Consultation on People-to-People Exchange Plenary Session

John Kerry
Secretary of State
National Museum
Beijing, China
June 7, 2016

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much, Madam Vice Premier. Look, at the outset, I want to make it clear to everybody that I was totally prepared to trade my speech for more singing. (Laughter.) I want to thank the Yale’s Spizzwinks, as they are known, and the Xinhua University acapella singers. My – the president of Yale, Peter Salovey, is sitting over here. Yale has a very active, engaged educational relationship with China, and I think all of us should join together in thanking those who entertained us in the beginning and who continue this relationship. Peter, we’re very grateful. Thank you very much. (Applause.) Also very comforted to know that “Can anybody find me someone to love” is still a question people are asking. (Laughter.) I spent a lot of time when I was at Yale wondering about that. (Laughter.)

Distinguished members of the Chinese and the American delegations and Madam Vice Premier, thank you for your tremendous hospitality. Thank you so much for your vision of the CPE, and we really – all of us here – are very honored to be taking part in the seventh version of this consultation on the people-to-people exchange. It is a terrific baby of seven years, and she is growing very, very well, I want you to know. (Laughter.) I want to thank Under Secretary Stengel and Minister Hao Ping. Thank you so much for your stewardship of this effort.

There’s been a lot of really great work done by our delegations. I mean, people are really invested in this. And I’d just say to everybody this is the best of diplomacy. This is what diplomacy is all about. This is how you really change things. And as I listened to the two students, Yong Ja (ph), whose name I got – I’m sorry, I missed --

PARTICIPANT: Hannah Mullen (ph).

SECRETARY KERRY: -- Hannah Mullen (ph) – thank you – who spoke impeccable Mandarin. I was impressed. Both of you, I think, personify why it’s so important for people to get beyond the politics sometimes and begin to think about the things that really bring people together and that are important. And when you look at the scientific cooperation that was articulated, this is how we change the world and this is how we change relationships between countries.

It’s already been mentioned that since 2010, when this began, there have been more than 300 programs launched under its auspices. And some of the most promising ones have been in the field of education. For example, under an agreement between the China Education Association and the Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the United States, 188 students from historically black colleges have taken courses in China, while more than 600 more are expected to do so by the end of next year.

At the very first CPE, we mentioned and established the goal of enabling 100,000 Americans to study in China over a four-year period. Well, we’ve already achieved that goal. And last September, our two presidents embraced an even more promising ambitious goal to have 1 million Americans studying Mandarin by the year 2020. We’re not there yet, but I have no doubt that we’re going to get there. And the number of U.S. students already learning Mandarin is 10 times what it was only 10 years ago. So if we can maintain that pace, the sky – literally, the sky is the limit on what we will achieve. There are 300,000 young Chinese doing academic work in the United States today. That is a fivefold increase in just 10 years – and while more Americans are in Chinese classrooms than in any other country outside of Western Europe.

So the bottom line is very straightforward. More young people on both sides of the Pacific are learning each other’s languages. They are sampling each other’s cultures and gaining a very personal appreciation of the potential for cooperation between the United States and China. And that is enormously important news because it’s human nature to fear the unknown. And for many years, as we know, people built up barriers between us. It is a welcome fact that education and the knowledge that comes with it are the greatest builders that there are of confidence and of trust. I mean, nothing can replace that walk up a mountain where people are talking about everything and becoming friends, not just fellow students. So we need to find as many joint projects as we can to move forward in a variety of fields covering each of the six pillars that we’re already working around.

And beyond education, I want to underscore that our doctors are working together to improve health outcomes and to address the threats that are posed by breast cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. And one of the reasons we were a little late coming here, which I apologize for, is that the vice premier and I were engaged in a deep conversation about how we can grow this. And one of the things that we committed to grow is our engagement in building health capacity and engagement in the health sector.

