(Australian Associated Press)
Two high-achieving young Australians have secured places in the first intake of an extremely selective program aimed at producing future leaders who understand China and the role it will play in the world.
Ross Tan, a 25-year-old law and Asian studies graduate who has also set up a China-focused wine export business, and Belinda McEniery, a 22-year-old economics graduate specialising in public health policy, are among 111 scholars chosen for the inaugural Schwarzman Scholarship program.
The Schwarzman scholarships were established by billionaire private equity investor Stephen Schwarzman, who put up $100 million to start a $450 million endowment to put students through a year-long program.
Mr Schwarzman, the founder of global investment firm Blackstone, was inspired by the Rhodes Scholarship program to develop a 21st century equivalent focused on Asia.
More than 3000 people applied for scholarships, with recipients chosen by a panel that includes former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd, former British PM Tony Blair and former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice.
Mr Tan has a Bachelor of Asian Studies from the Australian National University, is completing honours in law and co-founded a business importing Australian organic wine and fine foods into China.
Ms McEniery studied economics at the University of Queensland, interned in finance in Shanghai and Hong Kong and works at the Queensland Treasury department, where she focuses on public health policy.
They take their places at a new college on the campus of Beijing’s Tsinghua University with a 2016 cohort that includes a special forces commander, a serial entrepreneur, a journal-published chemical engineering student and Jacob Gaba – the star of the popular “Guy dances across China” YouTube video, who also studies computer science.
Mr Schwarzman described the calibre of the first class of scholars as “truly exceptional”.
“Each scholar has demonstrated tremendous leadership potential at a young age,” he said.