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US launches 100,000 Strong Foundation

As a parting gift in her last week as US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton has launched a permanent foundation to build Sino-US exchange in education for years to come. The 100,000 Strong Foundation, an independent nonprofit organisation, follows the similarly named 2010 programme designed to increase the number of Americans studying in China to 100,000 over four years.

12 times more Chinese currently study in America than the other way round

Speaking in Washington, Clinton said that exchange had grown between the countries through the programme, but there was “a lot of room for improvement”. 12 times more Chinese currently study in America than the other way round.

“We want to see Chinese youngsters here, American youngsters in China, and we want to see them breaking down the barriers”

“We want to see Chinese youngsters here, American youngsters in China, and we want to see them breaking down the barriers that exist between any peoples from different cultures and experiences and histories and backgrounds,” she said.

“And I think that will happen because in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago, young people in both China and the United States are global citizens.”

She said that much good had come from 100,000 Strong, including the expansion of study abroad programmes and new scholarships for underserved Americans to study in China. The Chinese government has also provided 20,000 scholarships for Americans, nearly half of which have been taken.

But figures from the State Department show that only 14,596 US students studied in China in the 2010–2011 academic year – up just 600 on 2009-10 and way off target. Meanwhile, 158,000 Chinese studied in the US in 2010-11.

What the foundation will do to buck the trend is unclear. Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, did say “that most American students only go to a few cities in China” and that efforts were being made to broaden this.

Private sector support may also speed things along: the foundation is part funded by America’s Ford Foundation as well Chinese corporate donors such as Bank of China and GlamourPin, a web-based commerce platform which has pledged 1% of all its sales in support.

Chinese Ambassador to the United States Zhang Yesui called the Foundation a “smart investment in the future”.

“We really believe people-to-people exchange is one of the main pillars of US-China relationships. When the young generation has opportunities to know their counterparts well, we will have a better future.”

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