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Diplomacy in Action

Preview of the 2013 U.S. - China High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange (CPE)

Susan Stevenson, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Diplomacy in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Washington, DC
November 18, 2013

11:00 A.M. EST


MODERATOR: the Foreign Press Center is very pleased to have with us today this group of officials from the U.S. Department of State, each one to play a critical role in the upcoming High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange between the United States and China, otherwise known as the CPE.

You’ve received the bios of our guests when you came in, so I’m not going to use our precious time to do further introductions. Instead, let me invite our current Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Diplomacy for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Stevenson to the podium for some opening remarks before we open up for questions. Thank you.

MS. STEVENSON: Thank you, Cynthia. And thank you, everyone, for your interest in coming today.

So I’m here to talk about, as Cynthia alluded to, the U.S.-China High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange with my colleagues because the CPE is divided into five different pillars, as represented by my colleagues here today – the education pillar, the science and technology pillar, the culture pillar, the sports pillar, and the women’s pillar.

Let me start off my giving you a little bit of background. So as you saw last summer when our two presidents met in Sunnylands, California, the American and the Chinese President – the U.S.-China relationship is very important. And this was followed up by our Strategic and Economic Dialogue in July headed by our Secretary of State and our Secretary of Treasury. And actually, we have dozens of dialogues with the Chinese every year. So in addition to the CPE and the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, we have the Strategic Security dialogue, the Human Rights Dialogue, the Joint Legal Action Group – which was just concluded, I think last week – an Energy Dialogue, and an upcoming Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, just to mention a few. But all of those are government-to-government dialogues.

So the CPE is different, although clearly, it’s represented by U.S. Government officials and Chinese officials headed by Secretary Kerry from the U.S. side and Vice Premier Liu Yandong from the Chinese side. But it also includes and focuses on the people-to-people dimension. So what we’re really looking at is expanding and strengthening the ways in which our two publics interact. In fact, that’s the reason it was launched back in 2010 in Beijing between then-State Councilor Liu Yandong and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, it’s to look at how to include that dimension of the relationship, which is so important to mutual trust, to mutual understanding, and therefore to strengthening our two bilateral relationships.

So this year’s dialogue is scheduled for Thursday, November 21st. It will be held at the State Department. It’s going to be the fourth dialogue that we’ve had with the Chinese. And in those four years, we’ve had several results around the five pillars. I’m going to speak very briefly about some of those results, and then I will invite your questions, particularly to my colleagues, the pillar heads.

But for the education pillar – and today the representative from the education pillar is our Director in the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs David Plack – we have promoted greater interest in opportunity, particularly for Americans, to study Mandarin Chinese through the 100,000 Strong Initiative, which was launched four years ago and actually was spun off in January into a private foundation, just showing the interest we have.

And the Department of State sends more Americans to study and to teach in China than we do any other country with which we work. So about 700 academics, students, and teachers are sent every year, and we’re starting earlier and more locally. We’re looking at a state education dialogue, meaning state provinces getting together, and we’re looking at learning the language even earlier, starting as early as primary school and secondary school. And also in education, we’ve expanded bilateral exchange opportunities under the jointly-funded Fulbright program to look at having a new Fulbright master’s program for Chinese academics and a Distinguished Chair for American scholars.

And I should note the Peace Corps this year is celebrating the 20th anniversary in China. So it’s the anniversary of the U.S.-China Friendship Volunteers, and they have a large role in teaching English to the Chinese.

For the science and technology pillar, the Young Scientists Forum has connected about 200 young American and Chinese scientists through in-person exchanges. And these forums not only build this mutual understanding, but they foster the career development of the young scientists and look for bilateral ways to tackle more global problems.

