Steps Need to Be Taken to Enhance U.S.-China Educational Exchanges

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It is imperative to take steps to continue to enhance U.S.-China educational exchanges which have been the bedrock of bilateral relations but suffered considerable setbacks over the past few years, said a report released on Wednesday.

“As a new academic year begins, student flows between the U.S. and China remain far below pre-COVID levels of 2019-2020, while lingering issues and tense U.S.-China relations cloud the prospects for resuming robust two-way educational exchanges in the near future,” said the U.S.-China Education Trust (USCET) in the report titled Three Decades of Chinese Students in America, 1991-2021 released on its website.

The report, based on a survey conducted in late 2022 and early 2023, is a joint project by USCET and the China Data Lab of the 21st Century China Center at the University of California.

Overall, these survey results “appear to be reassuring for Americans worried about the presence of students from China,” USCET said in the report.

“Our sample shows a group making their own decisions to study in America, largely motivated by a desire for academic excellence and personal gain, primarily financed by family and university support,” it said.

“Despite some feelings of alienation and negative political or racial encounters on campus, most respondents report that they took away fond memories and enduring friendships, and many have chosen to stay in touch with their university,” it said.

“We believe educational exchanges form the bedrock of U.S.-China relations and are a critical element in maintaining peace between our two countries,” USCET said.

“Exchanging students and scholars was a top priority when the U.S. and China normalized relations in the 1970s, and has remained a mainstay of people-to-people relations ever since. We hope that both countries will continue to welcome each other’s students and provide ample opportunities for them to engage with each other’s societies first-hand,” it said.

“This is more important than ever during unsettled periods in U.S.-China relations in order to ensure that our future leaders can communicate with each other, understand cultural nuances, and work their way together through difficult bilateral issues and geopolitical challenges,” it said.

According to the report, those who graduated before 2004 reported relatively little intrusion of politics into their years of study, but such concerns rose significantly for the group that graduated after 2015. Incidents involving anti-Asian sentiments and perceived discrimination also increased over time.