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50 foreigners win Friendship Award

Updated: Oct 06, 2017 China Daily Print

Overseas experts are honored for playing a vital role in helping build a more modern nation

Fifty foreign experts from 21 countries have received this year's Friendship Award - China's highest honor granted to a foreigner - for their contributions to the nation's development.

Vice-Premier Ma Kai conferred medals on the winners at an award ceremony on Sept 29 in Beijing. He said that, since late 2012, 3.35 million foreign experts have come to work in China and have played an active role in building a more modern nation.

Ma said China will adopt more open and effective policies to attract foreign talent, support foreign experts to participate in China's scientific research and safeguard their legitimate rights and interests. More rigorous efforts will be made to lure talent that China urgently needs, he added.

The award was launched in 1991 and, so far, 1,549 foreigners working in China have received the medal, according to the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs.

Among this year's winners, some work in remote areas, some have taken part in major engineering projects and some work in the education and medical fields.

The youngest winner is 38-year-old Egyptian reporter Hosam Farouk Mohamed, and the oldest is 88-year-old Oleg Favorsky, of Russia, who excels at aircraft engine theory and design.

Mary Gardner Gates, a 75-year-old United States art history expert who found out that she had won this year's prize about six weeks ago, said the award is "a great honor".

"I was happy," she said. "I go to Dunhuang (Gansu province) maybe two or three times a year. It gives me a chance to look into Chinese history, culture and art. I think it helps to deepen Americans' understanding of China."

Eckehard Scharfschwerdt, 54, a medical expert from Germany, worked for 15 years in poverty-stricken areas of Southwest China's Yunnan province as a doctor, and helped train local medical workers before he returned to his homeland last year.

"It certainly is a huge encouragement to all my co-workers in Yunnan and Sichuan (provinces)," he said. "But I also feel this award belongs to all my local friends in Yunnan. Without them, our family would never have stayed that long."

To attract more foreign talent to China and to facilitate their working and living in the country, China has adopted a more open and inclusive policy in recent years. The application process for Chinese permanent residence permits, or "green cards", has been streamlined and talented foreign workers are encouraged to apply for national research programs.

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