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5th Annual National Chinese Language Conference: Opening night

April 13, 2012

 Over 1,200 people filled a ballroom in Washington D.C. Thursday evening to open the 5th Annual National Chinese Language Conference.

Gov. Gaston Caperton, former governor of West Virginia and now the president of the College Board, told the teachers and administrators that AP Chinese is the fastest growing AP class in the country. Today there are 50,000 college students in the United States are studying Chinese.

Contrast that with the 300 million people studying English in China, where English is compulsory beginning in second grade.

Learning Chinese is “an asset to any American student who seeks an audience with the world,” Caperton told the crowd.

“As China rises on the world stage, we must ensure that every American student truly understands this great nation, not only its language but its history can culture customs and goals.”

Via a video link, Vishakha Desai, president of the Asia Society, told the audience that as the relationship between the United States and China becomes “more crucial than ever before,” we must insure that it’s a bilateral relationship.

Chuck Hagel, a former U.S. Senator from Nebraska and now professor at Georgetown University, told the crowd “we are living through maybe the most fundamental change in the world order that man has ever known.”

“The relationship between China and the United States becomes now as critical as any bilateral relationship maybe in history, certainly in modern history,” he says.

The two powerful nations, China and the United States, don’t need to agree on everything, “but we have to build a platform, a structure of common interest and common purpose,” he said. “If we don’t construct that, sturdily, right now, than whatever differences we have in the future will be more difficult to reconcile.”

China’s ambassador to the United States, Zhang Yesui said that language is key. Today there are 160,000 Chinese citizens studying in the United States, 20,000 American students studying in China.

“Language is an important tool to help people from different cultures and background to better understand each other. It is important for our two people, our young people, to learn each other’s languages and get a deeper understanding of each other.”

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