Training in Chinese business etiquette, partnerships with international companies and networking opportunities will be key components of a new “Confucius Institute” at Kennesaw State University.
The institute will officially launch in January to become the second center in Atlanta funded by the Chinese government to promote the country’s language and culture.
The Kennesaw State branch is partnering with Yangzhou University, a 35,000-student institution in China’s Jiangsu Province. It is one of the newest of more than 200 such institutes around the world. Nearly 50 are in the U.S., and the Georgia capital is the only city to have two.
Emory University runs the first through a partnership with Atlanta Public Schools.
With $100,000 in startup money, 3,000 books and audiovisual resources, the Kennesaw institute will have strong cultural and educational components.
But Ken Jin, international programs director for Kennesaw State’s continuing education program and head of its Confucius Institute, envisions the center as a business tool as well.
Mr. Jin, a longtime promoter of Atlanta-China ties, has hosted 159 Chinese delegations since 1993 and estimates that bringing more than 2,500 executives to metro Atlanta has pumped millions in to the local economy through travel expenses.
These activities over the last 15 years show the strength of the Georgia-China bond at its grassroots level, beyond flashy investment announcements that have made news headlines over the past year, he said.
With the promise of matching funds for approved activities from the sponsoring Office of Chinese Language Council International, or Hanban, Mr. Jin hopes to give Georgia companies the knowledge they need to engage with one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.
John Ray, chair of the Georgia China Alliance, said there’s strong demand for this brand of expertise around the state.
And the fact that the institute mixes business with culture is perfect for working with Chinese people, he said.
“They’re interested in a personal relationship that goes beyond just the transaction,” Mr. Ray said. “It’s amazing that when you go to China on business, if you have a curiosity and even some sort of rudimentary knowledge, how different the business conversation is. Even knowing a few phrases in Chinese makes all the difference in the world.”
Mr. Jin has already mentioned starting a “China Day” event with Atlanta-based global companies like United Parcel Service Inc. and GE Energy, which already have cultural training departments.
But the institute will help small- to medium-sized businesses as well by conducting customized training.
Mr. Jin said the Kennesaw staff is helping a company in Calhoun navigate problems communicating with its two factories in the Chinese provinces of Guangdong and Shandong.
Creating a Chinese “cheat sheet” for commonly used products and words has helped smooth out e-mail communication, he said.
“We don’t want to solve your one problem. We’d like to give you tools so that when you get in the situation in the future, you know what to do,” he said.
Mr. Jin promoted the Confucius Institute at Silk Restaurant in Midtown. His presentation was the first in a speaker series hosted by the Georgia China Alliance to recognize “connectors” who have built the Georgia-China relationship largely behind the scenes.
Officials from Kennesaw State including Mr. Jin and university President Daniel Papp traveled to China to sign the partnership with Yangzhou University in April.