Two years after the United States transferred diplomatic recognition to Beijing, John Luter approached philanthropist Albert Parvin about a pilot project with “far-reaching possibilities” for building relations between China and the West.
Chair of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa journalism department, Luter proposed bringing in journalists from the People’s Republic of China for a year of professional development and exposure to American culture. Eager to foster international understanding, Parvin became primary sponsor.
The first group of young journalists arrived to study American style journalism—six from the fledgling English-language China Daily, two from the state-run Xinhua News Agency and two from Fudan University’s Journalism School.
China Daily’s Li Xing was one of two women. “Apart from our (journalism) courses, we want to learn about the United States and the American people,” she told the campus newspaper in 1981. Before her untimely death earlier this summer, Xing had become assistant editor-in-chief, columnist and chief U.S. correspondent. With Parvin colleague and China Daily editor-in-chief Zhu Ling, she helped establish U.S., Europe and Asia editions. She interviewed foreign heads of state and carried the Olympic torch in Beijing.
Thirty years and 250 journalists later, the Parvin Journalism Fellows Program is training a new generation of Chinese journalists to be leaders in China’s expanding news gathering operations. Xinhua opened a high-profile office in New York’s Times Square and maintains bureaus in Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles. Parvin alumni include Ganyi Wang, president and editor-in-chief of the Beijing Review and Tan Wei-bing, who heads Xinhua News Agency’s coverage of the Philippines.
Over the past seven years, I have served as program director, following in the footsteps of Professors Luter, Lowell Frazier and Tom Brislin. Phyllis Parvin, president of the Parvin Foundation, remains committed to the program and its goals.
In August we welcomed our 31st class, three journalists each from China Daily and Xinhua News Agency. For many it is the first time they have studied journalism or traveled outside of China. They take a wide range of Mānoa courses, including economics and American studies and attend UH scholar Daniel Kwok’s monthly China seminar with community members interested in Chinese society, culture and politics. They stay with U.S.-China Peoples Friendship Association host families and attend a UH football game, interact with Hawaiʻi’s multi-ethnic community, participate in East-West Center activities and give lectures or teach Mandarin.
Xu Wei arrived in 2010 soon after graduating from Nanjing University. “The academic atmosphere in Hawaiʻi is very dynamic and tolerant,” he writes. “People discuss various issues in class, over the dining table, at the bus stop and even on the beach. I gradually gained a further understanding about journalism in the U.S. as well as American culture.”
Author Gerald Kato is an associate professor in the UH Mānoa School of Communications.