Q&A | Chao Peng, Ivo Carneiro de Sousa, City University of Macau: ‘Our goal is to create a new service that can benefit the Macau platform’

Chao Peng (left) and Ivo Carneiro de Sousa

The City University of Macau (CityU) has recently launched two graduate courses, a Master (MA) and a Doctorate degree (PhD), which aim to provide additional knowledge and decisive research contributions on the study of Portuguese-speaking countries.

The transformation of CityU into a comprehensive platform for studies, research and sharing of knowledge about this new area is in line with the region’s focus on Portuguese-speaking countries. Recent developments in this area include the creation of the Forum for Economic and Trade Co-operation Between China and Portuguese-speaking countries and more recently, Beijing’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative.

To learn more about the courses, their goals and expected achievements, the Times spoke to CityU’s Professor Ivo Carneiro de Sousa, who is also Associate Dean of the Institute for Research on Portuguese-Speaking Countries, as well as to Professor Chao Peng, the Dean of the Macao One Belt One Road Research Center, which is closely involved with the project.

Macau Daily Times (MDT) – What are the main goals and attractive points of these new MA and PhD courses?

Ivo Carneiro de Sousa (ICS) – The courses aim to build up a new area of study. There are several traditional areas of studies in countless universities, such as European Studies, African Studies and Latin-American studies. We want to transform the study of Portuguese-speaking countries (PSC) and their relations with China into a new area, using the [existing] academic tools of these areas: merging interdisciplinary study with social sciences, economic sciences, history and international relations.
One of the major arguments in favor of this new area of study is the fact that since 2003, China created a Forum, the well-known Macau Forum, organized in a way not based on geographic location but on language spoken, gathering PSC and China through Macau.

The courses will fully study PSC, mainly history, economics, developmental challenges and social change. The courses will resear;ch growing China-PSC relations in these fields. In summary, the goals are very simple [to make] Portuguese-speaking countries an area of academic study and the university as an academic platform that supports that creation of knowledge.

MDT – In what sense does Macau hold an advantage in hosting these courses (and having this platform)?

ICS – It really is an ideal and key academic and research place. First, Macau has a centuries-long legacy of bridging the East and West, bridging China and Portugal and PSC through the exchange of trade, people, culture and even science.  Portuguese is also an official language [here] along with Chinese, and widely frames law, engineering norms, architectural rules and several other professional situations. It is easy to find physicians, lawyers, engineers, architects and others [who are] able to speak both languages. Moreover, Macau doesn’t have the colonial and post-colonial constraints that still embarrasses relations and independent research which compares PSC in social, economic or cultural fields (still present in some countries, namely Angola or Mozambique).

Macau is also the host of the Forum for China-PSC economic and trade relations and has a singular set of Lusophone events which are held through festivals and other initiatives.  Macau has also a number of general-consulates and honorary consuls of all PSC, [as well as] active associations and leaders. Last but not least, Macau enjoys a modest prosperous financial situation and a close connection with the mainland, which is only a few steps away.

MDT – What language of instruction would be used?

ICS – The courses will be taught in English. One can like or dislike it, but the current evidence is that English is the language of scientific publication. Most top academic journals are in English. Thus, if one doesn’t publish in English, one barely exists as a researcher. In consequence, we are committed to support our students to publish in English in the most influential journals in the fields related to Portuguese-speaking countries’ studies.  MA students must also take a research course in Portuguese. It means that we will train students to read, understand and research official and private documents in Portuguese; namely reports, statistics and academic papers on China-PSC imports and exports, national budgets, economic cooperation and investments.

MDT – How do these courses relate to the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative?

ICS – They do have a huge relation. “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) is China’s proposal for globalization in a period of globalization setbacks since the financial crisis of 2007/2008. The crisis fuelled political speeches, mainly in the US and Europe, hostile to globalization and promising impossible national prosperity through old protectionist proposals.

OBOR is key for China to tackle the so-called “new normal” economy – growing at a single-digit percentage – and to avoid the famous middle-income trap. It also aims to secure outlets for excess production capacity and outward investment; to become a vehicle for the development of the modern service industry, mainly finance; and to be a step forward for RMB internationalization. China-PSC relations can offer a key platform for these paramount changes.

Chao Peng (CP) – In addition, PSC studies are cross-disciplinary and synthetic, closely related to international relations. We already gathered some experience from the creation of the Macao OBOR Research Center back in 2016, which is the first and only Academic Research unit [in this field] in Macau. This also makes us [CityU] the first university for OBOR Research through the MA and PhD.

MDT – What kind of students are you targeting? Who are they and what are their career goals?

ICS – We are in the process of recruiting local candidates, [as well as those from the] mainland and Portuguese-speaking countries. For the PhD, we have received applications from mainland students who have already done Master’s dissertations on China-PSC relations, most of them on several aspects of trade and cooperation between China and Brazil, which is understandable due to the huge amount of bilateral trade..We have also received applications from Portugal, Brazil, Cape Verde and East Timor. So our goal is to create a new service that can benefit the Macau platform, [through] research, exchange of academic staff and students, and the organization of academic resources such as libraries and online data resources.

For these purposes, the Institute will publish an academic journal, Typhon, twice a year in October and April, and will start a collection of books on PSC and China-PSC relations.

As we must recognize that the Macau Platform is an ongoing process, we also need to note that it really lacks in academic exchange and qualified research. Direct services from Macau in PSC don’t exist, and Macau’s contribution to direct trade between China-PSC is very narrow, since these relations are mainly bilateral.

At the same time, nobody understands that the companies paying Macau, the gambling companies, are not fully engaged in the Macau platform. They do have the best management in several key areas – financial, engineering, human resources, et cetera – and there should be a strategic place for training PSC professionals and enhancing human resources and management. Our candidates will see that these courses are a great opportunity as the cooperation evolves, and more and more knowledge is needed to support the business-related areas.

They can become advisors in big companies and even government institutions and entities, which is in fact a “smart move.” We have an interesting fact: we realized during our interviews that we have a good number of students moving from the more common Masters in Business Administration (MBA) to these new courses.

For the first year, we will have a batch of students that will include more mainland Chinese than locals, but in the upcoming years we will try to balance this between mainland, local and PSC students because they will allow them an interaction and understanding of cultural diversity, which is very important.

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