Remarks at the People-to-People Dialogue Plenary Session
Secretary of State
Thank you for your leadership and for presenting such an inspiring set of remarks at this consultation on people-to-people exchange. I could not have asked for a better partner as we began this effort three years ago. Your enthusiasm and your commitment have made this CPE even more successful than it might otherwise have been. So I express to you on behalf of myself personally, but also on behalf of the American side, our great appreciation. And once again, thank you for this absolutely gracious hospitality. (Applause.)
I think we have already seen today the fruits of our efforts: starting as I walked into the museum with a large group of Chinese and American children waving flags and greeting me; listening to the wonderful chorus of Chinese and American students singing a powerful duo of songs, one in English, the other in Chinese; hearing the report from the under secretary and the vice minister outlining all of the work that has been done and the work that lies ahead; and then the special treat of hearing from our two students. I particularly want to thank them for what they said, but also how they said it. The expression of empathy and excitement that you both conveyed was very moving to me. I am proud of our American student, and I’m delighted that our Chinese student got a chance to study in New York. So let’s give them another round of applause. (Applause.)
These exchanges can be not only the warmest and most meaningful, but also most consequential and enduring form of our diplomacy. They are absolutely critical to our relationship, because while we in government are working at the highest levels to strengthen communication and trust between our governments and our militaries and the institutions of our states, we know that work is important and we know it is hard. We know that we cannot agree on everything, but we have seen in the last four years of our Strategic and Economic Dialogues an increasing understanding and trust grow between us that I am very grateful for.
But in the end, relationships between nations are rooted in the relationships between their people. And here, we are counting on the American and Chinese people to contribute to the enduring nature of this consequential relationship. I believe that the more Chinese and American people learn about each other – as students and scholars, as innovators and entrepreneurs, as artists and athletes, as members of two great, rich, and distinct cultures – the more resilient our relationship can be, even when we disagree. Because after all, I know of no two people who agree on everything, let alone two large nations like ours.
So the consultation is not just something we do to feel good about ourselves – although I must say, it does make me feel good. It is vital to building that positive, comprehensive, cooperative relationship that President Hu Jintao and President Obama set the vision for back in 2009. Because whether we seek to fuel greater economic growth or to create sustainable energy solutions, to address the challenges of climate change or take on any number of global concerns, we need the full participation not just of our government but of our private sector and of our people.
And that’s where exchanges come in. They may be the most powerful way to build these ties. Now, Chinese students can read books about the United States or watch movies from Hollywood; but only through the kind of interactions that Joe described can they get a better feel for who we are as a people. And the same goes for American students, as we heard from Daniel Tedesco. They are yearning to learn more about China, and you cannot learn that from a textbook. You learn it from sitting across a table, having a discussion, sharing a meal, learning a language. There is nothing that substitutes for being in each other’s countries.
Daniel was talking about his experience at the USA Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo, and I am proud to be known as the mother of the USA Pavilion. It was a very difficult labor and delivery. (Laughter.) But the principal attraction of our pavilion were these young Americans who spoke Mandarin serving as student-ambassadors. And I would watch the Chinese visitors come and be surprised that some young American – Asian American or a Hispanic American or an African American or certainly a Caucasian American – was greeting them in their language. And I was so proud because these young American students represented the true breadth and diversity of our country. And I heard so many stories later of Chinese people saying: You really study our language? You really came over here to be part of this? And it was, for me, a great validation of the importance of these people-to-people exchanges.
So we want to extend this kind of connection to as many people as we can. In the two years since Madam Liu and I launched this forum, we have been very busy. And you – all of you on both sides, the Chinese and the American sides – have been absolutely magnificent in producing results for the consultation.
To give you just a few quick examples, in the past year, we sent American musicians, dancers, artists, and filmmakers to China to engage with young audiences and to build connections that transcend language barriers. American and Chinese graduate students came together to share ideas at our inaugural Young Scientist Forum. We’ve had delegations of sports professionals, including one delegation looking at how to include more athletes with disabilities in sporting events.
We’ve held four dialogues between Chinese and American women leaders to talk about the ways to improve opportunities for women and girls around the world. And building on the success of these dialogues, the United States and China also co-hosted our first side event on Women and Sustainable Development at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in February. And I must thank our women leaders who did that, because the feedback was incredible. People from all over the world were so impressed that the United States and China, together, were sponsoring that event at the United Nations. And I see heads nodding on both sides of the table.
