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KNOXVILLE, Tenn.– An Internet site where people can make new friends and learn about China was launched Wednesday by the University of Tennessee.

 Patterned after UT’s successful “Friends and Partners Russia,” the new World Wide Web site on China has the potential to be even larger, Homer Fisher, UT senior vice president, said.

The Russia location has about 8,000 participants in 50 countries and is accessed approximately 2 million times a month by Internet users, Fisher said.

“With the interest in China here and around the world, this one may be even more popular,” he said.

 The new site was opened Wednesday in honor of the visit of Professor Qu GePing, founder of the Chinese National Environmental Protection Agency. He headed the organization until 1993.

Fisher, who is also chairman of the board of the Joint Institute of Energy and Environment, said Qu is an international authority on environment issues in developing nations.

Qu, a guest of JIEE, met with UT-Knoxville faculty and Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers this week.

 Greg Cole, site developer and director of UT’s Center for International Networking Initiatives, said the web site is designed to explore use of the Internet as a means of promoting understanding of and exchange with the culture and people of China.

 “More importantly, we want to introduce opportunities for cooperation and friendship between individuals and organizations in our countries,” Cole said.

 Dr. Rongshen Xu of the International High Energy Physics Institute in Beijing is UT’s partner in China. He established the first Internet connection in the People’s Republic of China. His visit to Knoxville and Oak Ridge two years ago led to the development of the China site, Cole said.

Drs. Ge Zhang and Michael Lusk of UT have worked for two years with Cole and the center’s staff on Friends and Partners-China.

 Visitors to the China site ( can receive information on about a dozen topics, including culture, commerce, education, exchanges, science and travel.

 The Friends and Partners program was founded in 1994 and the Russia location has been designated as a top 30 “must see” Internet site by Ventana Press’ “Walking the World Wide Web.” It also received a four-star rating from Magellan.

 The U.S. State Department, NATO, the Ford Foundation and Sun Microsystems have supported the effort, Cole said.


 Contact: Greg Cole (423-974-7277/