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Tsinghua SEM teachers, students head to UAE for overseas social practice


The School of Economics and Management, Tsinghua University (Tsinghua SEM) coordinated a trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for teachers and students to attend social practice activities themed "Innovation-Driven Sustainable Development" during the 2024 winter vacation. This "Jing Shi Ji Min" (meaning "benefiting the world and the people") squad, led by HE Ping, professor of finance and deputy dean of Tsinghua SEM, included two instructors, two doctoral student counselors, and 14 undergraduates. Their itinerary included visits to national departments, financial institutions, technology companies, universities, and Chinese institutions in the UAE. The group's objective was to investigate how financial markets and innovation strategies could aid in transforming and upgrading the UAE's economic framework. They explored how to integrate the development experience of the Middle East with the practical realities of China's economy to promote energy transition and sustainable development.

The squad poses for a group photo.

Throughout the survey, teachers and students embarked on visits to various universities and educational institutions in the UAE, including the University of Sharjah, Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI), New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), and INSEAD Middle East Campus in Abu Dhabi. The purpose was twofold: to learn about national strategies from the perspectives of local teachers and students in the UAE, and secondly, to grasp their perceptions of China.

While in Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE, the squad participated in face-to-face discussions with student representatives from the China-Gulf Forum at NYUAD and MBZUAI, as well as Tsinghua alumni. In Sharjah, the cultural capital of the UAE, the squad conducted a seminar on the theme of "Energy Transition and Sustainable Development" with international students from the United Nations Association of University of Sharjah as well as entrepreneur representatives from J&T Express. During the seminar, participants shared experiences regarding green development, drawing on experiences from both the UAE and China.

Tsinghua SEM squad members exchange ideas with students from the University of Sharjah.

Representatives from the UAE provided insights into the experiences of international organizations engaged in transnational teaching support activities. Teachers and students from Tsinghua SEM shared China's journey in advancing educational equity through financial empowerment, emphasizing initiatives such as student loans and educational poverty alleviation. They spotlighted the contributions of Professor ZHAO Jiahe in donating to support education, boosting the revitalization of education in western China, and Tsinghua SEM's endeavors in conducting public welfare education support practices. These stories left a profound mark on the teachers and students from the UAE. CHAI Shaojin, an assistant professor of International Relations at the School of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Sharjah, expressed admiration for Professor ZHAO Jiahe's deeds reaching beyond China and becoming an important spiritual force in promoting global educational equity and transnational educational cooperation.

Tsinghua SEM squad visits the Abu Dhabi branch of Education Without Borders.

In recent years, the UAE government has been dedicated to diversifying, transforming, and upgrading its economy with international trade, financial services, and global supply chain management as key drivers. Its objective is to establish a regional innovation-driven industrial center. To gain insights into effective models of financial empowerment, the squad visited prominent local financial institutions and leading high-tech companies specializing in information technology, artificial intelligence (AI), biotechnology, and new energy. They also conducted field visits to the two major financial free zones in the UAE: the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM). During these visits, they spoke with officials from the DIFC Authority's Business Development Department and the ADGM's Financial Services Regulatory Authority, as well as conducted comparative research on their unique institutional setups and ecological niches within the UAE's financial opening-up system. The squad also visited Emirates NBD and First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) to research the current development of green credit and green finance in the country. Guided by Professor HE Ping, squad members synthesized their knowledge of economics and management, drawing on international experiences of opening-up. They then summarized effective models illustrating how finance can facilitate sustainable development transformation.

Tsinghua SEM squad poses for a group photo as they visit Abu Dhabi Global Market.