Now, of course, our most visible programs are student and educational exchanges. We continue working to offer more opportunities through the U.S.-China Fulbright Program. We’re having Chinese and American educators sharing best practices at the provincial and local level. We are especially focused on expanding education exchange opportunities for underserved communities of students. For example, our EducationUSA program recently helped arrange a partnership between Gallaudet University in Washington and Beijing Union University to advance higher education for deaf and hearing-impaired students.
President Obama announced the 100,000 Strong Initiative more than two years ago, because the United States wanted to dramatically increase the number of American students traveling to China for academic work. And we are grateful that the Chinese Government has offered 20,000 scholarships for Americans to study here. And from the U.S. side, we have helped raise over $15 million in grants to send more of our students to China, especially deserving students who don’t have the financial assets to be able to afford to do it on their own.
Studying abroad can be expensive, so we want to make sure it’s available to as many talented students as possible. Just this week, the city of Chicago joined Los Angeles, Seattle, and Washington, DC in committing to send more underserved public high school students on exchanges to China. And working with our partners, we hope to double the number of students that America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities send to study abroad in China, and we are launching a scholarship campaign to help make that happen.
As we move forward, I see two main challenges for us to take on together: first, to look for ways we can continue to expand our exchanges and bring down the barriers that still can impede our progress and cooperation; and second, to make sure the progress that Madam Liu and I have been privileged to lead becomes permanent and self-sustaining.
On the first issue, there is more room still to make it easier on both sides for students and educators, journalists and scientists, athletes and artists, to participate. One of the best ways we can do this is to open the door to more private sector involvement so businesses and nonprofits can add their resources. Early this morning, we had an opportunity to meet, as part of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, with five major Chinese corporations and five major American corporations. And we think their understanding and appreciation for these exchanges could be very helpful.
And today, we heard about several new agreements between our governments and private organizations to further our people-to-people connections. We need to lock this in to make it permanent so it endures for years to come, and that’s the second challenge I mentioned.
When we launched 100,000 Strong in 2010, we originally envisioned it as a four-year effort. But today, I am proud to announce that the Ford Foundation will provide $1 million in seed funding to start an independent, nonprofit corporation that will sustain the work of 100,000 Strong beyond these four years. This is an excellent model; it took our government and our government backing to get 100,000 Strong off the ground, but now we look to our civil society and our private sector to sustain and amplify it. And I want to thank John Fitzgerald, the president of the Ford Foundation in China, for his leadership and commitment to 100,000 Strong, and I want to thank all the companies who have made donations to support the program.
Finally, we are very proud of the broad cooperation that we have developed over the last 40 years since President Nixon made his historic visit to China. Back then, we had almost no contact and very few personal connections. And now, as was pointed out, the United States hosts more exchange students from China than from any other country.
Now, I do not pretend that our people-to-people efforts will eliminate the differences between our two systems, our cultural and historical experiences. But I do believe it will increase and enhance understanding, empathy, and trust. We will continue to have differences, and we now are at a point in our relationship where we can candidly and openly talk about them – the core interests and concerns on the Chinese side, which we are very clear about and which we engage in, core interest and concerns like human rights on our side, which we’re very clear about and we engage in.
So we know that this cannot erase the differences we have, but we don’t expect that. What we expect is that we will make such a strong investment in our relationship that we will continue to move forward together. And the differences will be dealt with as part of the broad, dynamic, important, and consequential relationship between our two nations.
Just a while ago, when we were listening to the inspiring stories of our American and Chinese student, I’m sure they both faced a lot of questions and maybe had to make a leap of faith to go to another country, to learn another language, to leave family and friends behind, to deal with all the challenges of living in a new place. It took courage to do what they did. Well, we are forging a new relationship. And yes, to some extent it does take courage, because we have to take a leap of faith from time to time. But it is worth it. This relationship between the United States and China, I firmly believe, will determine the course of history for the 21st century and beyond. Those of us in leadership positions bear a great responsibility to do everything we can to make it as right as possible, to do the hard work that is required.
And similarly, the young people in both our nations have everything at stake as to how well we navigate through this time. And then in 20 years from now, I will fully expect to see some of these students – perhaps the two we heard from, Madam Liu – sitting in places like this, talking about the next phase of our relationship. That is as it should be. The work we do today is the work for the future, and so I cannot imagine a better investment than in furthering the relationship between our two people. And I remain fully committed to continuing this work for years to come. Thank you very much. Stay tuned. (Applause.)