Diversity and multi-culturalism have always been highly celebrated in Peking University, as well as the Institute of South-South Cooperation and Development (ISSCAD). In the afternoon of Nov. 2, 2020, at the invitation of the Institute of Area Studies, two Syrian students from ISSCAD, Bashar Kheir and Asma Katbeh attended the seminar as keynote speakers to introduce the most recent updates on the Economic and Social Status of Syria, to a group of Ph.D. students majoring in Arabic Studies, Russian Studies as well as International relation from different schools of Peking University.
Bashar Kheir, as the first speaker, introduced his home country to the audience about its geographic location, demographic aspects, and the rich cultural heritage that the country has beholden for thousands of years. Unfortunately, he explained, the long-lasting conflict has made millions of people refugees and tens of thousands killed. Undoubtedly, it has had a daunting impact on the whole country and even now, Syria remains to be one of the largest humanitarian crises. In the aftermath of the war, Syria is in a state of reconstruction and resurgence. With the support it has received internationally, Syria is gradually targeting efforts to reboot its economy and restore the confidence of the people. Following Bashar’s speech, Asma Katbeh illustrated the Sino-Syria relationship for the past years and ahead. She detailed the many industries that Syria had been hit the most due to the conflict and how these weakened areas should be seen as huge economic opportunities for friendly nations. With the Belt and Road Initiative, the wishes of the Syrian government to strengthen its economic and diplomatic relations with China are more evident. As shown in the data presented, China has provided free financial aids to Syria on many occasions, to help with the process of state building and institutional establishment.
Following the two ISSCAD students’ speeches, Professor Wang Suolao, the Associate Dean of the Institute of Area Studies, shared his insights in the understanding of the current economic status of Syria, while the participating Ph.D. students actively asked questions relating to their research, such as the policy measures that the government would put in place to safeguard foreign investment, the impact of US economic sanctions to the country, the possible opportunities that the Belt and Road Initiative can bring to the country .
The session ended on a friendly note. It was indeed a wonderful opportunity for the ISSCAD students to speak about their home countries and discuss political and economic issues with students from other faculties, it was also a valuable moment for students from drastically different backgrounds to learn more about each other and their cultures. The Institute of Area Studies has given very positive feedback as these discussions could put students' research into a more realistic perspective and questions can be answered in real-time manners. Two ISSCAD students were delighted to have participated in the seminar as opportunities to share authentic news are not as frequent and it is crutial to have their voices heard through such platforms. ISSCAD very much looks forward to more exchanges like this in the future and will encourage students to participate.