Nordic Centre to link the Nordic countries and China

The Nordic Centre at Fudan University in Shanghai is an important link between Nordic and Chinese students and researchers. Magnus Jorem, programme manager at the centre, is fully aware of the challenges that collaboration between folk from northern Europe and China can involve.

Outside Nordic Centre FudanNordic Centre, Fudan Photo credit: Monica WestmanMany Nordic universities, including the universities in Bergen, Åbo, Copenhagen, Lund and Linköping, are members of the Nordic Centre. Courses in Nordic languages and culture are given here for Chinese students, and the centre also develops course and programmes of study for Nordic students and delegations from the Nordic countries.

A warm welcome to  Helen Dannetun and the delegation. Photo credit: Monica Westman"We also hold summer courses that are nearly free of charge for our members, including a popular course 'Business and Innovation in China'. Unfortunately, we didn't have any participants from Linköping University last year, even though the course is essentially free of charge," says Magnus Jorem.

Students and researchers are welcome

The Nordic Centre contacts Nordic students who travel to Fudan and helps them make contact with Chinese students.

"We also arrange various activities. We have, for example, had Nordic filmmakers here who have shown their films and held discussions with the students. And in 2017 we focused extra attention on Finland's centenary celebrations."

Researchers are also welcome at the Nordic Centre and can apply directly to Magnus Jorem to come here for a few weeks' study. Richard Öhrvall, research student in political science at LiU, is one of those who have taken this opportunity.

"I visited for four weeks in the spring of 2017, looking for peace and quiet while I wrote some articles. The surroundings were pleasant and calm for work, and I got the chance to resurrect my Chinese language skills. I studied in China many years ago, so I was rather rusty. But I managed," he says.

The only disappointment was that it was difficult to make contact with the Chinese researchers he wanted to meet.

"Most of them didn't answer my emails. Maybe the only way that works is through WeChat, which is the app that the Chinese use for communication over the internet. But I did manage to make contact with some other researchers at Fudan, so it all worked out in the end," he says, clearly satisfied by the visit.

Highest ranked in China

Fudan is the Chinese university that is ranked highest rank on the Shanghai list, and its main campus is like a self-contained town in the mega-city of Shanghai. It has approximately 30,000 students, of which 3,000 are from outside China. Collaboration with LiU has a long and successful history.

"We have an excellent relationship, principally within social sciences and economics," says Maria Engelmark, director of international affairs at Linköping University.

Four students from LiU, for example, studied at Fudan during the autumn of 2017, and two students from Fudan studied at LiU.

Helen Dannetun and Gui Yonghao Helen Dannetun and Gui Yonghao exchanging gifts, an important tradition.  Photo credit: Monica WestmanGui Yonghao, executive vice president at Fudan University, is eager for the relationship to deepen.

"We would be happy to send more students to Linköping University on short courses, in order to expand their perspectives. China, for example, has a huge need for medical care and modern development. Chinese medical care has a large component of traditional Chinese medicine," says Gui Yonghao, who is also professor of paediatrics at the Fudan University Children's Hospital.

"We are working hard to speed up the development of advanced research and higher education in China," he tells us.

Our hosts at Nordic CenterThe four hosts at Nordic Center Photo credit: Monica WestmanGui Yonghao and Magnus Jorem, together with Mary Lin, coordinator for Fudan's foreign students, and Professor Liu Ran, dean of the School of Information Science and Technpology at Fudan, were the welcoming committee for the LiU delegation at Nordic Centre.

Cultural challenges

One of the tasks of the Nordic Centre is to create contacts and ease collaboration between Chinese and Nordic students and researchers. Magnus Jorem has been in China for many years, and is aware of the cultural differences that often give rise to challenges in collaboration.

One important difference is the way in which education is viewed. Many families in China have only one child, who is then under pressure to perform well in school and successfully pass their exam. Further, this is the only way to climb out of poverty. Children must study until late in the evening and only have half of Sunday free each week. The future of the whole family depends on one child, and as soon as they have started to study or work, they often send money home to their parents. Contributing to the development of Chinese society, in addition, is most important and this goal permeates their complete educational system.

Research ethics and integrity are not discussed; new technology can be rapidly taken into use without any ethical considerations; and it's a really good idea to use facial recognition when paying for a hamburger.

Ideas about advance planning are also completely different, and for someone from northern Europe, everything appears to be left to the last minute in China.

"In the Nordic region, we are used to planning far in advance. Here in China, in contrast, we often hear: 'Calm down, it'll be OK.' It's not always easy for us to act as intermediary," laughs Magnus Jorem.

Short decision pathways

Decision pathways can also be short in China: they don't discuss something for a long period, but tend to try it out and see what happens. If it doesn't work, they have still learnt something from it.

Magnus Jorem, programme manager Nordic CentreMagnus Jorem, programme manager Nordic Centre Photo credit: Monica WestmanThe feeling of competition is generally higher than in the Nordic countries, and the Chinese are not as interested in collaboration and sharing knowledge. On the other hand, Chinese people are reluctant to do something wrong, and if they feel that they cannot carry out an order from a superior exactly, they will probably not do anything at all. This makes chains of command complicated. It's also difficult to use oral agreements since a Chinese person will not feel comfortable raising objections, and pointing out that a superior is mistaken is totally inconceivable.

A walk at Fudan UniversityA walk at Fudan University Photo credit: Monica Westman"Such effects make it difficult for Chinese and Nordic researchers to publish articles together. But there is a significant difference between people born after 1985; younger people are more open to international influences, and most of them speak English," says Magnus Jorem.

"Shanghai is also an independent part of China, and Fudan University is strong in social sciences, with a tradition of openness. It is possible to question much more than first appears possible, and the answers will come, as long as you ask politely," he says.

Easier now for LiU students 

Jack Zhe Yang is the central contact person at LiU for Fudan Nordic Center and it will now be easier for students at LiU to get in contact. In 2018 International Office at LiU will coordinate the summer school selection.

– Nordic Centre can tailor short courses in Shanghai within your academic field, in close cooperation with you. Write to us at any time with your ideas. They also offer the summer courses Doing Business in China and Chinese Politics and Society, for which each member university is offered three places, says Jack Zhe Yang.

Read more at Nordic centre and/or International office at LiU

LiU delegation outside Nordic Centre
Outside the Nordic Centre, Professor Fengling Zhang, Vice chancellor Helen Dannetun, Annalena Kindgren, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Jack Zhe Yang, inernational coordinator and Maria Engelmark, director International affairs at LiU. Monica Westman
Cycles at Fudan University
The students uses bikes, often electrical, and they protect themselves from rain and wind. Monica Westman

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