September 2009 | By Jane Leung Larson
In 2005, the Committee of 100, through letters from Chairman Bob Lee and Founder I.M. Pei, called for the passage of the U.S.-China Cultural Engagement Act introduced by Senator Joseph Lieberman in the 109th Congress. In his letter, Lee pointed to the Committee’s public opinion survey that showed solid support by the general public for increased communication between the U.S. and China. He also wrote, “We believe that it is particularly important that more Americans start studying Mandarin at an early age so that they can acquire the necessary skill set and fluency to become culturally competent global citizens.” Read more in the Fall 2005 issue of Committee Bridges, page 6.
The Act was a far-reaching bill that enhanced Chinese language instruction, boosted U.S. consular commercial staff in China, and funded a variety of cultural and educational exchanges. While it garnered a great deal of buzz from organizations and educators, the bill was referred to the Foreign Relations Committee but never received a hearing.
However, the federal government has been funding Chinese language teaching programs at the K-12 levels through the Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP). Charlie Sie has worked with the Palos Verdes School District for many years to carry out an innovative FLAP project that has been teaching Mandarin to students beginning in kindergarten.
The U.S.-China Competitiveness Agenda is a package of four bills first introduced in the 110th Congress and re-introduced this year by the U.S.-China Working Group, a bi-partisan coalition of Members of Congress chaired by Reps. Mark Kirk and Rick Larsen. Unlike the original Lieberman bill, these four bills cover a much wider range of activities, including energy and climate change cooperation, and emphasize strengthening American competency to compete economically with China.
Below is the summary of each act as provided by Rep. Larsen’s website: (http://www.house.gov/list/press/wa02_larsen/PR_ChinaCompAgenda_051409.shtml).H.R. 2310: The U.S. - China Market Engagement and Export Promotion Act (authored by Rep. Rick Larsen):
• Helps states establish and operate offices in China to promote exports.H.R. 2311: The U.S.-China Diplomatic Expansion Act (authored by Rep. Mark Kirk):
• Creates a program establishing China Market Advocate Positions in US Export Assistance Centers around the country.
• Provides assistance to small businesses for trade missions to China.
• Authorizes Small Business Administration (SBA) grants for Chinese business education programs.
• Increases funding for public diplomacy with an emphasis on Internet communicationsH.R. 2312: The U.S.-China Energy Cooperation Act (authored by Rep. Steve Israel):
• Provides funds to build another consulate and establish 10 American presence posts
• Increases funding for State Department student exchange programs
• Increases funding for State Department teacher exchange programs
• Increases funding for Rule of Law Initiatives
• Increases funding for Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation
• Authorizes a grant program to encourage joint American-Chinese research and development and policy education.H.R. 2313: The U.S.-China Language Engagement Act (authored by Rep. Susan Davis):
• Grants will fund joint energy and climate change policy education programs and/or joint research, development, or commercialization of carbon capture and sequestration technology, improved energy efficiency, or renewable energy sources.
• Entities eligible for grant funding are joint ventures comprised of both Chinese and American private business entities, joint ventures comprised of both Chinese and American academics or joint ventures comprised of Chinese and American Federal, State, or local governments.
• Increases Chinese cultural studies and language acquisition for American students through Local Education Agencies (LEAs).
• Supports collaborative efforts between LEAs and institutions of higher education and exchanges with academic institutions in China.
• Develops programs that include intensive summer Chinese language instruction, connecting Chinese and English Speakers and cultural studies.