Former China Daily Intern Receives Friendship Award, China's Top Honor
Erik Nilsson, '06 Department of Journalism graduate and former China Daily intern recently won the 2016 China Friendship Award, the highest honor bestowed upon foreign experts for their contributions to China's economic and social development. This top prize for international experts was presented during China's National Day celebrations which commemorates the founding of the People's Republic of China October 1, 1949.
Erik is currently Assistant Director, China Daily Features. He was offered a full-time position at the paper after he graduated from Central Michigan University and during the last decade has become one of its most senior foreign staff members.
Erik explains, "Working at China Daily is not just a job, it is a lifestyle. It is a way of life devoted to not only reporting the country's challenges but also solutions." This dedication spurred Erik to start his own non-profit organization, StepUp! which focuses on education in Tibetan nomadic areas. Since its inception five years ago, StepUp! has provided electricity, computers, libraries, clothes, food and medicine to at least 10,000 children. StepUp! is an idea of standing together and inspiring others to do more. The history and mission of StepUp! is best described by Erik, in his own words, in this video.
Erik never imagined when he arrived in China a decade ago, without knowing a word of the language or social system, that he would not only win this top award but be its youngest recipient. "During the award ceremony I felt small among giants." Erik stated. "Fifty of China's top foreign experts won this year. I was surrounded by a Nobel laureate in physics, a scientist who has prevented millions of new HIV/AIDS cases and leaders of various Ivy League associations." He continued. "China's Premier Li Keqiang dedicated 20 minutes of the National Day celebrations to personally thank the award recipients for our work during a special personal meeting and also took the time to learn about our individual contributions beforehand. I was especially moved when, during his public speech, the Premier mentioned I was the youngest recipient, I bowed graciously."
Erik has published more than two dozen books about China's environmental protection, UN Peacekeeping forces, ancient sports, calligraphy and children's literature. In 2010 Erik released his book, Unshakeable Sichuan: Chronicles of the Wenchuan Earthquake at the United Nations Pavilion of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo where he gave a speech and joined a panel of UN officials.
Erik hopes he can do more to contribute to China's development and to cultivating its friendship and mutual understanding with the global community. "I owe Dr. Jiafei Yin and Central Michigan University's journalism program a great debt of gratitude." He explains. "This has been an incredible journey through quake zones, nomadic plateau communities and leprosy villages, sometimes while riding yaks, camels and ostriches. I have spent days climbing mountains, exploring caves and hiking through desert ruins with monks, CEO's, herders, UN officials and androids. None of this would have been possible without the guidance and opportunities presented to me by Dr. Yin."
The CMU-China Daily Exchange Program was established in 1999 by former China Daily chief copy editor and Central Michigan University journalism faculty member, Dr. Jiafei Yin. For the past 17 years the internship program has sent 15 student interns to China to work at the world renowned China Daily and brought 11 China Daily senior staffers to CMU. These journalists guest lecture in courses from journalism to economics, political science, speech and business. They are also featured speakers at open forums on China on the campus of CMU.