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This year, ACYPL was delighted to send a delegation of six individuals to China along with a 14-person alumni delegation. The two delegations were hosted by our partner, the All-China Youth Federation (ACYF), and treated to an anniversary program which marked forty years of normalized relations between the United States and China, as well as forty years of exchanges between ACYPL and ACYF. The delegations represented geographical and professional diversity and, with the alumni delegation included for the first four days of programming, it was made richer by generational and experiential diversity.
The exchange schedule included time spent in Beijing, Chongqing, Suzhou, and Shanghai. In Beijing, all 20 delegates visited the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with US Ambassador Terry Branstad. The group participated in a half-day 40th Anniversary Symposium that was attended by fourteen Chinese alumni who had traveled to the United States on ACYPL exchanges, the Minister Counselor for Public Affairs at the US Embassy-Beijing Mr. Frank Whitaker, and the President of ACYF. Altogether, more than 30 alumni who traveled from1977 to 2017 were included. One alumnus commented “The progress over 40 years is amazing. China is so much more politically and culturally open.” Another highlight was the opportunity to discuss Chinese economic development, a key concern in both of countries, with the National Development Commission. Then, when the ACYPL alumni delegation departed China, the 2019 delegation continued to Chongqing.
In the remaining week of programming, the 2019 delegation was introduced to various elements of society which helped inform a well-rounded understanding of Chinese history and politics. They toured intelligence and IT development parks as well as rural farms. They were given in depth tours of heritage sites such as the Stilwell Museum and the People’s Liberation Monument. Along the way, they were hosted by local leaders such as the Mayor of Suzhou and young entrepreneurs in Shanghai. Through a variety of meetings and activities, the delegation was able to catch glimpses into the long history of China, the diversity within the country today, and the multifaceted nature of Chinese industry and development. One delegate commented that “They have issues to be sure, but China has done remarkable things for their people…I hope China will continue to grow and contribute to the global economy and global peace.” The social and human rights challenges in China also spurred conversation about American struggles for unity and community. Regarding these discussions, the delegates expressed their appreciation for the chance to learn from one another and thus create lasting, meaningful connections. ACYPL looks forward to the continued engagement and growth of our China exchange alumni.