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A Personal Experience of Chinese Fever in Oregon

Liu Yandong (right) leaning down to talk with and receive flowers from Eller, an American student

According to a report by The China Press, US, ‘Become proficient in Chinese in your childhood, once you have grown up visit China, you are the little messengers of Sino-American friendship. Thank you all!’ were the words of Liu Yandong, Chinese State Councilor as she attended the unveiling ceremony of the Confucius Classrooms in Oregon on the 15th during her visit to Portland City. This encouragement was met with unanimous applause from the audience. On the same day, Liu Yandong also stated: ‘Sino-American relations have grounding in locality; with people and at grassroots level. Development of the Sino-American partnership cannot be achieved without the broad participation and active support of the two countries’ peoples.’

Students showing off their Chinese and expressing a longing to visit China

On the morning of the same day, Liu Yandong flew from San Francisco to Portland City—the last leg of her trip to the USA. Enthusiastic overseas Chinese students had waited at the gate of Portland State University since very early in the morning and put up a banner which read ‘Welcome Chinese State Councilor Liu Yandong’. Eller, a 10-year-old boy presented flowers to Liu Yandong and greeted her in clear, fluent Chinese.

Accompanied by public figures, including John Kitzhaber, Governor of Oregon State, Zhang Yesui, Chinese Ambassador to the US and Gao Zhansheng, Chinese Consul-General to San Francisco, Liu Yandong paid a visit to an area in which the Confucius Institute at Portland State University’s Chinese language teaching activities were being exhibited and she listened to an introduction on the developmental conditions of local Chinese language education as presented by Liu Meiru, Director of the Confucius Institute.

Ma Ruina, a junior in high school that had written a letter, ‘Inviting Liu Yandong to visit Oregon State’ in Chinese, has now been learning Chinese for 11 years. Now that she has seen the arrival of ‘grandma Liu’, her wishes have come true. She spoke with excitement: ‘I hope I will have a chance to visit you in Beijing!’ In return, Liu Yandong gave her a big hug.

Superb Chinese performances presented by local students, including Kuaibanshu Confucius Small Lecture Hall, Poetry Recital The Spring Dawn and Willow Tree and Vocal performance Cute Small Rabbit,followed winning a stream of rapturous applause from the audience.

Not only did Liu Yandong take to the stage cordially to have pictures taken with the young performers, but also she told everyone: ‘It is the Year of the Rabbit in China, we have brought little rabbits as gifts for every child: the ears of the rabbit represent ‘V’- for Victory.’

President of Oregon State University: the Confucius Institute promotes world peace

George Pernsteiner, Chancellor of the Oregon University System, mentioned in his speech that Oregon and China are engaged in deeper and broader cooperation in educational area aside from the Confucius Classroom. More than 1,500 overseas Chinese students are studying in the 7 schools affiliated with Oregon State University this year whilst more than 100 students from Oregon are studying in universities of China. All concerned feel assurance in the fact that their own students are studying in the other area’s schools: this symbolizes a sort of mutual trust and is conducive to the future development of students. Pernsteiner also revealed that his son attends one of 12 schools that have opened Confucius Classrooms.

Wim Wiewel, President of Portland State University, thanked Hanban for greatly supporting the development of local Chinese education. Additionally, he recalled the words of his 15-year-old daughter Kelly and her observations following a family trip to Shanghai Expo. last year: ‘This is a secure and beautiful world. ’, and his own response to her words: ‘The work of our Confucius Institutes is to help all the ‘Kelly’s across the globe feel world security.’

Building Confucius Institute It has China’s complete backing

Yuan Guiren, Minister of Chinese Education, mentioned in his speech that language is a carrier of culture, a tool for exchange and a bridge of communication. Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms are the beautiful result of friendship between the Chinese people and people from the rest of the world. The Confucius Institute Headquarters will greatly support the development of Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms in Oregon and will very soon provide key support in various areas, including local Chinese language teacher training, dispatch of Chinese volunteer teachers and the offering of scholarships for students to study abroad. It is believed that the Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms of Oregon will become better and better, making even greater contributions to the enhancement of Sino-American friendship, especially mutual understanding and friendship between the two countries’ younger generations.

Governor John Kitzhaber stated that he hopes that the people of Oregon people gain a greater understanding of many issues related to China, including Chinese language, Chinese culture and Chinese society.

Oregon State enjoys a long history of Chinese language promotion and is home to the first US Confucius Classroom. The classroom was opened at Saint Mary’s High School. In 2010, Oregon passed a bill stating that each and every public school in Oregon should open Mandarin classes, making Oregon the first state ever to promote Chinese education in primary and secondary schools through its legislature. This January, Hanban and Educational Office of Oregon signed a cooperative agreement which is most certainly to be instrumental in setting a Chinese education trend across the State. Again today, Portland City witnessed ‘the grand occasion of 12 Confucius Classrooms being unveiled simultaneously across the US’.

Liu Yandong, John Kitzhaber , Yuan Guiren, Zhang Yesui, Xu Lin, Director-General of Hanban, George Pernsteiner, Wim Wiewel joined in unveiling the plaque for the 12 Oregon Confucius Classrooms.

