TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Harvard University has decided to move its Mandarin Chinese summer program from Beijing to Taipei in summer 2022.
The Harvard Beijing Academy summer study abroad program will be relocated to National Taiwan University in Taipei and will be renamed the Harvard Taipei Academy.
Program Director Jennifer L. Liu said the decision is due to “a perceived lack of friendliness” from the host university, Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU), Harvard’s student newspaper The Crimson reported. Liu said the program began to have trouble gaining access to the classrooms and dorms they required.
For example, Liu said BLCU did not place the students in a single dorm building. Instead, it told the program to divide the students into two different groups, with each one living in dorms of different quality, or to find a hotel that could keep their students together.
“Given the conditions they provided, we really couldn’t run the program with the quality that we are hoping to deliver to our students,” The Crimson quoted Liu as saying.
The program director said she suspects the unfriendly environment may be a result of Beijing's changing views toward American institutions. She said the U.S. government’s National Security Education Program had also moved its Mandarin language training to Taiwan, opening the Chinese Overseas Flagship in Taiwan center in 2019.
William C. Kirby, a professor of China Studies and chair of the Harvard Center Shanghai, said the Harvard Beijing Academy will move to Taiwan for “logistical reasons.” He noted that many of Harvard’s programs remain in place, as it continues to expand its connections with China.
He pointed out the Fairbank Center, the Harvard Kennedy School Asia Fellows Program, and the Harvard Center Shanghai had often worked with Chinese academics prior to the pandemic. “This is not a time in which this university is retreating from its engagement with China — it’s actually seeking every way possible to deepen it,” Kirby said.
Harvard Beijing Academy's summer study abroad program previously spanned nine weeks, with a week in the middle to give students time to travel to other places in China for a research project. After moving to Taipei, the program will be shortened by a week, so students can complete their research projects while covering course material, according to The Crimson.