In Masdar City, a sustainable and eco-friendly urban development funded by the UAE's Mubadala Investment Company, the squad visited new energy enterprises to see how renewable energy projects such as solar, wind, and hydrogen power are being implemented in the UAE. Additionally, they delved into the seamless integration of cutting-edge technologies like AI and big data into the advancement of green industries. WANG Zihang, a doctoral student from the class of 2021 at Tsinghua SEM, expressed admiration for the UAE government's commitment to driving the country's energy transformation and achieving green economic growth. He said Tsinghua SEM students will draw experiences from these industry developments to support China's high-level opening-up and the high-quality development of its economy.

Located at the crossroads of the Belt and Road Initiative, the UAE stands as China's largest export market and the primary investment destination in the Arab region. During their visits to the Chinese Embassy in UAE and Chinese-funded enterprises across the country, teachers and students observed firsthand the integration of Chinese institutions and the UAE's development strategy. They also witnessed the substantial significant progress of these entities in advancing the Belt and Road Initiative toward a path of shared prosperity.

At the Chinese Embassy in the UAE, Educational Counselor LI Xiaodong and representatives of young diplomats held a discussion with the squad. ZHANG Ting, its leading teacher, and ZENG Ziqing, squad leader and undergraduate student of the class of 2024, introduced Tsinghua University's concept of global competence cultivation and the objectives of Tsinghua SEM for practice-oriented education. LI emphasized the timeliness of the visit, occurring on the 11th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative. The visit also coincided with the ongoing efforts to foster a community of shared future between China and the UAE in a new era. He expressed anticipation for Tsinghua's teachers and students to use this overseas practice as an opportunity to deepen their understanding of the Gulf region and further promote cooperation between Tsinghua University and the UAE. LI and the young diplomats provided a detailed introduction to the UAE's national strategy, its current state of transformation, and Sino-UAE economic and trade cooperation, as well as educational cooperation and exchanges. They also engaged in further discussions and a Q&A session with the students on topics such as energy transition, regional situations, and demographic structures. The students expressed their appreciation for insights gained, which contributed to a more comprehensive, multi-dimensional, and authentic understanding of the UAE.

Tsinghua SEM squad poses for a group photo with diplomats from the Chinese Embassy in the UAE.

During their exploration of Chinese-funded enterprises, the squad visited the China-UAE Industrial Capacity Cooperation Demonstration Zone, the inaugural Belt and Road industrial capacity cooperation zone established by China overseas. After discussions with the zone's leaders, they analyzed the challenges and obstacles encountered in industrial capacity cooperation and the development of new energy industries between China and the UAE. At Huawei UAE Headquarters, squad members witnessed the company's proactive expansion into overseas markets and observed the strides made in promoting the integration of the industrial chain, supply chain, and financial chain to support green development. At Sinopharm, they learned about the collaboration between China National Biotec Group and local enterprises in conducting clinical trials of Hayat-Vax, an inactivated COVID-19 vaccine, and heard the touching stories of Sino-UAE joint efforts in international anti-pandemic cooperation. Lastly, the squad also attended the Unmanned Systems Exhibition and Conference (UMEX) in Abu Dhabi, where they observed notable achievements from Chinese enterprises such as Northern Heavy Industries Group, which gained recognition from international counterparts.

On behalf of the squad, HE Ping presents a souvenir to a Huawei representative.

During the visits to Chinese institutions, the squad not only observed the profound impact of the Belt and Road Initiative in the UAE, but also gathered many valuable suggestions about how Chinese enterprises can conduct business and establish cooperation in the UAE. QIAO Boran, an undergraduate student from the class of 2026 at Tsinghua SEM, said he learned the importance of ensuring Chinese enterprises adhere to common rules, respect local cultures, and foster mutual understanding when expanding globally. This realization has emerged as a significant lesson in the school's curriculum on global business competence.

Through this overseas social practice, the teachers and students not only applied their financial expertise to the practical advancement of green industries, but also expanded their international vision and deepened their comprehension of the economic, cultural, and social development of the Middle East region. The activity facilitated the establishment of stronger connections between Tsinghua SEM and major institutions in the UAE, laying a robust foundation for future international cooperation initiatives.