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Originally published Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 7:00 PM

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$300M to build China rival to Rhodes scholarship

The new Schwarzman Scholars program will pay all expenses for 200 students from around the world for a one-year master’s program at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

The New York Times

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HONG KONG — Private-equity tycoon Stephen Schwarzman, backed by an array of mostly Western blue-chip companies with interests in China, is creating a $300 million scholarship program for study in China that he hopes will rival the Rhodes scholarship in prestige and influence.

The program, whose endowment represents one of the largest single gifts to education in the world and one of the largest philanthropic gifts ever in China, will be announced by Schwarzman, 66, in Beijing on Sunday.

The Schwarzman Scholars program will pay all expenses for 200 students each year from around the world for a one-year master’s program at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

The program’s creation underlines the tremendous importance of China and its market to Wall Street financiers and corporate leaders, who have become increasingly anxious as security and economic frictions grow between China and the West.

Schwarzman said his goal was to reduce such tensions by educating the world’s future leaders, but his role in the project will also raise his political profile in China, potentially giving him and his private-equity firm, the Blackstone Group, increased access to Chinese leaders. Many of them, including Xi Jinping, who became president of China last month, attended Tsinghua, one of the country’s top universities.

Schwarzman said he was donating $100 million from his personal fortune, which Forbes estimated last month at $6.5 billion. He said he had raised $100 million from donors, and expected to raise the remaining $100 million by the end of this year.

The donors include Boeing, which is aggressively marketing jets in China, the world’s second-largest aircraft market, and Caterpillar, which sells earth-moving equipment in what has become the world’s largest construction market. They also include JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Credit Suisse, which provide financial services to the Chinese government and state-owned banks.

The personal foundation of Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York is also a donor.

The program plans to take in 10,000 students in the next 50 years, forming an international network that can bridge differences between China and the West, he said. Forty-five percent will come from the United States, 20 percent from China, and 35 percent from Australia, Canada, Europe, Latin America and the rest of Asia. Africa may be added later.

When it begins in 2016, the Schwarzman scholarship program will match the 111-year-old Rhodes in the number of students and the scale of its endowment.

The Rhodes endowment is worth about $203 million, according to its trustees. It awards grants to 83 scholars a year, who typically study at Oxford for at least two years, though some stay on to complete a doctorate, said John Hood, a former vice chancellor of Oxford who is the chairman of the Rhodes trustees. About 200 scholars are on stipend at any one time.

The program will offer master’s degrees in public policy, international relations, economics, business and, later, engineering. It will start each June with a summerlong immersion program in Chinese culture and issues, and an introduction to Mandarin, followed by a full academic year of courses.

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