According to State Department statistics, students like See are slow to return to China. In the last academic year there were only 350 Americans who studied in China.
This compares to about 300,000 Chinese in schools and universities across the United States.
Nicholas Burns said that this imbalance could have a long-lasting impact on the relations between the United States and China, which are at their lowest point in decades.
In an interview last week at an event for Chinese students going to the U.S., he stated that young people from both countries “need to be familiar with each other.”
The American students should learn Mandarin to feel comfortable in China, whether they are working for the government or private sector.
Senior U.S. government officials have publicly warned China that a failure to communicate at the highest levels could lead to dangerous incidents “spiraling beyond control”. While students are unlikely to be the solution to an immediate conflict, they may prove crucial to managing relations going forward.
Burns stated that it is vital to increase the number of American student in China for the U.S. Government’s “next-generation of China experts”.
He said that 20-year olds are the best at fostering communication between people from both countries. They gain a level of expertise and familiarity in a particular country over the course of their lives.
It wasn’t always this way.
According to the State Department a decade ago, almost 15,000 American university students were in China. This was due to heightened international interest in China in the run-up the Beijing Olympics in 2008. In 2009, President Barack Obama made a plan to encourage 100,000 Americans by 2014 to study abroad in China. His administration claimed that this goal was achieved.
As soon as the severity of Covid-19 became apparent in early 2020 – was first detected in China – academic exchange programs and international students were cancelled. The number of Americans who studied in China was already declining, as were the numbers of Americans abroad.
The decline in numbers is a result of deteriorating relations between the United States and China over a number of issues, including trade, human right and the Status of Taiwan.
In a Pew Research Center survey conducted in March, 83% of respondents expressed negative views of China. In surveys conducted in China, a majority of respondents also had negative opinions about the U.S.
China is gaining popularity with students from Africa, Latin America, and Asia who are attracted by Chinese-funded scholarship programs and world-class Universities.
Cindy Li, a 21-year-old NYU Shanghai student, said, “It seems that China knows a lot about the rest the world but the U.S. doesn’t know much about what is going on outside the States.”