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the “100,000 Strong Initiative”

During Obama’s 2010 visit to China, he announced the “100,000 Strong Initiative,” a program to get 100,000 American students studying in China within the next few years. China was supportive and announced a matching 10,000 “bridge scholarships” program paying for 10% of the program’s American student in-country studying expenses. Coinciding with Chinese President Hu’s visiting Obama, U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama rallied American students to take up on this opportunity today.

I think it is programs such as this that will have a broad effect on a more positive relationship between the countries. Though not mentioned in Obama’s speech, another really important benefit to the U.S. is that these students will bring back new ideas from China. That will only make U.S. a better place. Until the U.S. and the West match proportionately the Chinese students studying abroad in numbers, I bet China is guaranteed to be acquiring ideas faster.

I’ve recently learned of efforts within the U.S. Congress to foster a more constructive relationship with China. (See National Committee on United States-China Relations.)

If there is a bet, I wager the U.S. media will not spend much effort in covering these developments. The lesson for me is from now on, perhaps, less media, especially Western ones.

  1. Charles Liu
    January 20th, 2011 at 12:05 | #1

    And let’s hope this won’t turn into some sort of Children’s Crusade to indoctrinate China with American ideals. We’ve had this political inclination since Kennidy’s Peace Corp (anti-commism), School of the Americas (interventionism).

    It’s just another arm of America’s foreign policy implement, complementing what Allen wrote about militarism.

  2. January 20th, 2011 at 14:03 | #2

    It won’t. Because if you look at this conversely, there are still far more Chinese students studying in the U.S.. Those students are not in America spreading Communism.

    Also, China is embracing this idea with 10,000 scholarships.

  3. colin
    January 21st, 2011 at 13:44 | #3

    @Charles Liu

    I wouldn’t be surprised one bit. The key for China is to somehow make sure this program brings “explorers” rather than “missionaries”.

  4. January 21st, 2011 at 17:21 | #4

    I also wouldn’t be surprised by this new crusade, but it won’t work.

    Sending kids who have no concept of hardship into China on cushy stipends and scholarships. That’s not likely to spread any democracies or new ideas.

  5. nic
    January 23rd, 2011 at 08:10 | #5

    @Charles Liu, #1:

    At my former university, we had some numbers of Chinese exchange students (roughly Bachelor level, Natural Sciences) coming to Europe. To introduce them into the program, and to provide a starting point for scientific discussion with their peers, somebody had the idea to invite them to give a short presentation about their area of scientific specialization. What happened was, they instead gave a lecture about Chinese communism.

    So, the (individual? organized?) desire to convince others about one’s particular worldview may run both ways …

    My take on this:

    Everybody, when they are convinced about their image of how the world should be, will try to convince others. This holds true in particular for young grown-ups (e.g., college students) who have just started to understand bits about the world around them, and who are often very passionate about their new understanding and what they consider right or wrong.

    In the end, everybody needs to learn to listen, comprehend — and engage in exchange. There are few other ways to learn about why other people have different points of view on particular topics. In this regard, the 100.000 initiative might be one of the best ideas in US-Chinese relations for a long time.

    I think it would be very unfortunate if such an exchange of young people were accompanied by a rule that any discussion about different views on society models is forbidden.

    [Of course, I agree that starting a crusade would not be any better. But I don’t see such a danger, at least not with the current US administration. Also, I agree with raventhorn2000 that such an attempt certainly would not work.]

    @YinYang, #2:

    I have two questions concerning your remark:

    Would you characterize Chinese society today as communist? (I mean this as a serious question.)
    To take that question one step further, does Chinese education nowadays still characterize China as a communist society?

    Do you know about the precise framework of those scholarships? I think this whole initiative is great, and the financial support from the Chinese side is very generous. I am just wondering, how the fellowships (and the standard of living the exchange students are going to enjoy in China based on this support) are going to compare to what the students are used to in the US?
    (I think this question relates to the remark of raventhorn2000 above, however I anticipate that the stipends might be less “cushy” than the students might expect? –> I’d really like to learn more about that.)

  6. January 24th, 2011 at 01:01 | #6

    @nic

    I would characterize Chinese society today as pragmatist. I think the old “revolutionary” rhetorics are gone from education. I went through elementary school few decades ago there and I saw little of that even back then.

    I think the “in-country” expense means living, tuition, and basic food stipend are what is typical for something decent for a Chinese student within China. I’ll share if I come across something specific about the program.

  7. nic
    January 30th, 2011 at 04:34 | #7

    @YinYang,

    Thanks for your reply. I’m just thinking that over the last few decades, college students’ lifes in the Western world have become quite comfortable and enjoyable. I guess that some students going to China might find themselves in a situation that might offer a little less luxury to students (independent of whether they are Chinese or foreign).

    I really mean what I am saying: I find this program a very generous gesture. I just fear that it might not take long for first reports to appear (by students and/or parents), on “how bad China is treating American students” …

  8. January 31st, 2011 at 01:51 | #8

    No worries. Many American students are already studying in Chinese universities. I am sure there are those who complain, but I think they generally are much more wealthy compared to local students and therefore stay with the best accommodations.

  9. January 31st, 2011 at 01:52 | #9

    On a separate note, I met up with bunch of friends this weekend, and none of them knew about this 100,000 Strong Initiative program.

    This is another example of the pathetic state of the U.S. media.

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