American Mandarin Society (AMS)
Since the first group of Americans officially visited the People’s Republic of China more than four decades ago, U.S.-China relations have evolved dramatically and in almost every conceivable aspect. Increased interaction in educational, cultural, economic, and political realms, along with growing interdependencies of all kinds, has created a more productive and dynamic relationship. As each country grapples with how to adapt and manage the relationship, each must cultivate and train new stewards for this responsibility.
Effective stewardship requires a foundation of knowledge and understanding of each other’s language, history, and culture. Since the normalization of relations, China has invested heavily in teaching English in country and consistently encouraged students and professionals to study in the United States. A lack of comparable investment by the United States resulted in China developing a greater bilingual and cultural competency, and left Americans with a relatively weak understanding of Chinese intellectual dialogue, cultural and historical context, and political institutions.
Over recent years the situation in the United States has improved. As U.S. interests in Asia have grown, initiatives encouraging study abroad and people-to-people exchange with China have likewise increased. Ever-greater numbers of Americans have traveled to Greater China to study and work, returning to the United States with both Chinese-language skills and the sort of insights that can only be gained from navigating day-to-day life in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
Both major U.S. political parties agree that deeper engagement with the Asia-Pacific is essential for the United States’ future prosperity, peace, and security. Harnessing the expertise of Chinese-speaking Americans with experience studying and living in Greater China is key to the success of that endeavor. It is their belief that fostering this broad and diverse talent pool should be a national priority.
While efforts to encourage Americans to study in China are increasingly effective, a much better job needs to be done nurturing these students when they return to the United States.
Having already spent considerable time, effort, and resources to develop professional Chinese language skills, returnees face the daunting challenge of maintaining these skills as they embark on diverse and demanding careers. Unfortunately, the demands of the workweek often overwhelm individuals’ best intentions to maintain language fluency and their skills rapidly deteriorate to the point of Chinese becoming something they “used to know.”
Although the United States urgently needs their expertise, these American returnees have found little external support for their efforts to further develop their Chinese-language skills, deepen their knowledge of policy issues related to Greater China, and build careers in which they can continue to hone and apply their expertise.
The American Mandarin Society (AMS), a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 2011, is dedicated to filling that need.See more