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100,000 Strong Initiative taking baby steps

In the current Strategic and Economic Dialog between U.S. and China, Secretary Clinton reiterated the importance of the 100,000 Strong Initiative. According to the Institute of International Education, there are ten times more Chinese students studying in the U.S. than the other way around. The initiative is to raise the number of Americans studying in China to 100,000 in four years. Clinton said it is “an essential building block to a more solid foundation of a relationship going forward.” China believes in this initiative as well and has already committed 10,000 “Bridge Scholarships.” This initiative was announced last year, so how far has it come along?

The official White House press release is here. Below are some additional details from the 100,000 Strong Initiative:

Interest in China is on the rise among Americans. The number of Americans studying in China grew 30 percent annually from 2001-2007, and we expect those numbers to continue to grow for the foreseeable future. In the 2007-08 school year, for example, 13,165 American college students and an estimated 1,000 high school students went to China for some type of study program. While this organic growth is encouraging, the current trends may be insufficient to meet the real challenges and opportunities of this vitally important relationship.

This effort complements successful existing study abroad and language study efforts by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Defense.

Unlike those programs, however, the “100,000 Strong” Initiative relies fully on private-sector philanthropic support to direct funds to existing U.S.-China educational exchange programs that are seeking to expand their programs. Early estimates suggest that at least $68 million will be required to fund this ambitious effort.

For more information, please contact Carola McGiffert at 100kstrong@state.gov. Ms. McGiffert is a Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific, and Director of the 100,000 Strong Initiative.

The program set a goal of raising $7 million in funding in the first year and has been met. But that is still a big difference from the $68 million needed.

A number of NGO’s have sprung up to work in tandem with this initiative. One of them is Project Peng You (funded by the Ford Foundation), tasked to build a social and support network for alumni who have studied in China. Apparently, they are just starting.

Project Peng You also has this speech(in both Chinese and English) made by Chinese State Councilor Liu Yandong on promoting Sino-American relations.

Another is a joint effort between Zinch and Institute of International Education (IIE) to make a searchable database of programs and scholarships open to American students for studying in China.

Given the high profile support, it seems the program is off to a slow start.

Actually, if you have ideas for improving this program, I highly encourage you to contact Ms. McGiffert (100kstrong@state.gov). The program can use all the help it can get in order to reach the 100,000 a year goal.

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