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1 The S~no-American Academic [Relationship: Images and Interests The images that Americans hold of China and their understanding of U.S. interests in the Sino-American relationship are pivotal to shaping the goals, the strategies, and the very character of academic exchanges with China. Defining American interests will always be difficult and controversial for two fundamental reasons. First, there are tensions between long-term and short-run goals of exchanges. To reap future benefits, investments must be made now but they must be made with no guarantee that these immediate, tangible costs will be offset by long- range and less tangible future benefits. Second, China does not present a single face to the United States. Various politically potent segments of our society see different opportunities and challenges in China. At least three general images of China are currently held in the United States, and each has its own implications for academic exchange. If China is perceived principally as a Third World nation at a comparatively low technical level, then American academic exchange policy might logically focus on building a long-term relationship by assisting China to develop economically and scientifically. With this view comes less concern about issues of strict numerical reciprocity and technology transfer. This perspective has significantly shaped this study and is exerting increasing influence on the thinking of American policy- makers. If, however, China is viewed as a potential economic competitor, as it is by some American industries (e.g., textiles and, increasingly, agricul- ture), one might conclude that assisting Chinese economic and scientific 9
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10 A RELATIONSHIP RESTORED development now could be detrimental to the United States later. Of course, the opposite conclusion also could be reached: that global eco- nomic competition is the engine that will drive the American economy forward. As China, or enclaves within China, develop economically, this image will exert increasing influence over the formulation of policy toward China in the United States. Finally, if China is viewed as either a regional or a strategic military power that will, in the course of military modernization, present secu- rity problems to the United States and its allies, concerns about the transfer of technology will be heightened. To the degree that China is perceived as an ideological threat, these concerns will be still greater. Insofar as the PRC's military power is believed to offset Soviet armed might, such concerns may diminish. Since the early 1980s there has been a gradual reduction in the degree to which China is viewed pri- marily in strategic and military terms. China, of course, has all of these dimensions. It is a nuclear power with at least a nascent submarine missile-launching capacity, but it is also a country with very low per capita income. It is a country where village society coexists with pockets of modernity along the coast that have the potential to become world-class economic competitors. The entrepreneurial ability of the Chinese is legendary, yet they have been enmeshed in a sociopolitical system that has frustrated this entrepre- neurship. The PRC is still a self-decIared Marxist-Leninist state but one in which the impulse for reform seems comparatively strong and the Confucian ethic of intellectuals serving the state reigns supreme. China has many talented scientists and scholars, and yet it is a society with a very significant degree of illiteracy. The issue is, therefore, how aca- demic exchanges fit into this complex web of images and reality. What are American interests? The next step toward understanding the dynamics of exchange lies in recognizing that the Chinese have clearly pursued their own interests in designing an official program to send students and scholars abroad. Since late 1978, Beijing has systematically followed a plan (see Chapter 3) that specifies the number of persons the Chinese government will send abroad for training, the fields in which they will study, the dura- tion of their stay, the strategies to obtain maximal foreign funding, and the age and professional standing of these individuals. In addition, there are many "self-paying" PRC students coming to the United States who are outside this detailed plan. The importance China's elite places on the program to send students and scholars abroad is clearly evident in the following account of the 1984 National Conference on Sending Students Abroad to Study:
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THE SINO-AMERICAN ACADEMIC RELATIONSHIP 11 The CPC "Communist Party of China] Central Committee and the State Coun- cil attach great importance to sending students to study abroad.... The CPC Central Committee Secretariat . . . has made it a practice to discuss this ques- tion almost every year. In 1983 Comrades Hu Yaobang, Zhao Ziyang, Peng Zhen, and Deng Yingchao personally talked to those going to study abroad.... Last March the CPC Central Committee and the State Council again eluci- dated the principles, main points, targets, and avenues of sending students to study abroad, and their guidance is an important guarantee for doing our job well. ~ Given the purposefulness with which the Chinese have pursued these goals, American academe and policymakers must think equally clearly about American interests, both long- and short-term. Herein, however, lies a difficulty; America is a pluralistic society in which interests are defined differently by various groups. Although U.S. societal and gov- ernmental structures make it difficult to achieve consensus, unified action, and policy consistency, the United States can and should identify the range of interests to be considered. Americans seek to meet multiple objectives in academic exchanges with China. Some want to promote charitable objectives or gain scien- tific and technical knowledge to advance global science and technology, while others may seek access to Chinese society and culture to better understand one of the world's oldest civilizations and to advance the understanding of fundamental social processes. Some constituencies also want to promote American commercial interests in the PRC, while others want to bring to the United States some of the world's most talented students and scholars to enrich teaching and research at Ameri- can institutions. These multiple objectives are matched by equally varied opinions about the effects of exchange. Some observers assert that what is widely regarded as the positive flow of scientific and technical information toward China has not been, or cannot be, offset by American gains. Other analysts point to the generally high quality of the Chinese coming to the United States and underscore their positive impact on American graduate programs and on the overall quality of American campus life. Although the United States has already benefited from the academic exchange relationship by acquiring previously unavailable scientific data, greater knowledge of Chinese society, and high-quality foreign students on American campuses, the relationship should not, and prob- ably cannot, be justified purely by short-term effects. In the face of an unpredictable future, what long-term national inter- ests should guide American academic ties with China? Three are of paramount importance. First, China's present "open" policies present a
