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Background

Since the normalization of relations over four decades ago, U.S.-China relations have evolved dramatically, with increased interaction in fields such as education, culture, trade, and politics. As each country grapples with how to 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.

As U.S. interests in Asia have grown, initiatives encouraging study abroad and people-to-people exchange with China have proliferated. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have traveled to Mainland China, Taiwan, and other Chinese-speaking societies 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 another culture.

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 bilingual Americans with experience studying and living in Chinese-speaking societies is key to the success of that endeavor. It is our belief that fostering this broad and diverse talent pool should be a national priority.

The Challenge

While efforts to encourage Americans to study Chinese abroad have produced a cohort of talented Americans with a deep understanding of Chinese language and culture, these students need support 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 can overwhelm individuals’ best intentions to maintain language fluency and their skills all too often deteriorate to the point of Chinese becoming something they “used to know.”

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 need support for their efforts to further develop their Chinese-language skills, deepen their knowledge of policy issues related to Asia, 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.

Our Members and Work

The American Mandarin Society’s mission is to help Americans who have returned from study and work in Chinese-speaking societies stay deeply in touch with the Asia region, maintain and develop their Mandarin Chinese language skills, and build the professional networks that will allow them to engage in the vital work of strengthening the United States’ ties with Asia in the 21st Century.

AMS’ 3,500-plus members have lived in China, Taiwan, and other Chinese-speaking societies, speak Mandarin Chinese, and want to contribute meaningfully to their country’s effort to deepen its engagement with the Asia-Pacific. Our steadily growing membership includes federal, state, and city government employees, businesspeople, scholars, employees of civil society groups, and other professionals. AMS’ commitment to supporting these Americans is rooted in the conviction that prosperity, stability, and peace in the entire Pacific region depend on it. AMS achieves its mission by:

  • Providing a networking and mentoring forum for Chinese-speaking Americans across the United States who have returned from study and work in Mainland China, Taiwan, and other Chinese-speaking societies;

  • Sponsoring Chinese-language policy lectures by visiting officials, academics, and professionals from Asia, helping audiences maintain and further develop their Chinese-language skills and engage with policy experts directly in Chinese;

  • Leading a unique annual Fellows Program in China for a select group of talented mid-career Americans allowing them to gain insights into Chinese decision-making and training processes through interactions entirely in Chinese at the institutions that train Chinese government and Party officials;

  • Publishing theme-specific learning guides (The China Syllabi Project) to help China-focused professionals broaden their knowledge outside of core areas of expertise and expand their topic-specific vocabulary;

  • Fostering the next generation of journalists and writers on China-related topics through the Next-Generation Scholars Program;

  • Maintaining a robust website offering Chinese-language learning tools and policy analysis related to China, a podcast, and an active job listings platform;

  • Disseminating a weekly newsletter with analysis of the latest China-related policy developments with links to related Chinese- and English-language readings, language learning lessons, and job opportunities;

  • Building a unique mentorship program for African-Americans with Chinese-language skills;

  • Developing opportunities for Chinese-speaking Americans to build bridges with their Chinese-speaking peers in other countries, including Japan.

AMS is strictly non-partisan and values a diverse membership, including in race, gender, ethnicity, age, and perspective.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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