On culture, in March 2003 – excuse me, March 2013, so earlier this year, American and Chinese playwrights collaborated, first via email, to write a play and then to simultaneously live-stream the theater performance in Shanghai and Iowa City as part of the Book Wings program. And we also have a Museums Connect program that virtually links U.S. and Chinese students to collaborate on joint projects. This year the Hong Kong Space Museum and California’s Chabot Space and Science Center brought cross-cultural teams to explore Western and Chinese astronomy and space exploration. And Hawaii’s Pacific Aviation Museum partnered with Chengdu’s Jianchuan Museum Cluster, where students researched American and Chinese collaboration during World War II, interviewing elders in both those communities.

For the sports pillar, the Department of State sent two Paralympic volleyball coaches to Chengdu shortly after the earthquake in May 2013 to provide coaching and instructions to disabled youth and encourage their inclusion in sports. And on women’s programs – women’s issues, the U.S.-China Women’s Leadership Exchange and Dialogue, or Women-LEAD for short, brought together women leaders from both countries to tackle common challenges, raise the visibility of women’s issues in both countries, and promote opportunities for women and girls around the world. And in fact, this year there is going to be a joint pillar between the science and technology and women’s issues pillars, knowing that they are cross-cutting issues that can be talked about among both.

Now, despite these many successes we’ve had over the years, we still are confident that there’s room for growth. At this year’s CPE, we’ll bring together American and Chinese counterparts to identify new opportunities and perhaps new barriers to enhancing our engagement. We want to foster even greater exchange between our two peoples and develop solutions to global challenges. And we want to expand the Fulbright program by creating opportunities for more Chinese, increase science teaching exchanges and discussion forums with special emphasis, as I mentioned, on women in science, and exchange – arrange more exchanges in the areas of sports and physical education, sending more coaches and more teachers to China and promoting sports among women and girls as well as those with disabilities.

And I’m sorry I introduced David and I didn’t introduce the other pillar heads. So for the science and technology pillar, it’s led by the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Foreign Affairs Officer Matt Gerdin. The cultural pillar is led by the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs Deputy Assistant Secretary for Professional and Cultural Exchanges Lee Satterfield. The sports pillar is led by the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs SportsUnited Division Chief Cynthia Gire. And finally, the women’s pillar is led by Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Catherine Russell.

So with that, we are all happy to take any questions you might have on the CPE.

MODERATOR: So we’ll start the question-and-answer now. I’d like to ask that you please identify yourself by name and outlet before posing your question, as well as please also wait for the mike. And if you do know to whom you’d like to pose the question, indicate so.

All right. First question, let’s go right here in the red.

QUESTION: Thank you. Esther Zou with China Central TV. And my question is that both China and the U.S., both sides are expected to reach some agreements on either one of those areas. So can you just keep us updated on which areas do these agreements most focus on? Thank you.

MS. STEVENSON: So I think we could all talk at length on the areas of agreement that we expect to be announced. All of the pillars will be announcing new initiatives coming out of this year’s Consultation on People-to-People Exchange, and we will be issuing a fact sheet on Thursday, which you all should have access to.

I don’t know if there’s – anyone wants to mention anything specific? I think you’ll have to wait for Thursday to find out. (Laughter.)

MODERATOR: Next question. Here in the front, please.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you. Donghui Yu with China Review news agency of Hong Kong. And my question is for Susan. On the ABC Jimmy Kimmel show last month caused a controversial segment that a boy suggested the U.S. should kill everyone in China to solve the problem of debt. And this has caused a outcry and protests from American Chinese community. So I’m wondering if you would like to make any comment on this controversy.

MS. STEVENSON: So just for context, the Jimmy Kimmel program is a late-night program, so it airs on U.S. television long after most people have gone to bed. And so the content is – tends to be more provocative. So Jimmy Kimmel has at one point asked parents to take videos of them telling their children they’ve stolen all their Halloween candy and watch the children cry and put that on news. He’s done outrageous music videos, et cetera. And so I think in this context, the producers of the show – and of course, I can’t speak for them – probably thought they were just doing another prank of getting children to talk, and they aired that. I think as soon as that segment aired and soon as the outcry happened in China, you saw very swift response from ABC. Jimmy Kimmel himself apologized. I don’t know the identity or how old the boy was that spoke. I mean, clearly, he wasn’t being serious in saying that all Chinese should die to get rid of our debt program. But I think the program realized it was in poor taste.

