Is America's Overseas Broadcasting Undermining our National Interest and the Fight Against Tyrannical Regimes?

Jennifer Park Stout
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Statement Before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
Washington, DC
April 6, 2011

Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Carnahan, and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today on U.S. public diplomacy efforts in China. The State Department appreciates Congress' long-standing interest in what we do to engage, inform and influence the Chinese public through a variety of means.

In this endeavor we face many hurdles. Within China, we function in a highly-controlled information environment, often with no option but to use platforms that are either run by the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) or are censored by the PRC. Our challenge, and one we believe we are meeting with some success despite the strictures, is to build trust and understanding with the Chinese public.

Although our two governments do not always see eye to eye, the United States and China have shared interests, as do the Chinese and American people. Our task is to emphasize those shared interests in a way that moves forward the U.S. global agenda on trade, rule of law, human rights, regional stability, combating terrorism, health, and a sustainable future. We are unstinting in representing American values and sharing examples from our own democratic, transparent, law-based society. And we work hard to present these in a manner to which the Chinese people can relate, rather than in a prescriptive manner that would be as poorly received in China as a prescriptive approach from a foreign country would be received by the American people. The U.S. domestic system and our global approach have resulted in prosperity and a security that are respected around the world - and these successes lead our Chinese audience to draw the right conclusions from the examples we present.

We should, of course, not be naive about the challenges we face in our public diplomacy efforts in China, from a government that sometimes blocks access to our messages, to an oftentimes nationalistic public that has, in many cases, been taught to be wary of foreign influence. In our public diplomacy we remain forthright about discussing openly the complexity of the bilateral relationship and those points on which our two governments agree -- just as our leaders do. At the same time, as I mentioned previously, we believe that many of our most successful public diplomacy efforts are those that employ positive messages that appeal to the Chinese public through the power of our example and our values. For example, as the President and Secretary of State have done, we emphasize to the Chinese public that the United States welcomes the rise of a prosperous, stable China, even as we state honestly our differences over various issues and our concerns with certain aspects of PRC policies.

We have many tools in our public diplomacy toolbox in China. The explosive growth of Internet use in China has given us new avenues through which to reach out to the Chinese public that would have been inconceivable even a decade ago. Chinese bloggers enjoy a certain latitude that state-run television stations and newspapers do not, and we've used that trend to blog and micro-blog to reach millions of Chinese readers. When President Obama held a town hall with students in Shanghai in November 2009, 55 million Chinese Internet users visited the Web site. Chinese bloggers and microbloggers invited to an October 2010 bookstore event with Ambassador Jon Huntsman got more than 100,000 hits to their sites within two hours of the event. Webchats with top U.S. government officials often receive tens of millions of hits.

Our Embassy in Beijing has one of the busiest cultural and academic exchange offices in the world. More than 200 Americans and Chinese learn about each other's countries every year via the Fulbright program. In the current fiscal year, we expect to bring 135 up-and-coming Chinese professionals to the United States under the International Visitor Leadership Program. We fund the translation of U.S. law texts into Chinese for use in Chinese law schools. On the basis of the successful opening of an American Studies Center run as a partnership between Arizona State University and Sichuan University, we are moving forward with other pairings of American and Chinese universities to promote American studies on Chinese campuses.

We look forward to the April II start of the high-level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange meeting to be led by Secretary Clinton and Chinese State Councilor Liu Yandong in Washington, DC. The State Department is securing private sector support from many quarters for the" I00, 000 Strong" initiative which will encourage and help facilitate 100,000 U.S. students to study in China over the next four years. This initiative will not only build America's next generation of leaders' understanding of this important country, but will give many thousands more Chinese opportunities to interact directly with Americans and thus dispel misconceptions.

Our EducationUSA educational advising office in Beijing is larger than ever and thus better able to advise the huge and growing number of Chinese who want to study in the U.S. The nearly 130,000 students from China in the United States are our single largest foreign student contingent and represent a unique opportunity for the United States to influence the next generation of Chinese leaders. They're also tuition-paying customers who make no small contribution to the U.S. economy while they are here.

Before I close, I would like to re-emphasize a point [ made earlier about the greatest asset of our public diplomacy: the attractiveness of the United States, including to many in China, due to the power of our example and the appeal of our values. So, while I do not underestimate the challenges we face in conducting public diplomacy in China, I am confident of our continued progress in that realm thanks to the strengths of our society, our form of government, the freedoms we enjoy, our culture, and our very way of life. Though any country's public diplomacy - China's, ours, other countries' - will benefit from more resources, at the end of the day, for public diplomacy to be successful, the country itself has to put forth a model that others aspire to emulate - and that's certainly true or the United States in China.

The U.S. public diplomacy mission, therefore, is to continue showing the very best of our nation, society, culture and values. Chinese citizens can glean from our examples ways to make their own society more just. Our efforts to explain U.S. policies aim to develop a common understanding that makes our countries readier 10 cooperate with one another on the global challenges we both face.

Thank you for extending this opportunity to me to testify today on this important subject. I look forward to responding your questions.