US' 100,000 Strong Initiative gets funding boost

Updated: 2012-03-07 08:06

By He Wei (China Daily)

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A new round of funds has been raised by private sectors from Beijing and Washington as the latest pledges to promote US students to study in China under government initiatives.

Companies from both sides have contributed more than $1 million this year to bolster the 100,000 Strong Initiative, a US effort to significantly increase the number and diversity of US students studying in China.

These endeavors were in conjuncture with Vice-President Xi Jinping's recent visit to the US, where he met with students taking Mandarin courses at a California middle school and reiterated the importance of people-to-people exchanges, said Carola McGiffert, director of the initiative in Shanghai.

According to McGiffert, more than $14 million had been raised by the end of 2011 from US companies and foundations since the program kicked off in May 2010.

For example, Americans Promoting Study Abroad, a non-profit organization that sends US public school students to China, is expected to receive more than $500,000 to expand its programs from Corning, Motorola Mobility, the foundation and the Roche Family Foundation.

Chinese firms have also shown interest in sponsoring such activities. The Bank of China, the country's most international State-owned bank, independently pledged $315,000 to the organization to send students to China. The combined efforts will allow around 100 US public high school students to study in China.

China's Wanxiang Group, a US-listed automotive parts company, contributed $350,000 in late February to send US teachers and students on two types of study tours. Since the beginning of 2011, the firm has given $4.5 million to support the initiative's goals.

The 100,000 Strong Initiative, first announced in 2009 by US President Barack Obama during a visit to China, seeks to prepare the next generation of US experts on China who will be charged with managing the growing political, economic and cultural ties between the two countries.

But the initiative relies fully on philanthropic support from the private sector to direct funds to existing bilateral educational exchange programs.

Some 14,000 US students studied in China in the semester year 2009-2010, the most recent year in which figures were available, McGiffert said.

By comparison, 158,000 Chinese students went to the US either for exchange programs or summer camps, a 30 percent year-on-year increase.

In an effort to narrow the gap, McGiffert said her government encourages students who studied in China to share the significance of their experiences with classmates. Washington also helped launch an alumni networking website - - that connects US students who studied in China so that their peers can follow their footsteps.

The Chinese government has pledged 20,000 scholarships that cover all in-country expenses for recipients. One type of scholarship is granted to students and teachers on short-term studies, while the other is exclusively for graduates and undergraduates from US universities that have formal Memorandum of Understanding relationships and credit transfers with Chinese universities.

Data from Shanghai-based Fudan University showed the number of on-campus US students rose from 720 in 2008 to 989 in 2011.

To meet the needs of students who are not fluent in Mandarin, the university has rapidly expanded the number of courses taught in English. Fifteen majors, including international relations, micro-electronics and business administration, offer English-language master programs.

Efforts to enhance student exchanges have expanded significantly in the past few years.

Catalai China Programme is a Beijing-based company that arranges internship programs, language courses and cultural activities in Beijing and Shanghai for students from the US and the United Kingdom. The internships cover all the main sectors including finance, law and media.

According to Mark Varley, director of the agency, the company has received more than 100 US students in the past year, and he expected the number to triple in 2012.

"China is clearly the most popular choice for young Americans to have overseas work experience. They have definitely recognized the importance of China, and realized the China experience would be valuable in the future," Varley said.

China has grown to become the fifth-biggest destination country for US students to study abroad and the most popular in Asia, McGiffert said.

In Shanghai