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China Education Association for International Exchange and AFS China
 
                                                 Sheng Jinxue

China Education Association for International Exchange (CEAIE) was founded in July 1981 and granted the Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations in 2006. As a nationwide none-for-profit organization conducting international educational exchanges and cooperation, CEAIE has established long-term and stable relations with over 100 reputed education organizations in more than 50 countries and regions.
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CEAIE has established stable cooperative relations with major non-governmental education exchange organizations in the United States. Exchange Programs for Students and Teachers represented by AFS Intercultural program have played a positive role in helping to remove barriers, increase trust and clear up doubts between Chinese and American people, thus laying foundation in both societies and peoples for the development of bilateral state-to-state relations.
Exchange and Cooperation with the AFS International Cultural Exchange Organization
Founded in 1947, AFS is a non-governmental multi-lateral voluntary organization registered in the United Nations and based in New York. It is an international cultural exchange organization that supports cross-cultural exchange between students and teachers in secondary schools and universities. Its predecessor was the American Field Service established in 1914 during World War I.
 
With the aim of promoting global dialogue & world peace and cultivating future leaders with international vision and cross-culture communication ability, AFS has carried out over 2300 bilateral programs with 59 partners in 103 countries and regions over the past 6 decades. More than 460,000 individuals have participated in these programs through home stay and school exchange by providing volunteer support and community services. By training a growing number of outstanding young people, AFS is playing an increasingly important and prominent role in the international community, hence becomes an important stage for us to carry out public diplomacy.
 
AFS started to cooperate with former Bureau of Foreign Affairs of Ministry of Education via Chinese Embassy in the United States in 1981 before CEAIE was entrusted by the Ministry to carry out AFS program in China which then became CEAIE-AFS international cultural exchange program. During the period from 1982 to 2000, the program involved only out-bound exchange in which participants¡ª first secondary school teachers then students as well were sent to destinations starting with the U.S. and gradually expanding to cover 14 countries and regions. A major breakthrough was made in 2001 when the Chinese side started to receive foreign students, thus ushering in a period of two-way exchanges. In 2014, a branch of CEAIE¡ªthe Volunteer Committee for Intercultural Education established official partnership with AFS and became AFS China.
 
For 34 years CEAIE has been committed to carrying out CEAIE-AFS cooperation in a global scope. Programs cover stages from primary to higher education in 100 schools/colleges in 25 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities. With more than 6500 individuals participating, CEAIE has trained a contingent of talents who are equipped with foreign language skills, understanding about cultural difference and international vision, as well as a group of foreign young people who become friends of China. The CEAIE-AFS program has become one of the most important people-to-people exchange programs in the field of basic education in China.
 
CEAIE attaches great importance to cooperation with members of Asia Pacific Initiative (API) as regional organizations of AFS. Starting with students and teachers exchange and through deepening people-to-people exchange in basic education stage, CEAIE has enhanced trust and mutually beneficial relations with relevant countries and regions, hence building our connection in the Initiative to help us gain its leadership.  
 
Starting with CEAIE-AFS programs, CEAIE worked to develop sound relations with API by taking the following steps: first we expanded the scale of language learning program for Thailand through which hundreds of Thai students were recruited. Then we provided AFS organizations in Indonesia and the Philippines with scholarships for their secondary school students to join a one-year program in China. We also carried out short-term volunteer exchange program with AFS organizations in Australia, India and Malaysia and strengthened cooperation with Hong Kong AFS in cross-cultural and volunteer exchange. Thanks to these efforts, a number of leaders in CEAIE secretariat have been elected Vice-President of API since 2011, which is a sign of CEAIE¡¯s presence in the leadership of international organizations and its leading role in the people-to-people exchanges in the filed of education in Asia-Pacific region. 
Experience and Observation about Cooperation with AFS and Other  International Organizations
With rising influence, NGOs constitute an important front to coordinate with strategic deployment of China¡¯s diplomacy. The 4 years when CEAIE personnel assumed leading positions in API witnessed China becoming a positive advocator and promoter of cooperation in Asia-Pacific region, which helped to promote the establishment of a just and rational international political order in the region, spread China¡¯s voice and create favorable public opinion. CEAIE will try to maintain its leading position in API to demonstrate the intensity of China¡¯s public diplomacy and the political influence of people-to-people exchange.
 
A competent team is an important guarantee to strengthen one¡¯s voice and influence in international organizations. Thanks to years of experience of dealing with international organizations, CEAIE has cultivated a team of international educators who are familiar with international rules and competent to work in multi-lateral environment. In the adult program platform ITERO newly-established by AFS, CEAIE staff have been elected into ITERO Committee, Special Working Committee and Committee of Standards, Policies and Procedures, which helped CEAIE to engage in various work of AFS more comprehensively. In addition, CEAIE cooperated with International Court of Justice in Hague, Netherlands to select postgraduate students for internship in ICJ and train future practitioner of international laws.
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Young people are the future of the world. Mutual understanding and friendship is an important cornerstone for good relations between countries. As an old saying goes, ¡°Mutual understanding creates amity between the people, which holds the key to sound relations between states¡±. Exchange of young people is a future-oriented and forward-looking endeavor and has attracted attention from government leaders all over the world. The president of Iceland Olafur Ragnar Gr¨ªmsson, then German Chancellor Gerhard Schroders and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton all met with students in CEAIE-AFS programs and fully acknowledged the significance of youngsters¡¯ exchange between China and other countries. CEAIE will continue to take advantage of its non-governmental identity to build comprehensive cross-cultural education exchange platform for Chinese and foreign teachers and students with CEAIE-AFS program as its core, with a view to increasing communication and understanding between Chinese and foreign young people and laying a solid foundation of public opinion for people-to-people exchange.
 
(The author is the Secretary General of CEAIE) ¡¡¡¡
 
 
 
 
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