China-US cultural exchanges have been of great significance to the healthy development of bilateral relations
Cultural exchanges act as a particularly important bridge and channel for the development of relations between different countries and play an irreplaceable role in eradicating differences, enhancing mutual trust and friendship, and driving the progress of human civilizations.
As the world's largest developing and developed countries, China and the United States will bring tangible benefits not only to their peoples but also to those in the rest of the world if they can deepen cultural exchanges to enhance mutual understanding and friendly cooperation.
As part of their efforts to promote bilateral cultural exchanges, the Chinese and US governments decided to set up a new exchange mechanism in 2009 and include it into the Sino-US joint statement signed by the two heads of state that year. This decision cleared the way for the formal establishment of a high-level consultation mechanism for bilateral cultural exchanges in Beijing in May 2010. During the talks between US President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping at Sunnylands, the Annenberg Estate in California, in June, the two stressed once again efforts are needed to ensure a high-level consultation channel for cultural exchanges that can reap positive results. This, together with other high-level overtures from both countries, has brought bilateral cultural exchanges and cooperation to a new historical high.
Since the establishment of the high-level consultative mechanism for bilateral cultural exchanges, China and the US have formed a new, multi-field and multi-layer pattern for cultural exchanges and reached consensuses on a series of important issues. Bilateral exchanges and cooperation in education, science, culture, sports, as well as women's and youth issues have reached an all-time peak and a variety of cultural exchange mechanisms have been effectively enforced, bringing tangible benefits to the populace of both countries.
To boost their educational exchanges and cooperation, China and the US have made great efforts to send more students to study in each other's colleges. Three years after the US launched an ambitious plan of sending 100,000 US students to China to study, 67,543 US students have been dispatched to China. While in China, the "Three Ten-Thousands" project has also been put in place. Under this project, 10,000 Chinese students will be dispatched to the US for doctoral degrees, 10,000 US students will be admitted to China to study Chinese and another 10,000 US students studying in China will be offered scholarships from the Chinese government. Over the past four years since the implementation of the project, the Chinese government has offered special scholarships to 12,466 US students studying in China and sent 9,449 Chinese students to the US for their doctoral degree study. At the same time, a total of 10,123 US scholars have been invited to China for visits or to conduct academic research.
China and the US have also made outstanding progress in jointly running schools. By the end of October, the Ministry of Education had approved a total of 10 academic institutes jointly run by Chinese and US universities and 159 joint academic projects, including the Shanghai New York University, which is being prepared, the Wenzhou Kean University, and the Duke Kunshan University. Besides, Sino-US linguistic exchanges and studies have also become increasingly frequent. So far, more than 300 million Chinese people have studied English and other major foreign languages. The US has become the country with the largest number of Confucius institutes or classrooms in the world, with 98 Confucius institutes, 355 Confucius classrooms. More than 5,000 public middle and elementary schools have also set up Chinese language curriculums. The number of US students studying Chinese at school now exceeds 200,000.
Practices over the past years fully indicate that Sino-US cultural exchanges have been of great significance to promoting deepened recognition and understanding among the public and the healthy development of the broader Sino-US relationship.
This year marks a new start for the Sino-US high-level consultation mechanism for cultural exchanges. The smooth leadership transition in China, the consensus reached between heads of state of China and the US, as well as the positive momentum in bilateral relations and stronger public willingness to strengthen their exchanges, are expected to present bilateral cultural exchanges with a new important opportunity and a window for further development. A memorandum for educational cooperation due to be signed between the two countries will maintain and further push forward established bilateral cultural exchange and cooperation projects. It will also inject new vitality into the development of broader bilateral relations and bring more benefits to their peoples.
Vice-Premier Liu Yandong is to co-chair with US Secretary of State John Kerry the fourth round of Sino-US high-level consultations for bilateral cultural exchanges over the weekend. This is another important high-level exchange between the two countries after the fifth round of the Sino-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue in July. The high-level consultation, the first since China realized a smooth leadership transition, has important and far-flung strategic importance for consolidating bilateral public opinion and establishing a strong social foundation to promote the healthy development of bilateral relations. A series of fruits from the meeting will inevitably enrich the substance of bilateral cultural exchanges, promote their diversified development and facilitate efforts to develop a new type of relationships based on mutual respect and win-win results.
The author is China's minister of education.