Social Education 58(7), 1994, pp. 437-438
National Council for the Social Studies

Education About theUnited Nations in thePeople's Republic of China

Wu Jianqiang
The restoration of the People's Republic of China's membership in the United Nations in 1971 signified China's return to the international community. Since that time, China, representing one-fifth of the world's people, has taken an active attitude toward observing the Charter and relevant decisions of the United States and has played an important part in world affairs. Benefiting from the open-door policy implemented since the late 1970's, China has respected the importance of the UN and strengthened its communication with other countries through the UN. At the same time, immense attention has been devoted to education about the UN, through which the majority of the Chinese people have learned its functions and its relationship with China.
The main part of this education takes place at schools. Teaching about the UN is required in suitable courses in all types of schools in China. In primary schools, it is usually taught in the "common sense" course, through which pupils learn very basic information about the UN. High school students take a course in political knowledge which covers international relations. Knowledge of the UN is an indispensable component of that course and is tested in a portion of the annual entrance examinations to higher education. In addition to what is regularly learned at school, students have to keep an eye on what is taking place at the UN at any time, because not only their general knowledge but also their knowledge of current events is tested in these examinations. What is taught about the UN in China is its function as the largest international organization of nations to maintain peace and to advance the welfare of all human beings on earth. Particularly in recent years, the UN has successfully put an end to conflicts and has contributed to the struggle against ignorance and poverty, accelerating prosperity for the whole of humankind.

In colleges and universities, there are many students at the Departments of Political Science and International Relations. For them, the UN is one of the subjects required for mastery. For those with other majors, the knowledge of the UN does not seem to be emphasized. They are required to master knowledge about the UN to the extent that they can pass their examinations in the political knowledge course.

For example, Shandong Teachers' University (STU) is the second largest university in Shandong Province in eastern China. The enrollment is 7,000 full-time students, plus another 7,000 part-time students. There is a department of political science at this university, where many students major in international politics and relations. The UN is a required subject for these students. In addition, there is a teaching section for non-political science majors, which carries out the responsibility for teaching general political knowledge to the students in other departments. Periodic lectures on current international events and developments are held, in which the UN is frequently mentioned. Interested students and teachers attend these lectures and feel free to argue with the main speakers. If something important happens at the UN, students are given access to detailed information not only in their political knowledge classes but also in public lectures. What is interesting, however, is that there are at least ten foreign teachers and about thirty foreign students working at STU every year. They are often invited to give seminars on whatever they would like to talk about. Sometimes they speak about the UN so that the students obtain knowledge about it from their perspectives.

China's Involvement with UN Specialized Agencies
In pursuing economic reforms and development, China has maintained effective and satisfactory cooperation with all UN agencies, which, in return, have helped China with its social progress. As a member of the UN Security Council, China has made its contribution to the exercise and vindication of UN rights together with other member states. Having the largest population in the world, China has received understanding and support from the UN Population Council during the process of implementing family planning. Great progress has been made in the joint program undertaken by China and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN Fund for Population, and the World Health Organization, which aims at providing adequate medical care for every citizen in China by the year 2000. Additionally, China has achieved a great deal in developing education, science, and culture under the guidance of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Many international conferences sponsored by the UN are held in China, concerned with a variety of areas. All of these facts are stressed in education about the UN. Other UN agencies familiar to Chinese students are the UN Economic and Social Council, the UN Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Labour Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization, the UN Development Program, and the UN Environment Program.

Education about the UN in China has served as a bridge linking China and the UN as well as a window through which the Chinese students have observed various world developments. It is expected that as a large country, China will play a more significant part in the international community and will have more efficient cooperation with the UN. All of this cannot be separated from effective education of the UN. China is doing its part.

Wu Jianqiang is an administrator at Shandong Teacher's University, China. He is currently engaged in postgraduate studies in vocational education at Nottingham University, England.