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Remarks at the Opening of the Third Annual U.S.-China Consultation on People-to-People Exchange (CPE), May 3, 2012

On May 3, 2012, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine gave the opening remarks for the Third Annual U.S.-China Consultation on People-to-People Exchange (CPE). She spoke on the importance of US-China relations and cooperation as a means to mutual achievement.
May 3, 2012

Tara Sonenshine
Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs
The Westin Hotel
Beijing, China
May 3, 2012

Good morning! And greetings to Vice Minister of Education Hao Ping.

I am delighted to be here on my first trip abroad as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs – and to speak at the opening of the third U.S.-China Consultation on People-to-People Exchange.

Our bilateral relationship is the most important in the world. And the more we cooperate, exchange ideas, and work in a spirit of mutual understanding and respect, the more we can achieve together.

That’s why this forum is so important.

The good news is, we already have a strong and vibrant relationship with the People’s Republic of China. A record number of Chinese visited the U.S. last near—nearly 1.1 million – and that number is expected to almost double by 2014, according to the U.S. Travel Association. At the same time, Americans’ interest in China – in its language, its food, its music and culture, its arts, its long and rich history – has never been deeper. We want to do more to expand and enhance our relationship – so that there are opportunities for even more interaction between our people.

Through the Consultation on People-to-People Exchange, we can build on this growing interest to expand and enhance our relationship and create even more opportunities for interaction between our peoples.

As we work together over the next two days to on the five pillars of the Consultation – women’s issues, culture, sports, education, and science and technology – we should celebrate our successes and identify best practices, but at the same time we must work to overcome impediments that are holding us back from even greater cooperation.

Today, Vice Minister Hao and I will be visiting all the working groups. And during those sessions I look forward to hearing from our official delegations, but also from members of the private sector and nonprofit organizations who represent the many organizations which play such a vital role in driving exchanges between our two peoples. I will be very interested in hearing your suggestions about how our governments can facilitate and enhance your efforts.

There are many items on our agenda and there obviously isn’t time to discuss them all. But I would like to underscore some.

I know that the empowerment of women is important to both Secretary Clinton and Madam Liu. That’s why I am so pleased by the strong partnership between the All-China Women’s Federation and the Department of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues. I am also delighted to recognize Mona Locke, wife of our Ambassador to China, who has actively promoted women’s health and childhood education, and comes today to support this important pillar. I know that Ambassador Verveer and her counterpart, Ms. Meng Xiaosi, are looking forward to exploring ways in which our government and private sector partners can identify and train women as philanthropists and entrepreneurs. The more we empower women, the more economies can grow

The same is true for our young people: the more we empower them as economic actors and global problem solvers, the more our economies and societies will benefit.

One of the ways we can do that is through our educational exchanges. As you know, we are invested deeply in our 100,000 Strong Initiative. And let me take a moment to especially thank Madame Liu and the Government of the Peoples Republic of China for their committed support and partnership in this initiative.

The exchange of students between our countries is very important to us. Approximately 20 per cent of all foreign students in the United States – and that’s about 157,000 – are from the People’s Republic of China. And China is one of the most popular destinations for American students studying abroad. With great support from the Chinese Government and our private sector partners like the Ford Foundation, we are already seeing an increase in opportunities for more – and more diverse – American students to study in China.

We are also building on the U.S.-China Fulbright Program – one of our most successful. This flagship program sends about 200 Chinese and American students and scholars each year to one another’s country to study, do research, and teach side-by-side on our campuses. And we encourage China to increase its contribution to this investment in our shared future.

In our country, we have welcomed many of your Confucius centers to our college campuses, so that our young people can appreciate your great culture. For our part, we are delighted by the success of our University Partnership program, which promotes American studies on Chinese campuses by encouraging greater cooperation between American universities and their Chinese partners.

We are delighted to have the Vice Provost of Arizona State University here to describe the successful cooperation between ASU and Sichuan University. As we learn more about each others’ languages and traditions, we are building the foundation of trust and understanding that will allow us to better work together as nations.

Another way we can engage and empower youth is by encouraging them to study science and technology. That is also on our agenda, as we work to enable more young people – especially young women – to build their professional futures in these fields. We need their talent and innovative ideas as we address common challenges to both our countries, including the safety of the food we eat and give our children; the air we breathe; and the water we drink.

We have a robust relationship in this undertaking, with 25 U.S. Government agencies partnering with their Chinese counterparts. We are working to create youth exchanges and visitor programs in both countries. Of course, private sector involvement, as always, will be crucial.

As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of ping pong diplomacy, and we note the popularity of basketball player Jeremy Lin in both our countries, I’m particularly pleased that sports is included in our consultation. Participation in sports encourages teamwork, a healthy lifestyle, and a sense of responsibility in young people – both boys and girls. It can also help to strengthen our communities. I look forward to hearing more about our progress in those sessions as well.

In closing, I am honored to have this opportunity to join so many distinguished and committed partners as we work to enhance ties between our countries. If we are open and honest in expressing our opinions, even when we disagree, then I am confident that we can achieve our shared goal of furthering mutual understanding through people-to-people exchange.

Thank you for your attention.