SACU/Peking University Essay Competition Launched at Oundle School, Wednesday 29th January 2020

We launched this year’s Essay Competition at Oundle School on Wednesday 29th January at the invitation of Ms Shuling Russo-Lai, Head of Chinese, and we thank the school for their hospitality. SACU has close links with Oundle School because our founder Joseph Needham attended the school and SACU’s Archives are stored here.


Interested students gave up their lunchtime to come along to SACU’s presentation in the Modern Languages Building. Zoe Reed, SACU Chair, talked about Joseph Needham’s wartime support of China’s scientists and how he sponsored a young K.C. Sun to study textile engineering in the UK. K.C. Sun became Zoe’s father and Zoe knew Joseph Needham all her life.


SACU member and Essay Competition Co-ordinator Wang Fang followed by telling us about how the China Center for Edgar Snow Studies came to be established in Peking University, named to honour Edgar Snow who was one of the first western journalists to report about the progress of the Communist Party of China in his book Red Star over China in 1937. Professor Sun Hua, Director of the China Center for Edgar Snow Studies, was going to join us for the launch but unfortunately was unable to attend.


Zoe then introduced the theme of this year’s Essay Competition: “Overcoming the cultural gap between China and the West”. The aim is to help young people learn about the development of friendship and understanding between the UK and China, and to consider how this might be further promoted.



Students are encouraged to consider any aspect of differences between China and the West and suggest how building understanding and friendship might help close the cultural gap. The historical development of China seems very different to that of the UK and other European countries, and relations have often been strained. But the growth of modern China has arguably brought countries closer together especially through trade and tourism. Chinese goods are found all over the world but increasingly the USA in particular seeks to impose trade barriers at the same time as welcoming growing numbers of Chinese students and visitors.


What can history teach us about moving forward in a spirit of friendship and understanding? How can we bridge the cultural gap that can be seen in attitudes to work and leisure, relations with authority, arts, sport and social life and so on?


The competition seeks responses from wide ranging perspectives, looking for considered views, grounded analysis and imaginative responses.


Whilst continuing to welcome written submissions in essay form we also wish to encourage more visual responses by still art or video: this could involve photography, other visual art, or choreographed dance. We suggest essays should be a maximum of 2,000 words and videos no longer that 5 minutes.



Entries will be considered in two age groups: 16 years and above; Under 16s. The closing date for submissions for judging will be the end of May 2020.



There is still time for SACU members to be involved. If you have a connection with a school in your area you can introduce the Essay Competition to the school this term. Each school will run its own internal process in order to select up to 3 entries (in each category) to the general competition. There will be an awards event in London in late June hosted by SACU. Prizes of £100 first prize, £50 second prize and £25 third prize in each category, generously donated by Peking University, will be presented by Professor Sun Hua. The judging panel, chaired by Dr Frances Wood, SACU Vice President, will give their views on the entries. All entrants will also be offered a one-year complimentary student membership of SACU.



Wang Fang as Essay Competition Co-ordinator will be happy to talk through the entry process with any SACU members interested in becoming a school link and she can make school visits to introduce the competition.

Please make contact by email:


Ros Wong
SACU Membership Secretary
31 January 2020