U.S.-China Educational Exchange: State, Society, and Intercultural Relations, 1905-1950

U.S.-China Educational Exchange: State, Society, and Intercultural Relations, 1905-1950

U.S.-China Educational Exchange: State, Society, and Intercultural Relations, 1905-1950

U.S.-China Educational Exchange: State, Society, and Intercultural Relations, 1905-1950

Synopsis

"U. S.-China relations became increasingly important and complex in the twentieth century. While economic, political, and military interactions all grew over time, the most dramatic expansion took place in educational exchange, turning it into the strongest tie between the two nations. By the end of the 1940s, tens of thousands of Chinese and American students and scholars had crisscrossed the Pacific, leaving indelible marks on both societies. Although all exchange programs were terminated during the cold war, the two nations reemerged as top partners within a decade after the reestablishment of diplomatic relations. Approaching U. S.-China relations from a unique and usually overlooked perspective, Hongshan Li reveals that both the drastic expansion and complete termination of educational ties between the two nations in the first half of the twentieth century were largely the results of direct and deep intervention from the American and Chinese governments. Benefiting from government support and collaboration, educational exchange succeeded in diffusing knowledge and improving mutual understanding between the two peoples across the divide of civilizations. However, the visible hand of government also proved to be most destructive to the development of healthy intercultural relations when educational interactions were treated merely as an instrument for crisis management."

Excerpt

The most striking phenomenon in the relations between the United States and China in the twentieth century was the emergence of educational exchange as the strongest tie despite sharp differences in their cultural, political, and economic systems. Originating as part of American missionary enterprise in China, educational exchange between the two nations drastically expanded beginning around 1900. By the end of the 1940s, China had sent more students and scholars to the United States than to any other country for higher education and advanced training. At the same time, the United States devoted more attention and resources to expanding and maintaining educational interactions with China than with any other nation in the world. As a result, the United States and China became chief partners in educational exchange, a status that had never been achieved in the commercial or military relations between the two nations. Although educational exchange came to a complete stop after the United States and China entered the Korean War on opposite sides, the two nations began to rebuild their educational ties by following the patterns established in the earlier decades when they reestablished diplomatic relations at the end of the 1970s. Within two decades, educational exchange reemerged as the strongest tie between the two nations, as hundreds of thousands of students and scholars crisscrossed the Pacific, creating the most massive flow of educational personnel between any two different civilizations in world history.

Both the dramatic expansion and the abrupt termination of educational exchange in the first half of the twentieth century hold the key to a better understanding of U.S.-China relations in particular and intercultural interactions in general. However, neither has received adequate attention from scholars on either side of the Pacific. Most traditional studies of U.S.-China relations have focused on economic, political, and military aspects. Although there has been increasingly strong desire among Chinese scholars to widen the scope of their studies of U.S.-China relations, “politics and political economy have remained . . .

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