Remarks by Ambassador Cui Tiankai At the Celebration of the 40th Anniversary of China-US Student Exchanges

November 21, 2019

Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good evening! First of all, let me welcome you all to the Chinese Embassy. I am excited to see so many old and new friends join us today to celebrate the 40th anniversary of China-US Student Exchanges. I also want to thank our singer for your wonderful performance.

In his message, President Jimmy Carter mentioned the phone call he got at 3 am in DC from his advisor visiting China. When he got that call, I was pursuing postgraduate studies in East China Normal University in Shanghai. I could not have imagined that eight years later, I would personally benefit from this call and become a student at the School of Advanced International Studies of John Hopkins University (JHU). Although I had the experience of working for the United Nations in New York before that, the year at JHU was different. It gave me a kaleidoscopic picture of America, the land, the people and the culture. This has had a profound and lasting impact on me.

Naturally, learning is always a two-way process. With direct engagement with Chinese students, American professors and schoolmates also got to know better about a real China, and developed a growing interest in this ancient civilization on the other side of the world.

This is the charm of student exchanges. Hundreds of thousands have benefited from such exchanges between China and the United States.

In 1978, right after Christmas, 52 Chinese scholars, as the first group of Chinese studying in the US since 1949, arrived in New York and began their study in this country. Over the past four decades, the number of Chinese students in America has seen an exponential growth, and there are now 370,000 Chinese students studying in American universities, which means that out of every three international students here, one comes from China. And the desire to pursue studies in each other's country is mutual. In the past 40 years, the number of American students studying in China has reached a total of 330,000. Educational exchange programs have flourished: Fulbright Scholar Program, US-China Friendship Volunteer Program, China-US Young Maker Competition, to name but a few. These exchanges have not only helped the students advance their stations in life, but also significantly promoted mutual understanding and friendship between our people, and moved forward the overall China-US relationship.

Over the past four decades, China-US relations have made incredible progress, with close economic ties and robust people-to-people exchanges. History has proved that both countries stand to benefit from cooperation, and lose in confrontation. Cooperation is the only right option for us.

In today's political context, the China-US relationship risks being jeopardized by some extreme rhetorics replete with biases and hostility. However, I always believe friendship and cooperation are and will always be the mainstream, as they are in the fundamental interests of the people. The people are the maker of history, and they are the driving force for China-US relations. At a time of difficulties, it is all the more important for the people not to turn against each other, or on each other, but towards each other. It is all the more important to step up exchanges and engagement, and build up mutual understanding and trust. And this is the essence of student exchanges.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Education is at the heart of a better future. Many of you present here are pioneers and beneficiaries of China-US student exchanges and have the experience of studying in both countries just like me. You know full well how such exchanges have changed your life for the better. I am glad to see that many of you have also chosen education as your career to help train the next generation of friendship envoys for our two countries, and I thank you for that. Going forward, I believe that we will continue to have your support for student exchanges and for friendship between our two countries.

Last but not least, I am delighted to announce a new "Study in China" initiative, which is to encourage and support more student exchanges in the future. Working with the American Council on Education, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and universities in both countries, the program would fund 2,500 American students for short-term, credit-bearing learning in China every year. We welcome more and more American students to study in China, to see and experience China, and to work with their Chinese friends for a better shared future.

Thank you very much.

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