MODERATOR: We can go here to the front.

QUESTION: Hi. Chen Weihua of China Daily. Yes, so now I have a question about – you’re talking about these people-to-people exchange are very important then. And also, this is a very vibrant part of the exchange. But it is also happens to be the least probably no understood by the people in the two countries, not as spicy as trade friction, military conflict or these – that are making for the news. And these don’t making the news. So is that an effort to make people – I mean, U.S. and China – to understand this part, not make this just a one-day event of the year? Thank you.

MS. STEVENSON: Well, I think the fact we’re holding a press conference today is – addresses part of that, to give it a little bit of a higher profile. The Consultation on People-to-People Exchange is really a long-term investment in the bilateral relationship because we realize that these exchanges, particularly among youth at much younger ages, help to create those bonds of understanding and those bonds of cooperation that then, as this generation grows older, there’s much broader connections than there certainly was when I was growing up between our two countries. And because this is such a long-term project, you’re not going to see the big kind of fireworks as you would after the Strategic and Economic Dialogue on some announcement. And in fact, even the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, as first conceived, was not supposed to be about flashy outcomes. It was really supposed to be a dialogue between our two countries so that our officials would get to know each other better.

And particularly with a country like China, with Asian countries, we understand relationships are so important, and that’s why we’re focusing so much on this Consultation on People-to-People Exchange. The fact it’s headed by Liu Yandong – who originally was a State Councilor, now a Vice Premier – and the Secretary of State – now a new Secretary of State, John Kerry – are continuing to host it, shows you the high level and the fact that we do want a little bit of attention for this type of exchange. But what is unsung is throughout the year the many activities that we do between the Chinese and the American publics. And so we would ask you to please report on today’s press conference and also on the CPE itself on the 21st. And we’re happy throughout the year, if you are looking for continuing these angles, to give you stories about how our cooperation is going throughout the entire year.

MODERATOR: We’ll go in the middle.

QUESTION: Thank you. I have a question for the sports sector. I’m an intern from China Daily. I know that both in China and the U.S. there are a lot of sports fans, especially in China where we have a lot of soccer fans because our team just won the Asian club tournament – championship, so I think – my question is: What is the main focus of the sports sector? Because there are – people in the United States and China, their interest in sport are kind of like different. So I want to know more about that. Thanks.

MS. GIRE: Hi. Thank you for your question. Well, as you all know, sports have long been an important foundation of our relationship with our Chinese partners, and we’re pleased that this tradition continues to thrive under the CPE and grow stronger every year. Obviously, right when the CPE started, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of ping-pong diplomacy, and we spent really two years here in the U.S. and then also in China doing clinics, ping-pong clinics, trying to include youth throughout both countries to talk about U.S.-China people-to-people exchange through sport.

We’ve also done that through basketball and soccer. And in basketball, tonight Madam Liu is actually attending a Chicago Bulls game in Chicago with NBA executives, including Adam Silver. And we do a lot of outreach, both in China – trying to include – empowering women and girls, youth, and the – and, as Susan said, the disability sports. So that’s really our focus.

MODERATOR: Another question? Here in the front.

QUESTION: Hi. Jane Tang from Caixin. I have a question about education. That’s – what kind of perspective do you expect the student you sent to China to learn about Chinese culture? And another one is: This is the new – the most high-level consultation after the Third Plenum of China, and what kind of information do you expect to get from this communication? Thank you.

MR. PLACK: Hi. Yes, thank you for your question. So in the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, we support student exchange in both directions. We want to see more Americans study in China. That’s part of the 100,000 Strong Initiative that we’ve pursuing under the Consultation on People-to-People Exchange. And we want them to experience all aspects of society. We want – and this is also true for Chinese we welcome to come to the United States. We want them to come from all fields of study. We would like them to learn more about each other’s families and cultural practices. We want them to learn language skills. And what we really want, over the long term, is for them to develop relationships where they can work together on global challenges.

