Blackstone's billionaire founder pledges $371m to China university

BEIJING (AFP) - A tycoon in the United States on Sunday pledged to donate US$300 million (S$371 million) to an elite Chinese university to fund a scholarship programme that will recruit students from countries around the world to study in China.

Mr Stephen Schwarzman, founder of investment company Blackstone, pledged the money to Beijing's Tsinghua University in one of the largest donations ever given to an academic institution in China.

Some US$100 million of the fund will come from Mr Schwarzman, he said, with the rest raised from private donors to set up a programme enrolling 200 scholars each year.

Mr Schwarzman said he based the fund on the Rhodes Scholarship, which brings foreign students to study at Britain's University of Oxford. He said he hoped the fund would help ease tensions caused by China's meteoric economic rise.

"I'm concerned with China growing at double or triple the rate of the West, that there will be tensions... One needs to do something to start addressing misunderstandings and frustration," he told AFP.

Blackstone, one of the world's largest private equity firms, has made significant investments in China in sectors as diverse as luxury real-estate and a chemical firm.

Chinese universities are administered by committees staffed by members of China's ruling Communist party, and academics have complained about restrictions when publishing on political issues.

Mr Schwarzman, who has a net worth of US$6.5 billion according to Forbes magazine, said there was no-indication that China's government would interfere with the courses offered to the scholars.

Tsinghua is one of China's most prestigious universities, and counts China's President Xi Jinping and previous president Hu Jintao among its graduates.

The newly announced fund lists former US secretary of states Henry Kissinger and Condoleezza Rice, former British prime minister Tony Blair and former French president Nicolas Sarkozy on its advisory board.

The first students admitted to the year-long programme - 45 per cent of whom will come from the United States - are set to begin studies in 2016.

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