The Foreign Service Journal, September 2012

S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 2 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 35 F OCUS ON U. S-C HINA R ELAT IONS T HE 100,000-S TRONG I NITIATIVE n Nov. 16, 2009, en route to his first summit meeting with Chinese President Hu Jin- tao in Beijing, President Barack Obama made a brief stop in Shanghai. There he took part in a town hall–style meet- ing with several hundred carefully vetted students at the Museum of Science and Technology. At the outset of the event, the president reviewed the positive impact of growing contacts between the Chinese and American people and institutions since the restoration of full bilateral relations 30 years earlier. The success of this engagement, he noted, depended in large measure on greater mutual understanding, on sustaining an open dia- logue and on learning more about each other — and from one another. For this reason, Pres. Obama proudly announced that the United States intended to dramatically increase the number of American students who study in China to 100,000, as part of an initiative to deepen and expand bi- lateral contacts. He added that Washington does not view Beijing as an adversary and has no intention of trying to contain its rise, for one country’s success need not come at the expense of another. While the president hoped his message would be de- livered without restriction to a broad national audience, there is no way of knowing how many Chinese people ac- tually heard or understood his remarks. But Hu warmly welcomed the 100,000-Strong Initiative, which was in- cluded in the joint communique issued after the summit. And many observers have hailed it as one of the most con- sequential people-to-people programs to be discussed dur- ing the Beijing summit, and a long-overdue recognition of the strategic importance of such engagement. In the program’s first year, 2010, Beijing offered 10,000 bridge scholarships for American participants, which cover most of their in-country expenses. Two years later, the third Strategic and Economic Dialogue expanded the number of annual scholarships China offers to 20,000. As Pres. Hu declared in 2011, “Not even the most sophisti- cated telecommunication technology can replace face-to- face exchanges.” A Long History of Exchanges The first attempt to organize cultural and educational exchanges between the United States and China ended A FTER JUST THREE YEARS , THIS PEOPLE - TO - PEOPLE PROGRAM IS ALREADY BRINGING THE U NITED S TATES AND C HINA CLOSER TOGETHER . B Y S TANTON J UE Stanton Jue is a retired FSO whose career with the U.S. Information Agency and the Department of State spanned 35 years. He served in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China, South Vietnam, Cambodia, Australia and Washington, D.C., and continues to write about Chinese affairs.