So that will continue. Our innovators and our inventors are collaborating on the latest in science and technology. Our writers, musicians, and filmmakers are exploring new frontiers of cooperation in the arts and culture. Our athletes, as I met downstairs where I met the Duke University women’s team and one of the women’s teams from China that just played to a one-to-one draw – probably a good way for a friendly game to end – but in basketball, baseball, golf, volleyball, swimming, and water polo, we’re competing in ways that bring people together. And of course, no one can forget that it was sports and ping pong diplomacy that originally created a transition for our countries. Our countries are together placing the rights and the equality of women front and center, because respecting our mothers and daughters is an essential building block of progress and prosperity for our families and communities. And no country – no country – can possibly meet its full potential if half of its team or a large percentage of that half are left on the bench.

But even with these efforts, I have to say that there are a couple of things that still concern us. And in the spirit of the candor which brings this dialogue together, I want to just underscore that in the view of the United States, the concept of people-to-people exchange is just that. It’s people to people; not government to people or government in the way. It’s people to people. It’s a chance for citizens in both of our countries to communicate, to compete, to study, to share experiences in a genuine, balanced, and transparent way. And it’s a way for them, like that walk up the mountain, to get rid of all the politics and just break through as human beings.

So what does that mean when we translate it into policy? It means that American schools and representatives should have the same access to information and people in China that Chinese institutions and individuals enjoy in the United States. It means that our exchange programs have to be equally open to American and Chinese scholars, speakers, and programs. It means that U.S. public diplomacy programs should never be canceled or disrupted from some kind of external interference – just as I absolutely guarantee you we would never seek to constrain any Chinese program whatsoever occurring in the United States. And it means that in both countries, nongovernmental organizations need to be free to help propose, organize, engage, and arrange events that enhance mutual understanding between our countries.

So I think it’s important, and we – we talked about this very openly a little while ago and Madam Liu made guarantees to us that the new law regarding NGOs will not unduly infringe on the activities of nonprofit organizations that have a presence in China. And I appreciate the conversation that we had, and I am confident that when this new statute is implemented, it is going to be implemented in the good spirit of the CPE in a way that makes it easier – not harder – for our people and our institutions to collaborate.

So Madam Vice Premier, let me just conclude by thanking you very, very much for your visibly, palpably open enthusiasm for the CPE. You really believe in it, and it’s clear to everybody that you do, and that makes an enormous difference for all of us. You’ve given great support to this consultation and to our people-to-people exchange programs. And I want to express again to you personally my gratitude for welcoming me to Beijing on Sunday with that magnificent tour of the Qianlong Garden. Its restoration, as I mentioned yesterday, is a product of U.S.-Chinese cooperation. And it is a sign of the growing eagerness of our citizens to try to join forces for the benefit of both of our countries.

Now, this is the last of the Obama Administration CPEs and S&EDs – Security & Economic Dialogues. So I will be back here in the fall, in September, with the President for the G20, which we look forward to. But I just want to share with all of you that, as Secretary of State, I have a great privilege of representing the United States of America. And one of the things I’m proudest of is the work we have done to grow the relationship with China. And I want to use an example, and I don’t mean to touch anything insensitive here, but a neighbor to the south of you is a place where, in the 1960s, I took part in the war that the United States was fighting. And when I came back to America, I opposed that war, spoke out about it. But it took us 20 years of work before we were able to normalize relations with Vietnam. It took us a long time. A war that never should have happened that happened because of the failure of diplomatic understanding and vision, which underscores the work we’re doing here.

Twenty years later, I was able to go back with President Obama just the other day to a country where we have a new university being started up that will have academic freedom, that will be open, not-profit, which represents a transformation of a remarkable nature. It came about because of people-to-people efforts like this. And the reason I mention it is, this is the most important work of diplomacy that we are doing here right now. And among the many statistics that reflect the growing ties between our countries is the fact that there are more than 350 Confucius institutes and classrooms in the United States. And among the many examples of Confucius’s wisdom is his statement that: “In order to establish oneself, one should try to establish others; and that in order to enlarge oneself, one should try to enlarge others.”

That’s the best definition that I’ve heard of of a win-win proposition. And that is precisely the kind of thinking that I hope will guide relations between the American and the Chinese peoples for generations to come. Thank you. (Applause.)