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Educational Exchanges Strengthen Ties Between the United States and China


First Lady Michelle Obama is on a trip to China this week. She will be travelling to three Chinese cities, including, Beijing, Xi’an, and Chengdu. The visit is designed to focus on the power of educational exchanges, specifically for young people in both countries. Mrs. Obama invited American students to follow her trip virtually through the internet. “With more than 1.3 billion people, China is the most populous country on Earth, and it plays an important role on the world stage,” she said, adding that “it’s critically important that young people like you learn about what’s going on not just here in America, but around the world.”

The Obama administration hopes to increase the number of American students studying in China through the 100,000 Strong Initiative, which launched in late 2009. The initiative aims to increase the number of American high school and college students studying in China in either short-term or long-term programs. The goal is to send 100,000 American students to China by the end of 2014. In January, 2013 the initiative became a permanent, independent nonprofit foundation that will continue to strengthen student exchanges for years. “We believe that the future is very clearly in the hands of the young people of both of our countries. And the more we can foster exchanges and understanding, mutual trust, the better off not only the relationship will be, but each of our countries individually,” said former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2013.

In the past decade, more American students have started traveling to China for higher education, according to the latest data released by the Institute of International Education. In the school year 2011-2012, there were 14,877 American students enrolled in Chinese schools. The number grew about four times compared to the school year 2001-2002, when there were only 3,911 American students studying in China. According to an IIE report, the goal of the 100,000 Strong Initiative is likely to be met.

Jefferson Lee is a Graduate Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington.