Blackstone chief Stephen A. Schwarzman whose private-equity firm has been investing aggressively in China, announced last week that he is setting up a US$300 million scholarship program for study in China.
The program, which is backed by Mr Schwarzman personally, as well as a consortium of Western companies is hoped to rival the Rhodes scholarship at Oxford University in England and is intended to promote understanding between China and the rest of the world.
Of course, given Blackstone’s interest in pursuing investments in China, the firm recently set up a new fund devoted to Asian real estate, the scholarship program may also provide Mr Schwarzman and his firm with greater access and a higher profile in China.
According to an article in the New York Times, The Schwarzman Scholars program is to be established at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. One of the most prestigious universities in China, Tsinghua is the alma mater of many of China’s ruling elite, including current president Xi Jinping.
The program will provide all-expense-paid scholarships for 200 students each year to enroll in a one-year master’s program. The scholarships would primarily be aimed at students from the US, but would also include students from China and other countries.
Mr. Schwarzman said he was donating $100 million from own fortune, and that he had already raised another $100 million from donors. The final $100 million would be raised in the future. Among the donors said to be contributing to the scholarship fund are US giants Boeing, Caterpillar, JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America – all of which have substantial business ties to China.
In the New York Times article Mr. Schwarzman was citing as saying that his concern was that as long as the Chinese economy grows two to three times as quickly as the American economy, and with European economies barely growing at all, tensions are likely only to rise.
“The idea was to deal with this problem in a generational manner,” he said in a video interview from New York, adding later in an e-mail, “I feel grateful to be able to have the resources to help change future leaders to impact their countries’ and China’s destinies.”