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100,000 Strong Initiative


In 2009, during his visit to Shanghai, President Obama announced the “100,000 Strong” Initiative, a national effort to significantly increase the number and diversity of Americans studying in China. He set a goal of sending 100,000 American students to China by the year 2014. On May 25, 2010 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chinese State Councilor Liu signed a formal people-to-people agreement to officially launch the Initiative. More recently, on January 19, 2011, on the occasion of President Hu Jintao’s state visit, First Lady Michelle Obama delivered the inspiring call to action before an audience of local high school and college students at Howard University’s Cramton Auditorium.

What is 100,000 Strong?

The “100,000 Strong” Initiative is administered by the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the US Department of State. It will depend entirely on private funding both to expand the capacity of existing exchange programs and to create new programs where minimal capacity currently exists. Its goals are to:

  • Prepare the next generation of American experts on China who will be charged with managing the growing political, economic, and cultural ties between the U.S. and China.
  • Remedy the significant imbalance in the numbers of Americans studying abroad in China compared to Chinese youth studying in the US. According to the 2010 Open Doors report, only about 13,500 US college students studied in China between 2008 and 2009. At the same time, almost 130,000 Chinese students enrolled in American universities. That’s ten times more Chinese students coming to the United States for educational programs than Americans who study in China. In terms of language learning, the disparity is even greater. According to official Chinese media sources, 300,000 Chinese were studying English in 2006 – nearly a quarter of the country’s population. This is 600 times more than the approximately 50,000 Americans who studied Mandarin in the same period.
  • Create specific new opportunities for underrepresented students (including urban high school and community college students) to study in China.

Presentation to the DC State Board of Education

From the program’s inception, the leadership of “100,000 Strong” has reached out to DC and to CGEL to ensure that our city’s young people are included in planning for the initiative.

Last December 2010, Carola McGiffert, Director of the “100,000 Strong” Initiative and Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific, presented testimony before the DC State Board of Education. She explained the reasoning behind the initiative:

“The rationale is simple: China is now the second largest economy in the world, and a major world power with global reach. Effectively addressing virtually any transnational challenge – from nuclear non-proliferation to economic recovery to climate change – will require the United States and China to work together. In addition, in order to stay economically competitive, Americans will need to understand the global economy of the 21st century in which China plays a central role. That means that knowing something about China is no longer an elective for American leaders, but rather a prerequisite. So too must it be a prerequisite for our next generation of leaders: today’s students.”

Read her full testimony here.

Role of CGEL

At the request of “100,000 Strong,” CGEL has developed a proposal for DC’s participation in this important initiative. Our goal is not only to dramatically increase the number of DC public school students who learn about China, study Chinese, and travel abroad to China over the next four years, but also to use this incredible opportunity to build local infrastructure and programs that will support global education and study abroad long-term. Consistent with CGEL’s mission, we will tap the expertise and resources of the city’s universities and other organizations to work with us to develop the highest quality program.

We were extremely pleased that the First Lady included CGEL’s plans in her January 19th speech at Howard University. 

To learn more about plans for DC and ways to get involved, contact sally@dc-cgel.org.

For general information about the “100,000 Strong” Initiative, go to the State Department website or contact Carola McGiffert at mcgiffertc@state.gov.

Additional information:

Letter from Secretary of State Clinton to CGEL and “100,000 Strong” Fact Sheet here.

100,000 Strong Newsletter - January 2011 issue

100,000 Strong Newsletter - January 2011 Special Issue


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