US-China Strong’s new CEO should give cross culture a big boost

Although there are uncertainties and maybe setbacks ahead, China and the US need to facilitate cooperation and reduce friction because this bilateral relationship is the most consequential of its kind in the world.

This consensus, a strongly held belief among founding members and governance at the US-China Strong Foundation, explains why this Washington-based nonprofit, since its establishment in 2013, has worked so hard to invest in and empower young people in the US and equip them with the knowledge and skills to engage with China.

“If we want to strengthen the relationship between China and the US, we need to start with our children,” said Florence Fang, a San Francisco-based businesswoman who is also one of the founders of the foundation.

“If our future American leaders understand China well, know Chinese culture and make friends with their Chinese counterparts, I don’t see the possibility that the world’s two biggest economies will become foes.”

In 2013, President Obama initiated the 100K Strong program, setting the goal of sending 100,000 American students to study in China by 2014, a goal that was met ahead of schedule.

In 2015, President Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama announced a more aggressive program, the 1 Million Strong, to expand by fivefold Mandarin-language instruction in US K-12 schools from approximately 200,000 to 1 million by 2020.

“We relaunched this initiative in 2016 and took a new name, the US-China Strong Foundation,” said Fang, adding that the foundation now leads three signature campaigns that “focus on supporting the full spectrum of American youth, ranging from our youngest students through young professionals entering China-related careers”.

In September, the foundation announced the appointment of a new CEO, John Holden, a seasoned China expert with decades of experience in US-China business and political relations.

Holden joins the foundation from Peking University, where, as associate dean, he helped launch the school’s Yenching Academy, a full-fellowship graduate-level program in China studies. He traveled widely to recruit students from more than 60 countries. The first group of students graduated with their master’s degrees in July.

“I’m honored to join US-China Strong and work on its important mission to ensure that future American leaders have the tools to engage productively with China,” said Holden.

“I have been a witness to the development of US-China relations since I first visited China in 1974, and know firsthand the benefits of productive relations between our two countries. Now, more than ever, we must invest in programs that facilitate cooperation and reduce friction in this most consequential bilateral relationship,” he added.

Holden, a nonresident senior fellow in the Carnegie Asia Program, served as president of the National Committee on US-China Relations from 1998 to 2005.

Under his leadership, the committee expanded its scope to include the US-China Young Leaders Forum, the Foreign Policy Colloquium and Track II Dialogues and programs on topics ranging from health and the environment to education and judicial reform.

On Sept 30, Holden received this year’s Chinese Government Friendship Award – China’s highest honor granted to a foreigner – for his contribution to the nation’s development.

“Premier Li Keqiang met with all 50 recipients of this award at the Great Hall of the People,” said Holden.

Li said that China and the rest of the world are a community of common destiny, and they should learn from each other.

Looking forward, Holden and Fang will “collaborate with our partners, stakeholders and supporters to enhance the US-China relationship”.
By Chang Jun (China Daily USA)

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