Hong Kong businessman Chao Kee-Young believes the long-standing friction between China and Japan can be resolved by cultivating friendships among its younger generations.
Before Chao became the successful entrepreneur that he is now, he was an ordinary college student at the University of Tokyo taking up mechanical engineering.
The one thing he would cherish for the rest of his life were the cross-cultural friendships he made while studying in Japan. To this day, he says he can count on them when he encounters problems in his business dealing with Japanese companies.
Driven by this, he started an ambitious plan to fund construction of dormitories for Chinese and Japanese students at five top universities in mainland China, amidst flaring tensions between the two nations over a bitter territorial row.
Since 2010, he has donated 20 million yuan (320 million yen or $3.28 million) each to Peking, Tsinghua, Fudan, Shanghai Jiao Tong and Zhejiang universities.
Peking University had to cancel an opening ceremony for its dormitory in September 2012 due to concerns as anti-Japanese protests swept across the country.
Dormitories in Tsinghua, Shanghai Jiao Tong and Zhejiang universities are scheduled to open their new student dormitories in summer 2014.
He hopes the living setup will forge friendships between the students as they make their way through an essential four years of their lives and eventually improve Sino-Japan relations.
“Many leaders in China are graduates of those five universities,” says Chao. “Building a trusting relationship while young will also build a human network with another country.”
“With a personal connection, it will be possible to overcome hostilities between the two countries.”
By Maesie Bertumen