The founder of the US private equity firm Blackstone yesterday announced the establishment of a US$300 million scholarship program in China for postgraduates from around the world.
The money being raised by Stephen Schwarzman will be the largest philanthropic gift with foreign money in China’s history, according to the tycoon and Beijing’s Tsinghua University, which will host the program. It is also one of the largest single gifts to education in the world.
Schwarzman will make a personal gift of US$100 million and plans to raise another US$200 million to establish a postgraduate program for foreign students that will aim to rival the Rhodes scholarships, which bring dozens of foreign students to Oxford University with the aim of producing outstanding leaders.
Already, US$100 million has been raised in the last six months, Schwarzman said.
Many of the donors have sprawling business interests in China and frequently deal with government regulators and state-owned enterprises that have wide discretion over the activities of foreign companies.
Donors include Boeing, which is aggressively marketing jets in China, the world’s second-largest aircraft market, and Caterpillar, which sells earth-moving equipment in what has become the world’s largest construction market.
The fund will allow 200 students to take part in a one-year master’s program in public policy, economics, business and international relations at the university each year starting in 2016.
Schwarzman said 45 percent of the students would come from the US, 20 percent from China and the rest from other parts of the world.
To underscore the importance of the Schwarzman Scholars’ program and China’s importance in future world leadership, both US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) sent congratulatory letters, which were read out at the announcement ceremony at Tsinghua.
The program’s creation underlines the tremendous importance of China and its market to Wall Street financiers and corporate leaders, who have become increasingly anxious as security and economic frictions grow between China and the West.
Schwarzman said his goal was to reduce such tensions by educating the world’s future leaders, but his role in the project will also raise his political profile in China, potentially giving him and his private equity firm, the Blackstone Group, increased access to Chinese leaders. Many of them, including Xi, attended Tsinghua.
The scholarship’s advisory board is a who’s who of investors, diplomats and other influential figures, some of whom also have political or financial ties to China.
It includes three former US secretaries of state, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and Henry Kissinger; two former US Treasury secretaries, Robert Rubin and Henry Paulson Jr; a number of university presidents and cultural figures, including cellist Yo-Yo Ma (馬友友); former French president Nicolas Sarkozy; and the former prime ministers of three countries, Tony Blair of Britain, Kevin Rudd of Australia and Brian Mulroney of Canada.
The program plans to take in 10,000 students over the next 50 years, forming an international network that can bridge differences between China and the West, Schwarzman said.
Schwarzman said his scholarship program had nothing to do with Blackstone or the China Investment Corp.
“This is a private thing by me, it’s not a Blackstone initiative,” he told the New York Times.