Seven months in to 2014, cultural, political, and economic ties between Montana and China are numerous and deep. So far, there have been educational exchanges, trips by official delegations between the two, and a planned trade mission by Governor Steve Bullock this month. Montana sold over $101 million worth of goods to China in 2013, making China its third-largest trading partner. The governor’s planned visit has earned the praise of current US Ambassador to China Max Baucus, who represented Montana in the Senate before assuming his current position. According to Baucus, “Expanding trade to China is a huge priority for me and my team at the US Embassy, and we look forward to supporting the delegation as they help Montana businesses expand their opportunities in China.”
Earlier this year, six professional athletes from Montana participated in a three-week sports diplomacy exchange to China, where they worked with ethnic minority children and children with disabilities. As the first Montana exchange program to travel to China since Ambassador Baucus began his tenure, the team was excited about what their group could achieve in China. Affiliated with the Confucius Institute at the Mansfield Center, the delegation raised money to buy sports equipment for children and China and worked to build cross-cultural understanding.
The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center at the University of Montana has been integral in getting Montana-China exchanges up and running. This month it has sponsored a group of 20 graduate students from China who are studying government and politics to meet with local officials in Montana, including Governor Bullock. On a three-state tour, a delegation from China that includes representatives from the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Institute of World Economics and Politics touched down in Montana on July 24th.
The University of Montana’s School of Journalism has also gotten in on the exchange bandwagon. For the entire month of July, it is hosting nine Chinese students who are studying journalism and languages at Shanghai International Studies University. In addition to meeting with media professionals, the program is geared towards exposing the students to Montana’s unique cultural assets.
With all of the connections being made between the two, Montana-China ties look set to remain strong for many years to come.
Sarah Batiuk is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington, DC.