The Rhodes Trust, an international scholarship program, has launched its first Rhodes Scholarships for Chinese scholars and is expected to welcome the first student cohort for postgraduate study at the University of Oxford in 2016. According to the Rhodes Trust, the expansion will nurture the collaboration and understanding between the West and China.
The Rhodes Trust Scholarship will award more than 50,000GBP per year for each student and will cover tuition, health insurance, traveling expenses and personal stipend for room and board. Rhodes Trust chairman Sir John Hood expressed his optimism over the program’s launch in China:
“This expansion allows us to further achieve our goal of promoting collaboration among Scholars from across the globe. The Rhodes Scholarships are designed to inspire generations of young leaders, have a profound impact on their lives and, through their leadership, on communities and societies throughout the world.”
Several individuals have concerns over possible political interference during the selection process by the Chinese government. National correspondent for The Atlantic and Rhodes alumni James Fallows says:
“Over the decades and around the world, a small but significant proportion of Rhodes scholars have been people protesting their own country’s government or working to change its policies. A test of the quality of the Chinese program is whether it would be able to consider such candidates,” David Barboza of the NYT writes.
Charles Conn, former Rhodes Scholar, does not believe there is cause for concern over interference by the Chinese government:
“This is not our first rodeo. We’ve elected Rhodes scholars in some of the most difficult parts of world, including South Africa, India, Pakistan and Zimbabwe, and at difficult times in their history. If the Rhodes Trust is good at anything, it’s selecting energetic and ethical young people, Mr. Conn said in a telephone interview.
Noah Feldman, a Bloomberg View columnist and professor of constitutional and international law at Harvard, asserts there is transparency and fairness in the selection process:
“The ethos of the Rhodes scholarship today rejects inherited privilege. Selection committees wouldn’t hold it against a candidate if he or she was descended from a prominent family.”
“The ideal Rhodes scholar remains someone like Bill Clinton, a poor boy from a broken family in semi-rural Arkansas who somehow invented himself as an extraordinarily charismatic and intelligent public activist.”
Li KaShing, the wealthiest man in Asia, has already committed to contributing to the Scholarship program. Other wealthy Chinese and Hong Kong businessmen, including Alvin Jiang, grandson of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin and co-founder of the largest private equity firm in China, are helping raise funds for the Rhodes Trust, Barboza of the New York Times writes. The Rhodes Trust plans to enroll three to six Chinese nationals during the first batch of outstanding young individuals between the ages of 19 to 25.
Among the Rhodes Trust alumni are former US president Bill Clinton and current Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot.