Yang Ting

Sharing American Politics

Political Science Professor Yuan Ting Prepares for Fulbright in China

December 19, 2006

By Valerie Orleans

In January, Yuan Ting, professor of political science, will travel to Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province in southern China, to spend a semester as a Fulbright Scholar. While there, he will teach a graduate-level seminar in public administration at South China University of Technology, as well as give lectures to university students and government officials throughout the region and the country.

It may be difficult to teach students about American public administration in a country where the political system is different, “yet it is very exciting as China begins to modernize its government structure and becomes interested in finding out how and why our government works the way it does,” Ting said. “What I hope to do is share with Chinese students and government officials our successes and failures. I want them to understand that you can learn from both good and not-so-good experiences.”

To that end, Ting is shipping more than 10 boxes of books, journal articles, reports, and other teaching materials to China. 

“Books in English are very expensive there,” he said. “I want to be able to show students that Americans often disagree on what we think the role government should play in different policy areas.  As a Fulbright Scholar, the State Department allows me to send these boxes through its diplomatic pouch system to support my teaching.”

Ting expects that his Chinese students may be more passive than their American counterparts. 

“The educational system in China is quite different,” he said. “Chinese students are taught to listen and take notes during class, and then memorize and repeat the information back to the teacher.

“There isn’t a culture of students actively participating in class discussions, let alone disagreeing with their teacher. I want to encourage open discussion and critical thinking, and at the same time I will be ready to adjust my teaching style if necessary,” added Ting.

What the political scientist really finds exciting is that as China gradually takes its place as one of the world leaders, he will take a part in helping its future leaders gain a better understanding of the principles of our democracy and government system.

“When you think about it, China has come a long way, especially in the last two decades” he said.  “I feel very privileged to have this opportunity to work with these students who will become the future Chinese leaders.”

Among the areas that Ting will focus on is how Chinese government officials respond to the ever-changing and increasingly complicated problems brought up by economic reforms.

“Historically, China has been slow to change,” Ting said. “But, its leaders now understand that changes are needed and are taking a more progressive approach to find ways to hold government officials more accountable for actions as well as to train them to be able to respond and adapt more quickly to the changing society. I want to discuss the idea of accountability and how they can improve the performance and results of government agencies. My goal is to plant a seed with my students as they lead China into the future.”

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