There are really no challenges in the world today that aren’t going to require cooperation between the people of the United States and the people of China, from climate change to food security to economic growth. And so we want them to develop working relationships for everyone in all of those fields so that in the future, those young people are contributing to the peace and prosperity in both of our countries.

MS. STEVENSON: I can’t speak for the Chinese Government, to the second part of your question about how they see the Third Party plenum affecting the CPE, but I can say the fact that Vice Premier Liu will be the highest-ranked official coming to the United States to certainly meet with Secretary Kerry after the Third Party Plenum – and so the Secretary is very much looking forward to hosting her for a luncheon, and we expect some of the Third Party Plenum outcomes to be discussed there.

MODERATOR: Do we have another question?

QUESTION: Actually, a follow-up question on (inaudible) please.

MODERATOR: Yes, we can take a follow-up.

QUESTION: Thank you. I have a question for the international education. And actually we have seen a increasing deficit for China in this regard. And for example, a report that was released by IIE last week showed that 235,000 Chinese students coming to this country, but they were only 15,000 American student going to China. So I know there is a market force here, but I just wonder if the 100 Strong Initiative, the goal of the 100 Initiative, could still be achieved within five years. Thank you.

MR. PLACK: Yes, thank you for the question. So one – just to put the numbers in perspective, China is the fifth-most popular destination for American students studying abroad, and it’s the first-most popular destination outside of Western Europe. So there is, we think, strong interest among American students for studying in China. The challenge we face is that not enough American students study abroad anywhere, so the percentage of American students who go abroad for an experience is very small. And so we are both trying to encourage more American students to go abroad generally and to see the value for their future careers in gaining that international experience.

And specifically with 100,000 Strong, we’ve been working with universities, with the private sector, and others to encourage reaching students who don’t traditionally study abroad to think about studying abroad – more students from smaller colleges and universities; more students from community colleges; more students from diverse backgrounds, minority backgrounds; disadvantaged students financially; students in the sciences who might not have time in their curriculum to consider study abroad.

So we’re trying through all of these different sectors to increase interest. We are confident that we can reach the goals. In addition to the 15,000 who are studying abroad for academic credit, which is what the IIE’s report measures – they’re undergraduate students studying for credit – there are about another 10,000 students that IIE has measured who are studying in non-credit programs. So they may go in the summer or for internship opportunities. And all of these are good ways to get an experience of living in China, even if it’s not through their regular academic program.

MODERATOR: I think we have time for one more question. Here in the front. Thank you.

QUESTION: Chen Weihua again. Yeah, I want to ask – I’m assuming you know China, obviously. I mean, we have a different system. We have a ministry for culture, sports, and you don’t have the equivalent in the U.S., so basically it’s – which means that a government is not funding those areas. I don’t know. Is that creating obstacle for these exchanges? Thank you.

MS. STEVENSON: So our governments are set up differently. But as you see by the pillar heads behind me, we actually do have a entity within the State Department that looks after culture, education, sports, et cetera. And so although the structure is different, there are government components.

The Consultation on People-to-People Exchange started with the five pillars that we had. I think it actually started with four pillars, and then we added women’s issues, because those were the key issues in the portfolio of then-State Councilor Liu Yandong when she started. In terms of expanding, we want to make sure that we’ve refined our focus so that we’re looking at the pillars where we can make the most difference, and that we’re not spreading ourselves too thin. But we very much have the government structure that can address all of these.

But again, the important thing about the CPE is that we really want individuals to be talking to each other, private groups, academics, NGOs, and real people – for example, coaches, et cetera – that can make those connections. And so while it’s nice to have the backing and the structure of the government, we really want to make sure that the CPE is expanded down to the private level.

MODERATOR: Great. Well, I want to thank you for coming to the briefing today at the Washington Foreign Press Center. I’d also like to thank our briefers for coming in and spending time with us. That officially closes the briefing. Thank you.

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