A delegation from Hong Kong has visited St Petersburg University. It included representatives of the city administration and the broadcasting company «Phoenix». The meeting was held by the first Vice-Rector Ilya Dementyev, who greeted the guests from China.

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He emphasised that St Petersburg University has a rich experience in cooperation with Asian countries — not only in education, but also in the field of mass communications. The head of the Chinese delegation, Yang Jian, Deputy Minister of the Chancellery of the Central People’s Representative Office in Hong Kong, said that the foreign group chose to visit St Petersburg University, as it is one of the leading universities in Russia and Europe, has strong ties with Chinese universities, and also holds an important place in world Sinology.

St Petersburg University is the first university in Russia to enter into a direct cooperation agreement with the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Yang Jian noted that today in world politics the problem of foreign influence of some states on others is especially acute. Russia and the PRC are bound by strong partnership relations, and often the external image of our countries suffers from unreliable and biased representation in Western media. He expressed a desire to become acquainted with the experience of St Petersburg University with a view to changing the current situation.

Ilya Dementyev agreed that this issue is crucial in today’s information agenda. He said: «In my opinion, at university level, there are two main areas of work: the dissemination of reliable information through the media and» academic diplomacy «- the activation of scientific and educational initiatives and horizontal connections between people». He recalled that recently St Petersburg University had opened a representative office in China on the basis of the Harbin Polytechnic University. The Centre will not only be a research site, but will also stimulate the promotion of the Russian language and culture in China. Ilya Dementyev told his Chinese colleagues that for several years now the official website of St Petersburg University has been presenting information not in two (as it is customary in most cases), but in three languages ​​- including Chinese. In this work, students from the PRC are also actively involved.

Ilya Dementyev, the first Vice-Rector, is certain that the task of the media is to learn about as many Chinese citizens as possible and about the new opportunity. Without the support of the media, such projects will not be able to receive a wide response from the audience.

In February this year, the University presented to the Chinese public the «Modern Almanac of contemporary Russian prose».

Alexey Rodionov, First Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Eastern Studies of St Petersburg University, added that today there is a common problem for Russia and China of distorting the images of our countries not outside their borders, but within the states themselves. In his opinion, this is primarily due to the fact that journalists use Western media as sources, where information is not always objective and has an obvious political colouring. To avoid this, Alexey Rodionov is convinced that the media of both countries should establish direct dialogue — both in the field of mass communication, and in education and the cultural sphere.

The key question for higher education institutions in this situation is how to prepare personnel for such work who would not only be proficient in the languages and know the culture of the partner country, but also thoroughly understand the specific subject area. The answer to this problem was the creation of programmes with a Chinese component in the areas of jurisprudence, political science, sociology, economics, journalism and others. In addition, the teachers of St Petersburg University actively participate in cultural projects. "Our university does much to promote Russian literature in China and Chinese literature in Russia. Today, almost half of all translations of modern Chinese literature into Russian are done by teachers of St Petersburg University, "said Alexey Rodionov. He expressed hope that such interaction in the field of culture will be established with the institutions of Hong Kong.

«All these measures aimed at solving our problems together create a new environment for the development of Russian-Chinese relations — truthful, open, reliable,» said First Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Eastern Studies Alexey Rodionov.

The guests were also interested in the number of foreign partners of St Petersburg University and the prospects for scientific exchanges. Ilya Dementyev commented that the University has concluded more than 400 contracts with universities from all over the world — and these agreements provide for both educational and scientific mobility.

«For research projects, it is necessary that two conditions are met: first, the coincidence of the interests of scientists and, secondly, the availability of the necessary resources. In this sense, a unique resource centre is operating today in St Petersburg University. In addition, St Petersburg University has the experience of organising joint financing of scientific projects, when two research groups (from St Petersburg University and from abroad) receive funds for research from the University and from the budget of the partner country,» commented First Vice-Rector of St Petersburg University Ilya Dementyev.

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Members of the Hong Kong delegation were also interested in the number of international forums in which the University participates or acts as an organiser. Ilya Dementyev noted that St Petersburg University holds several hundred scientific and educational international events a year. The University is also the main organiser of forums of civil initiatives — Dialogue Russia — the Republic of Korea and the Petersburg Dialogue (Russia — Germany). The host country invited the guests to attend the next event — the international conference «Problems of the Literatures of the Far East», which this year is dedicated to the 1250th anniversary of the birth of the outstanding Chinese writer Han Yu (768-824).

The discussion also touched upon the use of social networks and new media in the context of the university’s activities. Ilya Dementyev drew attention to the fact that St Petersburg University has official sites in all major social networks. In addition, he noted that the University trains specialists in the field of new media and digital journalism. In particular, this year the Master’s degree programme «Media Communications» has been launched, and aspects of the interaction of journalists from Russia and China in the digital economy are studied by undergraduates of the programme of the double diploma «Professional Speech in the Media».

The guests from Hong Kong were impressed by the meeting and promised to pass on the information to the leadership of the University of Hong Kong to consider the possibility of joint Russian-Chinese projects.