Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
July 18, 1997

Jischke witnesses end of colonial era

by Anne Dolan

During his China travels earlier this month, President Martin Jischke had an up-close view of what most Americans got to see only through the eyes of NBC Nightly News or TIME magazine. Jischke was in Hong Kong June 30 through July 5 to participate in a two-day International Forum for World Leaders in Higher Education. He was a witness to "the hand-over," Great Britain's return of its colony Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China at midnight June 30.

"It was a very interesting moment in time," Jischke said. "It marked the end of a colonial era and, I think, it signals the ongoing emergence of China as a world power."

Jischke shared his observations of three groups of people: Chinese residents, Hong Kong residents and British officials who took part in the diplomatic ceremony in Hong Kong.

The reaction in China was one of "great joy and jubilation," he said. An enormous clock in Beijing's Tienanmen Square counted down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until Hong Kong would be returned to "the Motherland," the Chinese' expression. A million people were invited to the square to celebrate on the night of June 30.

"It was a very, very important moment for that nation," he said.

Based on the remarks of Prince Charles and other officials, Jischke said he sensed a lot of British pride in the city they were returning to the Chinese.

"Hong Kong is a prosperous city, a free city, and it has become a major city of the world. This all took place under their watch, and they had reached terms with China under which Hong Kong will be governed for the next 50 years," Jischke noted.

In Hong Kong, Jischke said the turnover also was seen as a positive event, though he judged the people of Hong Kong to be "a bit more sober about it."

Stores were open late into the evening as usual and people were shopping. For a lot of Hong Kong residents, it was not a big event that halted their lives for a few hours or even a few minutes, he added.

"It's my sense that the people of Hong Kong are pleased that they no longer are a colony of Britain. They also are looking forward to being a part of China, although there are potential changes on the horizon that are not all that clear, so there is a bit of apprehension," he said.

Jischke said the details of the hand-over ceremony were orchestrated carefully.

He noted there were lots of colorful signs, "electronic displays, neon everywhere, huge dragons, unbelievable fireworks that went on and on and on."

Jischke also said he believes leaders in both Hong Kong and China are genuinely committed to their one country/two systems structure negotiated for the next 50 years. While it is clear they both have active, robust economies that are increasingly integrated, the more difficult question is how they will evolve politically in the long-term.

"Only time will tell how that will play out," he said.

Conference highlights

Jischke said he came away from the International Forum for World Leaders reassured that the issues facing higher education in the United States are not all that different from issues educators face in countries such as Germany, Australia, the Philippines, the United Kingdom or China.

He said he was pleased to see that many of the things happening at Iowa State are in step with the most progressive thinking taking place elsewhere in higher education, including:

He noted that universities around the globe are trying to adapt to an escalating pace of change and, specifically, to the changing educational needs of the societies they serve.

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