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U.S. China Strategic Cultural and Social Dialogue

Remarks Prepared for Delivery by
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao
U.S. China Strategic Cultural and Social Dialogue
George Washington University
Thursday, September 28, 2017

Thank you, President LeBlanc.

And let me thank the Sigur Center for Asian Studies, and the Institute of Public Diplomacy and Global Communications at George Washington University, for co-hosting this event.

I am pleased to be here today with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Her Excellency Vice Premier Liu Yandong, Minister Chen, Minister Wan, Minister Luo, and Minister Li traveling with Vice Premier Liu, and Ambassador to the United States Cui.  I also look forward to the “Next Gen” discussion coming up, with Professor Bruce Dickson and Ms. Yang Lan moderating.  Again, welcome!

Today’s discussion is the signature outreach event of the Strategic Cultural and Social Dialogue.  This is a key part of the high-level exchange launched by President Trump and President Xi in April 2017.  Co-chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong, this dialogue emphasizes eight areas of engagement to strengthen cultural and social relations between our two countries.

Today’s conversation highlights the long-standing American tradition of people-to-people diplomacy.  Created by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956, this program encourages the direct exchange of ideas and experiences between people of different countries and cultures. President Eisenhower envisioned these educational, cultural and humanitarian exchanges as essential building blocks of international understanding and enduring peace.  So the young people participating in the NextGen Dialogue today are a key element of the program. 

I hope you will permit me to contribute a few thoughts and experiences to today’s dialogue, as well.

As you may know, I came to this country from Asia when I was eight years old, speaking no English.  At that time, America was not as diverse as it is now.  Today, however, Asian Americans make up about 5.7% of our country’s population, according to updated 2016 U.S. Census Bureau data.  That’s about 21 million people-- up from less than 1% in 1965.  And Americans of Chinese descent are the single largest group of Asian-Americans, or about 24 percent of the adult Asian population in the United States.        

They are part of a growing, vibrant community that has contributed much to our country. Asian Pacific Americans have won Nobel prizes in the sciences and the arts, flown into outer space, and designed some of our country’s most acclaimed public buildings.  Asian Pacific Americans have formed cutting-edge technology companies. And Asian Americans have been appointed to the cabinets of three American Presidents. 

In fact, Asian Americans are contributing to every part of mainstream America.  And as our country becomes more diverse, we are learning from one another, appreciating one another’s different cultural heritages and backgrounds. And we are contributing to the rich diversity that is one of America’s greatest strengths.    

Today’s event is about building bridges of understanding. And since the 1970s, one of the drivers spurring the opening up between the United States and China has been entrepreneurship. So today, I am pleased to announce a new program for young Chinese and American entrepreneurs. The U.S.-China Youth Forum on Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Economic Opportunities will take place in Ghouzhou, China from December 5-8, 2017.  Co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and the All China Youth Federation, this forum will bring together 100 entrepreneurs from the United States and China.  It will provide an opportunity for young innovators from both countries to share insights and ideas, and to further private sector cooperation and communication between our two countries. And hopefully, it will reflect the tremendous diversity of talent available in both our countries.

That’s so important because America is a young country that responds to energy.  People succeed here because they not only work hard, but because they love what they are doing. That’s especially true for young people, for whom making a difference is especially important. As the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs, young people will help create the opportunity and prosperity that will lift others up. Through exchanges like this one, they can continue to build bridges of understanding that are so important in today’s increasingly global and complex world.  That’s the enduring legacy of people-to-people diplomacy, and the Strategic Cultural and Social Dialogue.

Let me mention that I will be traveling to China on October 28, 2017 for the 9th U.S. China Transportation Forum.  Created in 2008, this bilateral meeting helps government and private sector stakeholders develop solutions to common transportation challenges. It’s another example of mutually beneficial cooperation.

So thank you for being here today, and for inviting me to participate in the special event.         

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Friday, September 29, 2017
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