Portraits of Irkutsk

Background Information

Since the beginning of the 21st century, and especially in the last decade, the governments of Russia and China have been continually working to strengthen ties between their countries.  Higher education has recently become a big part of this work.  In 2015, an order was signed adding the Chinese language to the Unified State Exam (this project will soon be implemented).  In 2017, a joint university run by Moscow State University and Beijing Polytechnic Institute opened in Shenzhen (in China).  However, both of these universities are located in the capitals.  What about the area that is closer to the border?  Siberia, for example.  Is there a strong desire to study China here?

 Irkutsk is located less than 1,000 kilometers from China, and it was the main stop on the trade route in the early years of Russian-Chinese relations.  In fact, Irkutsk is closer to Beijing than Moscow, and you can see signs in Chinese around the city.  Students at Irkutsk State University have to choose two languages to study, and it is not surprising that a significant part of them decides to study Chinese.  Many suggest that this phenomenon is the result of pragmatism: young people want a good job - for example, in Chinese companies or in China.  But is there a different motivation?  This project is an attempt to better understand why students choose the languages they do.  Given its strong China Studies program ISU is an ideal place to study this matter (just last year, students from the ISU were recognized in the national competition for Chinese language learners).

Map of several Chinese locations in Irkutsk

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