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Conference Marks Milestone in U.S.-China Exchange

November 12, 2009 –More American students and teachers should study in China to reverse a lopsided exchange ratio, panelists said during a Georgetown conference marking 30 years of U.S.-Sino relations.

James Feinerman, co-director of Georgetown’s Law-Asia program, noted that the Chinese study in America by an 8:1 margin compared to Americans studying in China.

The Nov. 11 conference reflecting on U.S.-China education and legal exchanges capped a series of Georgetown events marking the re-established diplomatic relations, which officially occurred on Jan. 1, 1979.

“The relationship we have now with China was built slowly over the three decades, and education exchanges played a significant role in that,” said Feinerman, the James M. Morita Professor of Asian Legal Studies.

“Even when our relations haven’t been great diplomatically, the education and legal exchanges helped the countries learn about the other and strengthen ties,” the professor added.

Educational Opportunities Between Partners

Georgetown has forged closer ties with China in recent years, including establishing partnerships with Chinese universities; creating scholarly exchange opportunities for faculty, undergraduates and graduate students; and founding a liaison office in Shanghai.

Recent national efforts include a new Beijing branch of the National Science Foundation. Panelist William Chang directs the office, which encourages the countries to collaborate on science research.

“I would like to see our young scientists working with young Chinese scientists,” Chang said. “When you put two young scientists together, … their dreams and ideas are fantastic.”

Albert Keidel, a faculty member in the Georgetown Public Policy Institute and senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, said Americans have to face changing global realities that may affect such exchanges.

China’s economy will be on par with America’s by 2023, and will be twice as large as the United States economy by 2050, Keidel said. He believes this change will have an impact on military relations, governance of sea lanes, America’s presence in the South Pacific and more.

A Two-Way Street

Understanding between the two countries must be mutual, added Li Cheng, senior fellow and research director of the Brookings Institution’s John L. Thornton China Center.

“Based on my observation, there’s a widely-shared sentiment in China among leaders, intellectuals and people on the street that there’s a U.S-led conspiracy against China’s rise,” Cheng said.

Education exchanges help dispel that perception by showing Chinese students the inner workings of American universities, homes and offices, he added.

Panelists lauded opportunities for U.S.-China exchange, and some believed educational relationships with nations such as Myanmar and Cuba could benefit similarly in helping strengthen diplomatic ties.

“There are implications in our relationship with China and how it has improved in terms of making friends from enemies,” said Feinerman.

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