By Ding Gang Source: Global Times Published: 2016-10-19
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the US, exchanges of people from the two countries have increasingly deepened, forming the basis of the Sino-US relations. Even after a recent furious row between the two sides, caused by the South China Sea conflicts, this basis has not changed and continues to consolidate, forming an important foundation for us to judge the trajectory of Sino-US relations.
The people of the two countries have conducted exchanges in a very wide array of fields, among which the most important one is education. Recently, the Global Times and the Carter Center held the third US-China Youth Scholars Forum at Nanjing University, the theme of which was Sino-US education exchanges. The data provided by several young scholars from China and the US show that the prospects for Sino-US relations are optimistic.
The increasing number of Chinese students going to study in the US is not news. However, the change is that more and more younger students are travelling to the US and the number of high school and undergraduate students is growing quickly.
In 2015, the number of Chinese students pursuing undergraduate degrees in the US overtook the number pursuing graduate degrees for the first time, amounting to 124,552, up 12.7 percent from a year earlier. At present, about 30,000 Chinese students study in American high schools, representing one-third of the total international students in the US. Ten years ago, there were only 65.
As Chinese people`s income increases, there will be more and more young Chinese students studying in the US. This trend will not change in the short term.
According to incomplete statistics, the number of Chinese students studying in the US is over 300,000, probably much more. Many of them are the elites of the future, and their families are mostly considered middle-class in China. The students and their families are the most stable part of Chinese society, and the part that most desires stable Sino-US relations.
Taking the US as the first choice for overseas studying is due to its high quality education. According to the Times of London, there are 16 American universities among the world`s top 20. Three are in the UK and one is in Switzerland. In the foreseeable future, the rank will not have big changes.
Chinese people encourage their children to study in the US, which will not change in the short term. These two factors - the high quality, open education system in the US and the importance of education to Chinese families - constitute the perfect union.
Nowadays, many Chinese and American experts like to talk about the almost equal strength of the two countries, or the relative decline in US strength, and how this influences Sino-US relations. Some people even think that the US is beginning to decline, and there will be fierce conflicts between China and the US.
In fact, the true strength of the US relies on its education. And its education system not only continuously produces talented people for the US, but also attracts students throughout the world for its openness.
More interestingly, education is where the American strength lies and also where the Chinese strength lies. In history, there aren`t any two major powers having such a complementary relationship.
The close economic and military strength of the two countries is likely to bring more friction.
Nevertheless, on the educational exchange level, the complementary relation is conducive to developing a closer understanding between people on both sides, penetrating into family and social relations.
As long as the US system of higher education is better than China`s, and parents in China are willing and ready to send their children to study in the US, Sino-US relations will not take a turn for the worse.
The author is a senior fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.