Bipartisan Bill Seeks To Improve
U.S.-China Cultural Ties
Bipartisan Bill Seeks To Improve U.S.-China Cultural Ties
Legislation would expand cultural exchanges between U.S., Chinese
Passage of the United States-China Cultural Engagement Act of 2005
be an investment in America's future, says Senator Joseph Lieberman
(Democrat from Connecticut).
"This act will expand student physical exchange programs with China as
well as create a virtual exchange infrastructure for secondary school
students that study Chinese," Lieberman said May 25 in remarks
introducing the bill to the Senate.
The proposed legislation, S. 1117, would authorize $1.3 billion in
federal funds over five years to provide for Chinese language
instruction in American schools, increase American consular activity
supporting American commercial activity in China and provide for
physical and virtual exchanges among a broad spectrum of individuals in
the two nations.
Lieberman said S. 1117 also includes visa initiatives that would "offer
the Department of State more flexibility in granting visa to Chinese
scientists to come here and study at academic institutions."
Lieberman is the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and
Governmental Affairs Committee and a member of the Senate Armed
Senator Lamar Alexander (Republican from Tennessee), who co-sponsored
the bill, said at a press conference the same day: "It's my hope that
the United States will spend some of our time and money getting to know
China better, and that Chinese citizens will spend time getting to know
Alexander is the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and
Pensions Subcommittee on Education and Early Childhood Development and
member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Lieberman said: "The rise of China comes with a whole set of
But the ability to talk to and understand each other should not be
Following is the text of Lieberman's remarks, as published in the
Volume 151, Number 71, page S5926
May 25, 2005
Mr. LIEBERMAN. Mr. President, I rise to introduce a bill that aims to
redefine and enhance the relationship between the People's Republic of
China and the United States of America.
At this point in our history we stand at the threshold of a new era in
American Foreign policy and indeed of world history. For the first time
ever an economic and military superpower is about to emerge without war
or catastrophe: Asia's middle kingdom: the People's Republic of China,
stands at the precipice of becoming one of the two most influential
nations on Earth.
I have always held that our foreign policy is best conducted when our
values as a Nation form the basis of our policies. With that in mind, I
stand before you today to introduce legislation that will deepen the
scope and breadth of America's relationship with China through the
reaching out of our Nation's hand in friendship.
We introduce this with a bit of humility because history constantly
shows us that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Fortunately American history is filled with good ideas to guide us.
Back in 1871, President Ulysses S. Grant told Congress that trade
imbalances with China were threatening the viability of key United
States' industries and warned that federal intervention might be needed
to restore the balance of trade.
That is true today and I am both sponsoring and supporting legislation
to fairly revalue the Yuan so that U.S. industries and workers enjoy a
fair playing field in the global market.
But Grant also thought many problems with China could be solved if we
just better understood Chinese language and culture. He proposed
at least four American students a year to China to study the language
and culture and who would then act as effective translators for
and government officials.
Grant's idea was never acted on and years of unfortunate history
separated China from the rest of the world anyway.
But China is back and so are the challenges.
Those versed in international affairs and trade are fully aware of
China's emerging influence. However, our present education system is
equipped to supply the number of skilled professionals required to
constructively interact with China. According to the 2000 Census there
are about 2.2 million Americans that speak Chinese. Of that 2.2
approximately 85-95 percent are Americans of Chinese descent. According
to several studies there is a dearth of knowledge among college-bound
students regarding Chinese cultural pillars like Mao Zedong in the
United States. China, on the other hand, mandates English instruction
beginning in -- what we would call -- the third grade. For every
we send to China to study there, they send 25 to study here.
If you combine these findings with the fact that well over half of the
500 largest companies are currently invested in China, with many more
drawing up plans to do so, it becomes clear to me that the talent pool
for future American-produced leaders with expertise in Chinese affairs
is woefully inadequate. If you take a look at China's top ten trading
partners, seven of those have a trade surplus with China and most
importantly, five of those seven have a significant population with
deep-seated knowledge of Chinese language and culture. America needs
more people with the expertise to transact with China in international
affairs and to increase the number of professionals that will assist
both nations in growing and balancing our economic interdependency.
The future repercussions of our lack of knowledge about Chinese culture
are immense. The Chinese have just begun to compete with U.S. firms for
precious natural resources to feed the exponential growth of their
economy. China is the world's biggest consumer of steel and in another
decade will be the biggest consumer of petroleum. Currently, China's
middle class is the fastest growing anywhere in the world. Over 400 of
the world's Fortune 500 companies are invested in China's economy,
will soon be the largest consumer market in the world. Already, our
trade with Asia is double that with Europe and is expected to exceed
trillion dollars annually before 2010. China, soon to be the biggest
economic power in Asia, will play a large role in that growth.
Consequently, the one in six U.S. jobs that are currently tied to
international trade will grow substantially. If the U.S. is to grab a
significant piece of China's burgeoning consumer market, we must begin
by engaging China as experts of their culture.
The United States-China Cultural Engagement Act of 2005 authorizes $1.3
billion over the five years after its enactment. This is a symbolic
gesture for the recent birth of China's one billion three hundred
millionth citizen. One may argue that is too much given other important
-- under-funded -- national priorities. However, the dividend from this
investment in our future business and government leaders pays for
a hundred or even a million times over in opportunities for economic
growth and in potential foreign crises that will be averted.
In this legislation, I propose to significantly enhance our schools and
academic institutions' ability to teach Chinese language and culture
from elementary school through advanced degree studies. This act will
expand student physical exchange programs with China as well as create
virtual exchange infrastructure for secondary school students that
Chinese. Initiatives were included, that offer the Department of State
more flexibility in granting visas to Chinese scientists to come here
and study at American academic institutions. For American businesses, I
seek a substantial increase in Foreign Commercial Service officers
stationed in China to uncover and facilitate more American export
opportunities. For non-corporate entrepreneurs, provisions that provide
for the expansion of state specific export centers and greater Small
Business Administration outreach were also included.
Engaging China as an ally in international affairs and as a partner in
building economic prosperity is of the utmost importance to the United
States. Only if we succeed in fostering this relationship can we have a
future that is as bright as our past. Education experts, corporate
leaders, and even some government officials have talked for sometime
about the convergence of economic, demographic, and national security
trends that require our young people to attain a greater level of
international knowledge and skills to be successful as workers and
citizens in our increasingly dynamic American economy.
The rise of China comes with a whole set of challenges. But the ability
to talk to and understand each other should not be among them.
The United States-China Cultural Engagement Act sets forth a strategy
for achieving that level of understanding and cooperation with China, I
urge my colleagues to look favorably upon this measure.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)