China, Pittsburgh, and You

Based on the post title, maybe you thought that this post would be about the new Richard Chen restaurant, which has finally brought high end Chinese food to the city. (About Richard Chen, the food may be terrific, but more noteworthy is the characterization suggested by one friend who has eaten there: It's full of Pittsburgh's beautiful people.)

No, instead of a restaurant review I want to highlight something that the Post-Gazette inexplicably failed to cover:

University of Pittsburgh's Confucius Institute Named Confucius Institute of the Year

PITTSBURGH-The Chinese Ministry of Education's Office of Chinese Language Council International (Hanban) named the Asian Studies Center's Confucius Institute (CI-Pitt) at the University of Pittsburgh one of 20 Confucius Institutes of the Year during the organization's third conference, which was held in Beijing Dec. 9-11.

Established in May 2007, CI-Pitt was the first Confucius Institute in Pennsylvania. Since then, CI-Pitt has experienced rapid growth-expanding from two to 10 Chinese teachers, from three to 25 partner schools, from three to 69 Chinese classes, and from 49 to about 1,200 students.

Initiated by the State Council of China in 1987, the Confucius Institutes are a joint effort of 12 national-level ministries and commissions in China. Confucius Institutes promote and enhance the understanding of Chinese language and culture worldwide. The first Confucius Institute was established in Seoul, Korea in 2004. There are 295 Confucius Institutes in 78 countries and regions worldwide.
That text is copied verbatim from a press release issued in December by the University of Pittsburgh. The news is significant because it hints at something larger that is just about completely ignored in the local mainstream media.

The something larger is not this: Even to the casual observer, and using just about any benchmark one likes, Pittsburgh ranks pretty low among its peer regions when it comes to diversity metrics. I just came back from San Diego, and as always, while in California I was struck by the number and variety of colors that I saw on the street. When our university is trying to recruit new faculty, Pittsburgh's lack of racial and ethnic diversity is a huge obstacle to recruiting talented new people. It doesn't help that much of Pittsburgh's existing diversity is locked into what I once characterized as the Third Pittsburgh.

Instead, the something larger is that Pittsburgh has some tremendous assets when it comes to international communities here and connections with international communities abroad. I've written about this before, in the context of sports (or sport, as the phrase goes in other countries). Recognition of Pitt's Confucius Institute is just another example. We have a great and growing connection with the Chinese. Who knew? The fact that the mainstream media here ignored that award is just another data point that supports my basic argument. Internationalization here is valuable and important to those of us who happen to encounter it, but it's nearly invisible to everyone else.

In the context of my earlier internationalization post, one comment in particular made an excellent follow-on point: What's the message that Pittsburgh is trying to send to its citizens? Cities send messages. Directly and indirectly, through politics, sports, arts, and media, the culture wants people to do or to be things. New York wants people to be rich (according to the comment, and it makes sense to me). Cambridge (Massachusetts) wants people to be smart (again, this makes sense to me).

I hypothesize that Pittsburgh doesn't want its people to be internationalists. But what does Pittsburgh want its people to be?


3 Responses to "China, Pittsburgh, and You"

Bram Reichbaum said... 1/13/2009 9:54 PM

Pittsburgh wants its people to stay Pittsburghers.

Mike Z said... 1/14/2009 8:54 AM


Good to see you back in the blogosphere, I had been an avid reader of your blog over the years and was disappointed a few months back when I had heard that you shutting down the blog.

Glad to see the new and improved pittsblog up and running. Two questions for you though.

One. Why have you not moved off of the blog spot domain with your own wordpress powered blog at just

Two. Is there any way to incorporate facebook connect into your commenting in order to use that as the avatar?

Once again good to see you back.

Mike Madison said... 1/14/2009 9:31 AM

Mike Z,

Two good questions.

First: When I started the blog, was owned by someone else. I'm as cheap as the next guy; Blogger was and remains free. I'm also as lazy as the next guy (plus, I run three other blogs, or four, depending on how you count), and I am my own tech support, so my blog-tinkering time is limited. If someone were to volunteer to move the whole thing over to a WordPress platform (including all the archived posts, plus something resembling the layout), I'd consider it.

Second: The Facebook question is also a good one. The social bookmarking service that I've added here doesn't include a Facebook option. I don't know why not. Other integration with Facebook is also a good idea. (Yes, you can find me on Facebook.) Anyone with suggestions or better options is welcome to send them on to me. See also comments about "own technical support" and "limited time," above. ;-)

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About Pittsblog

Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at] Mike also blogs at, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

All opinions expressed at Pittsblog 2.0 are those of their respective authors and of no one (and no thing) else, least of all the University of Pittsburgh.

Pittsblog 2.0 has a motto: "It's steel good in Pittsburgh." Say it aloud, with a Pittsburgh accent.

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