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November 18, 2009, 03:09 PM ET

Obama Pledges to Send 100,000 Students to China in the Next 4 Years

During his trip to China this week, President Obama pledged to send 100,000 students to China over the next four years. How he plans to do that, though, remains to be determined. In a U.S.-China joint statement, the White House noted that nearly 100,000 Chinese students come to the United States each year, while the United States sends about 20,000 students to China. (The actual number, according to the most recent data from the Institute of International Education, may be closer to 13,000.) Contacted today, a State Department spokesman explained the initiative by saying that "China will have a much more important voice in world affairs in the coming years, and we need more Americans who can speak the language, who understand China, and who can do business more effectively with the Chinese." He did not have any information on how the program would be structured or which agency would run it, saying that such details would be announced "at a later date."

Comments

1. cutright - November 19, 2009 at 07:20 am

100,000, eh? I've started my list, and I have a dozen names on it already. ;-)

2. jeff1 - November 19, 2009 at 07:33 am

Great politics . . . now let's see a commitment to something real! I have spent much time for my institutions working on partnerships in China and they are wonderful people, smart and hard working. The big challenges, and it is a biggie, is that we do not speak Mandarin and they do not, speak English. If that challenge can be met the Chinese present us with an incredible market and opportunity and we for them. I would also argue that India is an equal opportunity but requires a different approach.

3. 22266017 - November 19, 2009 at 07:40 am

Let's just hope that they don't imprison any of our students for thinking.

4. pseudotriton - November 19, 2009 at 10:13 am

There are substantive differences between the Chinese students coming to study in the US and American students going the other way across the Pacific. While most Chinese students come to the US to complete their entire degree, most American students would likely study for a semester or so abroad for one intensive course, which they will transfer back to their own university back home. In other words, they would not care for a degree from a Chinese university (or from anywhere else in the world, for that matter). I also suspect that most Americans taking advantage of this initiative of studying in China would be Asian Americans.

5. csgirl - November 19, 2009 at 12:13 pm

The main reason most American students study abroad is so they can party in places like Paris or Rome for a semester. Beijing is not known as a student-party hotbed, although the karoke joints can be quite hopping...
That being said, my elementary-age sons go to weekend Chinese school (and no, we are not Chinese-Americans) so they can learn some Chinese. There are quite a few Caucasian, and even African-American, kids at our Chinese school.

6. jsch0602 - November 19, 2009 at 01:22 pm

100,000 is a nice round number. Does the President have a clue how many American students between 18 and 22 years old are able to speak Chinese well enough to study at a Chinese university? A more thoughtful person might have offered to promote the learning of foreign languages, including Chinese, in the U.S.

7. jaysanderson - November 19, 2009 at 01:59 pm

Talk, talk, talk. It appears that our president is willing to promise everything to everyone--usually before they ask for it, and whether they want it or not.

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