Gong Chenzhuo has taken part in exchange programmes in 28 countries over the past five years, so it seems unlikely he will have any trouble adapting to his new surroundings when he takes up a Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford University this year.
Each year, thousands of students apply for the scholarship, usually with a chance of success of about seven in 1,000, and last March they were opened up to candidates from the Chinese mainland for the first time, four of whom were successful.
“It is Gong’s academic excellence, international exposure and social responsibility that makes him a standout performer,” said Zhu Jia, a student counsellor at the school.
Gong had the second-highest grade average among 178 students, including more than 30 international peers, in his programme at Fudan University, an institution that accepts only top students.
At Fudan, Gong conducted research in public diplomacy and attended two international conferences at which he presented his findings. He also took part in the exchange programmes, spending a total of more than 430 days overseas.
My aim is to establish a nonprofit organisation to help rural students in China
“He is able to think independently and critically, and at the same time demonstrates passion and impressive leadership skills,” said Shen Guolin, an associate professor in Fudan’s school of journalism whom Gong consulted during his research.
Gong is an avid volunteer, too, having worked as a relief teacher in Chinese villages over three consecutive winters. In the summer of 2013 he went to Mwanza, the second-largest city in Tanzania, to teach children English.
Other achievements include being among the first batch of 20 students recommended by the China Scholarship Council, as well as doing an internship for the United Nations in Tanzania, where he helped local media in educating the public about HIV and gender equality.
“My aim is to establish a nonprofit organisation to help rural students and disadvantaged groups in China,” Gong said.
Premium put on idealism in awarding Rhodes Scholarships
The first Rhodes Scholarships awarded to Chinese mainlanders have gone to four social sciences students, which may surprise many, given the prowess of the country’s scholars in mathematics and science.
Ren Naying, Gong Chenzhuo, Zhang Wanyu and Zhang Chunying received the awards after the Rhodes Trust opened up the scholarships to scholars from the Chinese mainland last year.
The Chinese mainland has joined 14 other countries and jurisdictions whose citizens had been eligible for the scholarships, founded in 1902, and which are regarded as among the world’s most prestigious academic awards.
What makes them more qualified is they actually believe this world will become a better place
The mainland is the jurisdiction whose citizens are eligible for scholarship that is not in the Commonwealth or is non-English speaking, said Tang Meijie, chief executive of the Rhodes Trust China.
Rhodes Trust China, which with several other benefactors awards the scholarships, said that in selecting recipients no consideration was given to the subjects they were majoring in. What is more important is a “strong willingness, enthusiasm and more crucially, idealism”, Mr Tang said.
“The selection of Rhodes scholars should not be limited to arguing whether they study arts or science. I reckon it should really be about whether they can remember what they were fighting for in the first place, not just (for) themselves, but (for) the entire world,” Mr Tang said.
“All 16 candidates in the final round (were) outstanding... What makes these four more qualified is they actually believe this world will become a better place. ”
This article was originally produced and published by China Daily.
A Princeton PhD, was a US diplomat for over 20 years, mostly in Eastern Europe, and was promoted to the Senior Foreign Service in 1997. For the Open World Leadership Center, he speaks with
its delegates from Europe/Eurasia on the topic, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United." Affiliated with Georgetown University for over ten years, he shares ideas with students about public diplomacy.
The papers of his deceased father -- poet and diplomat John L. Brown -- are stored at Georgetown University Special Collections at the Lauinger Library. They are manuscript materials valuable to scholars interested in post-WWII U.S.-European cultural relations.
This blog is dedicated to him, Dr. John L. Brown, a remarkable linguist/humanist who wrote in the Foreign Service Journal (1964) -- years before "soft power" was ever coined -- that "The CAO [Cultural Affairs Officer] soon comes to realize that his job is really a form of love-making and that making love is never really successful unless both partners are participating."