China is ready to work with the United States to advance people-to-people exchange between the two peoples, Education Minister Yuan Guiren said in a bylined article prior to Vice President Xi Jinping's official visit to the U.S..
Xi's visit to the U.S. will push such exchanges to a new level, Yuan said, noting that this area will be a particular focus of the visit as the two countries strengthen mutual political trust and economic and trade cooperation.
The third annual high-level China-U.S. Consultation on People-to-People Exchange (CPE) will be held in China this year, Yuan said, adding that a series of activities and events is planned.
"Forty years ago, visionary politicians of China and the U.S. took people-to-people exchange as a breakthrough to break the ice between the two countries," said the minister.
People-to-people exchange is still an important driving force in today's increasingly close China-U.S. relations, he said, noting that leaders of the two countries often discuss this topic and attend related events.
As a mechanism to boost the bilateral partnership, the CPE was formally established in Beijing on May 2010. President Hu Jintao and President Barack Obama have always attached importance to and supported this kind of exchange, Yuan said, in an article in which he focuses particularly on exchanges in education.
Since Chinese State Councilor Liu Yandong and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton co-chaired the second CPE in Washington last April, China and the United States have reached more than 40 joint outcomes in the areas of education, science and technology, culture, sport, women's issues and youth, according to Yuan.
In 2010, China announced that it would provide scholarships to 10,000 American college students to study in China (CPE Study-in-China Scholarship), implement the "Chinese Bridge" study program for 10,000 Americans in China, and send 10,000 Ph.D candidates to the United States on Chinese government scholarship.
Yuan said the Chinese Education Ministry has been working on these programs since 2010.
By 2011, 4,363 Chinese postgraduates have participated in Ph.D. programs in the United States, while "Chinese Bridge" scholarships have funded 4,563 Americans to study in China, and the CPE Study-in-China Scholarship has already issued 2,094 scholarship quotas for American students, according to Yuan.
To enhance educational support to the central and western regions of China, the Education Ministry has helped 500 teaching faculties from hinterland China to pursue advanced study in the United States in 2011, he said.
The Education Ministry has also assisted the "100,000 Strong" scheme proposed by President Obama in 2010, a goal of sending 100,000 American students to learn Mandarin in China in the next four years, by helping establish contacts between the U.S. side and Chinese universities.
During 2010-2011, the number of Chinese students from the mainland studying in U.S. universities and colleges reached 157,558, a 23.3 percent growth year-on-year, and accounting for 21.8 percent of international students in the United States.
China is now the largest provider of overseas students to the United States, Yuan said.
Meanwhile, there were around 24,000 American students studying in China in 2011, an increase of 19.4 percent compared to 2010, he said, adding that the United States continues to be the second-largest source of overseas students to China.
"Both China and the United States are great countries. Both the Chinese people and the American people are people of rich humanistic spirit," Yuan said, stressing that deepening China-U.S. people-to-people exchange is of great significance for the healthy and stable development of bilateral ties.