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China is the United States’ most important bilateral relationship: It is our fastest-growing trade partner, with the second largest gross domestic product and the fastest-growing middle class. Whatever our international challenges — from terrorism to nuclear proliferation, financial instability and climate change — the United States cannot address them without working with China.
China is also vital to our economic future. Offering huge and growing markets for our goods and services, China is indispensable to American businesses and workers. As the first lady said, “Studying abroad isn’t just a fun way to spend a semester; it is quickly becoming the key to success in our global economy.” This “key to success” will allow students to both unlock their own futures and build America’s future.
Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong agrees, saying in a USA Today opinion piece last fall: “I am convinced that with vigorous cooperation between governments and mutual understanding and friendship between our peoples, we will be able to build a new model of major-country relationships, inspiring generations to come.”
Working with four-year and two-year colleges, high schools, and business and civic organizations of all kinds, we can help our students share in the opportunity to learn and understand China. The relationships they build today will pay dividends long into the future.
To paraphrase the first lady’s challenge, our young people deserve this chance, they should not hesitate to take it and we must encourage them to do so.
Carola McGiffert is the president of the 100,000 Strong Foundation, a nonprofit organization seeking to strengthen US-China relations through Mandarin language learning and study abroad.