NEW YORK, 8 May 2012 — The Ford Foundation today announced a $1 million contribution to support the creation of a nonprofit initiative to help increase the number of American university students who spend some portion of their academic years in China.
The effort, known as “100,000 Strong,” was announced Friday by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during remarks she made at the conclusion of an official visit to Beijing.
Inspired by President Obama and incubated over the past two years within the State Department, 100,000 Strong will, with the help of the Ford Foundation grant, take on new life as a public-private partnership that will seek support from corporations, foundations, universities, and other organizations interested in fostering people-to-people exchange and understanding between the United States and China.
The new nonprofit will work to increase the number and diversification of the type of Americans who elect to study in China, with a goal of encouraging 100,000 Americans to study there by 2014.
In her remarks in Beijing on Friday, Secretary Clinton said: “This is an excellent model; it took our government and our government backing to get 100,000 Strong off the ground, but now we look to our civil society and our private sector to sustain and amplify it.”
The Ford Foundation has funded international educational exchange programs for more than 50 years, including nearly 30 years of support for people-to-people exchanges with China.
“Experience tells us that exchanges like these have the power to expand understanding and deepen international relationships,” said Luis A. Ubiñas, president of the Ford Foundation. “Our goal is to build the next generation’s ability to work effectively with and in China. We look forward to working with a broad range of partners to help grow build the next generation of leaders who will expand this important strategic relationship.”
“There has never been an effort of this scale,” Ubiñas added. “It has the potential to be historic.”
100,000 Strong is directed by Carola McGiffert and will be guided by an independent board of directors. It will not fund student exchanges directly but will act as a national promoter and clearinghouse of efforts across the country to expand programs between U.S and Chinese universities. While being incubated in the State Department over its first two years, 100,000 Strong succeeded in giving national prominence and momentum to the initiative, engaged corporations and universities in the United States, and acted as a partner for a thoughtful and robust effort by China to expand student exchanges with the United States.
“We’ve always seen 100,000 Strong as the beginning of a movement among Americans to take greater interest in learning about China, understanding Chinese culture, and learning Mandarin,” McGiffert said. “Encouraging a global perspective among our young people will pay great dividends for our country and for the U.S.-China relationship in the future.”
According to the Institute of International Education, in the 2009-2010 school year some 14,000 Americans studied in China. That same year, the number of Chinese students in the United States was approximately 157,000.
“Both the United States and China are countries of immense diversity,” said John Fitzgerald, the foundation’s representative in Beijing. “We hope this effort will come to represent that diversity and help the people of both societies become more familiar with one another’s histories and cultures.”