will help the growth of advanced education in the Asian region," Vice Minister of Education Zhang Xinsheng said when addressing the Fourth China-Japan University President Forum from May 10-11.


The presidents of 16 Chinese and 15 Japanese colleges and universities are attending the forum.


He noted that it is the historical duty of both Chinese and Japanese universities to help reshape a harmonious Sino-Japanese relationship and boost the common prosperity of the two countries and the Asian region.


Echoing Zhang's view, Japanese Vice Minister of Education Kondo Shinji also told the forum that Japanese and Chinese colleges and universities are both at a crucial phase of reform in the knowledge-driven 21st century.


Japan's political ties with China have chilled markedly over the past year due to a number of disputes, some of which are linked to education.


Japan's approval of a junior high school history textbook in 2005, which played down the 1937 Nanjing Massacre and ignored the sexual enslavement of women for Japanese soldiers, has contributed to the chill.


The most serious issue remains Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated pilgrimages visits to the Yasukuni Shrine honoring Japan's World War II war criminals.


The heads of the two neighboring nations have halted exchange of visits for over four years, ever since Koizumi began paying homage to the controversial war shrine soon after he took office in 2001.


Nevertheless, the Chinese government has repeatedly said the relations between China and Japan were achieved through "long-term and arduous efforts" of many people and therefore "deserve to be cherished."


Statistics from Japan show that there are about 120,000 overseas students studying in Japan and more than 80,000 are from China.


In a bid to attract more Chinese overseas students to study in Japan, Japan's education ministry is now planning to increase its budget for overseas Chinese students studying at expensive private universities, according to a source with the ministry.


Officials from the 15 Chinese and Japanese universities held one-on-one consultations and signed or renewed their exchange and cooperation agreements.


The annual forum was initiated by Peking University and Japan's University of Tokyo in 2000. The Chinese and Japanese education ministries have taken part in the forum since 2003.


(China Daily May 12, 2006)

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