Washington and China Universities Break Ground on New Joint Facility near Seattle

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by Stephanie Gill
An artist’s rendering of the new GIX building, expected to open in the fall of 2017. Image: NBBJ, University of Washington press release.

In September, leaders from Seattle’s University of Washington and Beijing, China’s Tsinghua University gathered to celebrate the groundbreaking of the new learning center that will host their joint Global Innovative Exchange (GIX) program. The GIX building, located in Bellevue near UW’s campus, will feature resources such as computing and design labs. Construction is expected to take a year and its completion will coincide with UW’s GIX launch in the fall of 2017. The partnership between UW and Tsinghua is one of several developing between the state of Washington and organizations around China, particularly in the technology sector.

Currently, GIX plans to offer two programs: a Master of Science in Technology and Innovation (MSTI) degree from UW, and a dual MSTI and Master of Engineering in Data Science and Information Technology (MEDSIT) degree from both UW and Tsinghua. The universities plan to expand GIX in the future with new degree and certificate options. Students pursuing a dual degree will first complete their MSTI at UW before attending Tsinghua University for six months. Though GIX at UW has yet to open its doors, several students have already begun their studies in Beijing. They will join the first GIX class in Bellevue next September.

American and Chinese universities have partnered with each other in the past; Tsinghua University will also be launching a joint research and degree program with the University of California, Berkeley. However, unlike other partnerships, GIX is unique in that it marks the first time a Chinese university will have a physical presence in the United States. Microsoft is also a founding partner of the initiative and continues to support the project through a $40 million investment.

UW and Tsinghua’s partnership is the latest in Washington’s growing ties to China. In 2015, China was Washington’s top export market, valued at nearly $19.5 billion. This is over double that of its second largest export market, Canada, and a 38% increase in value of exports compared to 2012. China is also a major force in Washington’s tourism industry, with Seattle becoming an increasingly popular destination for Chinese tourists. According to Seattle tourism officials, there was a 90% increase in Chinese tourists from 2012 to 2014. On a recent visit there, Chinese President Xi Jinping described Seattle as “America’s gateway to Asia.”

Stephanie Gill is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a student at the George Washington University.