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The Continuation of the Second China Trip to Kunming, Yunnan ┃On 14-18 January 2019

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The Continuation of the Second China Trip to Kunming, Yunnan  ┃On 14-18 January 2019

As part and parcel of the academic exchange activities under the China Watch Project, a trip to Kunming, Yunnan was conducted from 14 January 2019 to 18 January 2019 by Professor Lee Lai To, Director of Asian Research Center for International Development (ARCID) and Dr. Chalongrat Charoensri, Deputy Director of ARCID. The second China trip in August 2018 included too many appointments and it was decided that the visit to Kunming, Yunnan, should be postponed until January 2019. As such, this trip to Kunming, Yunnan was actually a continuation of the second China trip.

The major purpose of the Kunming visit was to link up with the leading academic and research institutions in Yunnan. From the geographical perspective, Yunnan is probably the most suitable Chinese province for Thailand, especially Northern Thailand, to work with. After all, academic institutions in Kunming have special interests in Southeast Asia, including the Mekong region.

Our first stop was a visit to the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences (YASS). We were received by Professor Chen Lijun, Vice President, Professor Li Wenjuan, Director of International Cooperation Center and researchers from a few institutes of YASS.  After a general introduction of YASS by Professor Chen, Professor Lee briefed the meeting about ARCID and its China Watch Project. It was interesting to see that two of the Chinese scholars present could communicate with Dr. Chalongrat Charoensri in Thai. From the discussions at the meeting, it seems that YASS was interested in working with us. As the YASS has a centralized system, it was suggested that the proper way to promote academic cooperation was for ARCID to work out a MOU with YASS and not with the individual institutes under the Academy.

The second stop was a visit to Yunnan University, the key national university of the province. We were received by Professor Lu Guangsheng, Director of Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), Professor Li Chenyang, Founding Director of ISEAS , Professor Bi Shihong, Deputy Director of ISEAS and other scholars. In our discussions, we were briefed on the latest research activities of ISEAS. We also learnt more about their views on Lancang-Mekong cooperation and neighborhood diplomacy studies. Apparently, quite a number of them had been to the Mekong region, including Thailand. Some could be focusing their research on Myanmar. To promote academic cooperation, we proposed that we could exchange MOU templates to see if we could work together at the institute/center level. We also indicated to them that it was possible to raise the cooperation to the School or University level.  

Our final stop was a visit to Yunnan Minzu University, an academic institution well known for its studies of minorities.  We were hosted by Professor Jiansheng (Jason) Huang, Director of Yunnan Provincial Institute of Ethnic Studies of the University. Before we exchanged views at the meeting, we were given a guided tour of the Museum on Ethnic Minorities in China in general and Yunnan in particular. At the meeting with Professor Huang and a few of his colleagues, we learned about the imminent reorganization of the various schools that could affect the future of research institutes.  While there might be uncertainties ahead, Professor Huang still welcomed the idea of working together with us. As such, he suggested that we could send him our MOU template and see if it could be used to promote academic cooperation between his Institute and our Center.

On the whole, the trip to Kunming was fruitful in touching base with three prominent research institutions of Yunnan province. We expect that they will invite some of us to join their functions and that some of their Chinese scholars could be visiting Thailand in the future. In the meantime, we shall proceed to work on the MOUs. 

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