I believe in a future where China is a strong, prosperous and successful member of the community of nations, a future when our nations are partners out of necessity, but also out of opportunity.
-Barack Obama, July 27, 2009
On May 25, 2010 at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the closing of the second Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) highlighted a small paragraph in the Joint Communiqué, saying that President Obama has announced a goal of sending 100,000 American students to China in the next four years. The purpose? They are to learn Mandarin Chinese, to experience Chinese culture, and to learn about the hospitality of the Chinese people, while they also serve as ambassadors for the United States in China.
What an extraordinary public diplomacy initiative, arguably one of the boldest foreign policy moves in our time! It certainly reflects Obama’s vision of a partnership out of necessity, but also out of opportunity for Americans to learn a major foreign language and culture and to promote mutual understanding between the United States and China. This new initiative comes at a critical time when our two countries need each other’s help to face the enormous challenges and problems in a changing international environment.
From all accounts, approximately 100,000 Chinese students, not including those from Taiwan and Hong Kong, are currently studying in the U.S. and less than 2,000 American students studying in China. Most Chinese students from China mainland are full time students studying science and technology and other critical fields at undergraduate and graduate levels, whereas American students in China are more likely short term students or involved in summer programs. There is an urgent need for a proper balance, but sending 100,000 students to China in 4 years is indeed very ambitious.