UT Dallas Hosts Economics Scholars from Beijing
Jul. 15, 2010
UT Dallas’ School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences is playing host this summer to two Chinese scholars who came to collaborate on research and absorb American culture.
“This has been a great opportunity to learn what the United States is really about and to better understand the kind of research going on at UT Dallas,” said Dr. Hongchang Li, a professor of economics and transportation specialist at Beijing’s Jiaotong University.
Dr. Hongchang Li
Li will present a lecture Thursday, July 15, on “Dedicated Passenger Line Commercial Feasibility Study and its Transportation Policy Implications.” The talk is scheduled to take place at 11 a.m. in GR 3.606.
He and Dr. Dehong Liu, another economics faculty member at Jiaotong University, arrived at UT Dallas during the spring term and will return to China later this summer. They will visit other universities during their time in the United States, but will collaborate primarily with UT Dallas faculty. Li’s presentation in the spring at Northwestern University on high-speed rail attracted major scholars from around the country.
Li’s primary research interest lies with transportation economics, and Liu is looking at the microstructure of the financial marketplace.
The scholars’ academic home in China is both similar and different from their temporary home base in Texas. The campus in Beijing is much smaller in size – consisting of tightly packed, high-rise classroom buildings – but the enrollment is considerably greater, close to 30,000 students. Also, practically all Chinese college students live on campus.
Li said American students seem to have a more laid-back approach to education.
“Chinese students usually feel guilty if they’re not working on their studies,” Li said. “That’s why they’re working extra time in labs if they’ve finished assignments. American students study hard, but they also seem to enjoy the experience of being with their friends and doing social things on campus.”
Li said his research has benefited from his interaction with UT Dallas colleagues and from his opportunity to study U.S. efforts to expand development of high-speed trains. Liu also said he will take home a greater awareness of how behavioral economics can be used to decipher markets and consumer behavior.
Dr. James Murdoch, a professor of economics who helped organize the visit, said the Chinese scholars have exposed EPPS faculty members to new research approaches.
“In my case, an understanding of how Professor Li approaches research on transportation helps me to see how some of my research could be applied to Chinese data,” he said. “Additionally, both Li and Liu pay careful attention to the importance of institutional arrangements - something Western neoclassical economists often take for granted.”
The scholars said they have enjoyed getting to know the faculty members and students at UT Dallas. Though China is increasingly open to new ideas, Li said he appreciates the freedom available to U.S. citizens.
Liu agreed. “Privacy and freedom are respected and strictly protected here because of cultural and political and traditional reasons,” he said.
U.S. culture greatly influences China and the rest of the world, Li said, but it’s unique and needs to be experienced to be understood.
“Faculty exchanges allow us to better understand our very different cultures,” Li said. “As the years go by, our countries will interact more and more, and we need to understand each other to get along. I’m looking forward to going back and teaching my students what the real U.S. is about.”
Li and Liu are the first of what EPPS officials hope will become a regular faculty exchange with Jiaotong University. EPPS students and their peers in China also are eligible for an exchange program.