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12 A RELATIONSHIP RESTORED unique opportunity to inform the perspective of a generation of Chinese intellectual and technical leaders who will be active well into the next century. While one cannot simplistically assume that exposure to Amer- ica will assure future friendly relations much less policy agreement, it is undeniable that the comparatively few students and scholars trained in the West in the pre-1949 era have played a very important role in the present opening up to the West. There is no reason to believe that their contemporary successors will be less influential. Second, the United States, like the rest of the world, has a positive stake in the success of China's modernization effort. It would be folly to think that China's "success" or "failure" hinges on decisions made by Americans, but America's attitude toward China's development effort is important. It is hard to imagine long-term regional peace and stabil- ity if China is struggling economically and is alienated by American aloofness to the aspirations of the Chinese people. Finally, (:hina's land, society, and culture all are exciting areas for research, offering the prospect for significantly advancing knowledge. Whether for purposes of studying global geosphere-biosphere interac- t~ons, demographic change, social behavior, or art, access to China is valuable to both American and global scholarship. Present American investments in Chinese professional training and scientific instrumenta- tion are laying the foundation for meaningful, future joint research and cooperation. The short-term interests of the United States should not yield entirely to long-term considerations. Indeed, America must achieve some short- term objectives if its relationship with China is to remain strong. It is essential that the Chinese respond positively to American requests for research access to China more frequently than they have in the past. The watchword in the relationship should be responsiveness, not neces- sarily strict numerical reciprocity. As long as Americans know that the Chinese are making good-faith attempts to meet their requests- requests that must remain sensitive to Chinese conditions the basis for an increasingly fruitful relationship exists. America's continued pursuit of its own short-term interests, as well as Chinese responsiveness, is a precondition for achieving the long-term objectives that are the princi- pal raison d'etre of the relationship for troth countries. Likewise, Ameri- cans must be responsive to Chinese needs and desires. Any assessment of American or Chinese interests in academic exchange must rest OI1 a thorough analysis of both the scope of the relationship and its impacts to date. Thus, this study begins by analyz- ing heretofore unavailable quantitative data on the numbers of students and scholars from each country, their fields of study, sources of financ-
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THE SINO-AMERICAN ACADEMIC RELATIONSHIP 13 ing, sociological attributes, and length of stay. But it then probes deeper by addressing the following questions: (1) What impact has the exchange process had on selected fields of study in both countries? (2) What problems have students and scholars from each society encoun- tered in carrying out their work? (3) How easily have students and scholars from China been "reabsorbed" on returning to their homeland? (4) What financial and institutional problems have arisen? (5) How adequate has the preparation of both American and Chinese students and scholars been for their experience, particularly in language train- ing? (6) How have problems of access and technology transfer affected research and study in each country? Three overriding themes emerge in the following pages. First, funda- mental social, cultural, and economic forces in the two societies have produced remarkable continuity in the nature of the Sino-American academic relationship. The problems that Americans and Chinese have encountered in the academic exchange relationship in the 1970s and 1980s are similar, in general, to those confronted during scholarly inter- change prior to the 1950s. Second, the rapidity with which academic exchanges have become "normalized" is striking. American universities and colleges moved quickly to treat PRC students and scholars like other foreign students and scholars in the United States, and the PRC students and scholars adapted swiftly to the American system in terms of providing admis- sions offices with improved academic documentation, competing suc- cessfully for available financial resources, and performing well academically. Finally, the rapid growth in the number of PRC students and scholars on American campuses, the comparatively few Americans who are qualified and motivated to spend long periods of study and research in China, and the PRC's status as a developing country all vitiate the concept of strict numerical reciprocity in the two nations' academic relationship. Instead, responsiveness and quality are more appropriate guiding principles for Sino-American educational ties. Chinese authori- ties should be increasingly responsive to American scholars' needs for access to natural, social, and cultural phenomena in the PRC. Ameri- cans should be better prepared linguistically and culturally to avail themselves of those expanding opportunities. Improving the relation- ship qualitatively is as important as expanding it quantitatively. The Sino-American scientific and educational relationship is moving toward a future for which the past, with its focus on individual students and scholars, has only partially prepared both sides. China is looking to the West and the United States for alternatives to at least some of the
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14 A RELATIONSHIP RESTORED Soviet-style institutional structures built in the 1950s, whether in the administration of higher education, the funding of scientific research, or the provision of high-quality scientific and technical advice to the political elite. As China seeks to reform its system, there are enormous possibilities and important risks for the United States. One risk is that America will be unable, or unwilling, to provide the resources to meet Chinese expectations. For their part, the Chinese must recognize, in the future as in the past, that foreign involvement cannot be the keystone of their development process. As a Chinese student in Zhejiang Province recently put it, "We must search for the 'middle way' between rejecting foreign experience and attaching too much importance to it." NOTE 1. Foreign Broadcast Information Service, Nov. 30, 1984, p. K8, from Xinhua, Nov. 29, 1984.
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