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The global perspective: Visions of China

"There can never be too much cooperation," says Hans Egil Offerdal. He is the new head of the University of Bergen secretariat for the Nordic Centre at Fudan University in Shanghai.

Nordic Centre Fudan
EXCHANGING KNOWLEDGE: The Nordic Centre Fudan, founded 20 years ago, functions as a bridge of communication and transfer of insight and awareness between China and the Nordic countries.
Adrian Kjær

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As the new head of the Nordic Centre Secretariat in Bergen and as such the centre’s key contact person in the Nordic region, Hans Egil Offerdal is involved in much of the ongoing communicative work of the Centre, particularly in relation to board and council meetings. We asked him some questions to learn more about his background and outlook.

The Nordic Centre Fudan was established 20 years ago, something which will be celebrated in Fudan 21 to 23 October 2015.

Please give us a briefing on you background and how you ended up at the position you are now?

"My background is in the humanities, in particular theology and religion. For some years I worked at an international research program – hosted by the University of Bergen – focusing on world poverty. Later I was doing re- search and teaching at a large private university in Mexico which, subsequently, led me to a very interesting stay at a small state university in the heartland of the US."

As you are very familiar with international university collaborations, could you touch up on their importance and some of the challenges you have faced working in that environment?

"We all live on the same planet even though many of us have grown up within the borders of nation states. Knowledge and wisdom belongs to all of humanity and collaboration across frontiers and cultures is imperative in order to understand each other.

I think one important challenge is ethnocentrism. We need to be more humble, not thinking we have all the answers and we need to start to listen more, especially to non-western/non- European cultures. Due to the large number of students in Africa, Asia and Latin-America, it is also probable that the great scientific discoveries of the future will come from outside Europe and the US."

What are some of the factors that make working with and doing research on China important?

"My immediate reaction is that this is not a question about working with and doing research on China as such. The issue is expanding cooperation between peoples from all across the globe. There can never be too much cooperation.

Now, in the context of collaboration between China and the Nordic countries in particular, I think what makes it important is what we can learn from each other about what it means to be a human being in the world of today. How can our knowledge and wisdom – both from China and from the Nordic countries – help in making it easier to live with and for each other? These can be discoveries in medicine and engineering etc., but it can also be crucial reflections and wisdom found during questions and answers about life as such."

What is your future outlook for the Nordic Centre and its activities? Any ambitions that you would like to implement down the road?

"In addition to the more overall issues I have already mentioned – that the Nordic Centre will function as a bridge of communication and transfer of insight and awareness between China and the Nordic countries – I think that implementing the current strategy of the Nordic Centre is important. Here I am thinking especially about educational collaboration. When students from different background meet life-long friendships and future research collaboration are created. The joint courses model is interesting and I would like to see even more exchange and visits of Chinese students and scholars to the Nordic countries and vice-versa, both for long- term and shorter stays."