Liu Yandong: Sino-American foundations are located within the people

On the eve of her US trip end, Liu Yandong, Chinese State Councilor, stated that this trip had allowed her to gain firsthand experience of closer Sino-American connections in interests, thriving humanistic exchanges and a popular trend for Chinese, resulting from which are predictions that Sino-American exchanges have bright prospects and that the Sino-American cooperative partnership will have a greater future.

Liu Yandong pointed out that China and the USA are currently two of the world’s most influential countries, favorable Sino-American relations, therefore, are not only beneficial to the wellbeing of the two nation’s peoples, but that they may also facilitate prosperity and stability in the Asia-Pacific and even across the globe. Her trip to US was in aid of co-hosting the second session of senior-level Sino-American exchange negotiations with Hillary Clinton, United States Secretary of State, and the exploration and discussion of methods for promoting the two countries’ cultural exchanges and cooperation so as to implement plans made resulting from the consensuses reached by the leaders of China and the USA last year. The two nations have agreed that exchanges and cooperation in the fields of education, culture, science and technology, gymnastics, women’s and youth movements will be enhanced. A Chinese culture festival will be held in the US both this year and next year. Additionally, issues of common concern, including clean energy and food security will also be topics for discussion.

Liu Yandong said: ‘China and the US have agreed to improve mutual exchanges by a number of means. I believe that the peoples of China and the US will acquire a better understanding of each other’s languages, contemporary society, histories and cultures. Closer friendship exchanges will also be conducted. All of these efforts will lead to laying of foundations for a more solid publicly oriented Sino-American friendship as well as being a source for lasting drive for the long-standing development of Sino-American relations.

Liu Yandong’s trip featured a great many destinations from Capital Washington, Boston in the east to San Francisco and Portland City in the west. Places visited included Ivy league schools, community kindergartens and fortune 500 enterprises. She said: ‘this trip has allowed for me to have a personal experience of the closening of Sino-American interests, thriving cultural exchanges and the popularity of Chinese.’

Liu Yandong noted that throughout the trip to the US she was able to feel the enthusiasm for and shifts in understanding of China and learning about China from all manner of American people. American people’s friendship with the people of China was also something that she had witnessed. All these experiences had not only deeply moved her and her companions, but they had also brought her to envisioning bright prospects for Sino-American cultural exchanges as well as a great tomorrow for the Sino-American cooperative partnership.

‘The foundations for Sino-American relations are located in locality- the people. They are at the most fundamental level and the Sino-American cooperative partnership’s construction cannot be reached without the widespread participation and active support of the peoples of the two nations.’

Liu Yandong further pointed out: ‘I believe that, through the joint efforts of the two governments and the enthusiastic participation of their citizens, Sino-American cultural exchanges and cooperation will most certainly attain a state of all-round development and the mutual understanding and friendship between the two peoples will most certainly be strengthened. The Sino-American cooperative partnership will reach a greater level of development and better create fortune for the people of China and the US, along with those of the rest of the world.

Oregon: A State of the least distance to China

In a thank-you speech delivered by Liu Yandong at a welcome luncheon hosted by John Kitzhaber, Governor of Oregon State, Liu Yandong said: ‘Upon my arrival on Oregon soil, my trip to Oregon together with the numerous governmental officials of the China delegation was enthusiastically greeted by the Governor and was graciously welcomed by the Rose Delegation at the airport deeply touching my heart.’

Liu Yandong mentioned that last year President Obama suggested 100,000 American students be sent to study in China and that Chairman Hu Jintao had agreed to provide scholarships for 10,000 American students and 10,000 places for a Chinese training program whilst 10,000 Chinese students would be sent to pursue doctoral degrees in the US. Liu Yandong hopes that many more of Oregon youth will apply for the government scholarships for study in China. She has already witnessed the success of the Chinese education in Oregon after appreciating children’s ancient poetry recitals and Kuaibanshu during the Confucius Classrooms’ unveiling ceremony.

Liu Yandong felt happy to have chosen Oregon State as the final stop marking the closing of her tour because Oregon State boasts so many ‘number one’ achievements in terms of its relations with China—Oregon is the state which is geographically closest to China; Oregon is in pole position across the US in terms of friendship with China; China has become the biggest export market for Oregon; Oregon congress has opened Confucius Classrooms as part of legislative process, becoming the first state in the US or even in the world ever to make such steps in terms of Chinese education.

Liu Yandong recalled the fact that the Oregon State had established friendly relations with Fujian province in China as early as 1984, whilst Portland City and Suzhou- her hometown- established friendly relations in 1988; Mount Hood, Oregon and Mount Lu in Jiangxi, China are sister mountains, bringing friendship to new levels. Liu Yandong extended gracious welcome to Oregon State Governor’s and heads of the Senate and the Congress of Oregon’s set to visit China in the second half of the year and wished for their trip’s complete success. Finally, she made a toast to ‘Oregon-China friendly cooperation and a bright tomorrow for Sino-American relations’. On the same afternoon, Liu Yandong visited the Intel Headquarters and Nike Headquarters in Portland City, closed her trip and then returned to Beijing on the afternoon of the 16th.

Governor of Oregon State: China is the most important partner

Liu Yandong, Chinese State Councilor, attended a welcoming luncheon thrown by John Kitzhaber, Governor of Oregon State on the 15th. Both Liu Yandong and John Kitzhaber hope to further understanding between the youth of the two countries and to reach a new stage in Sino-American cultural exchanges.

John Kitzhaber mentioned in his welcoming speech that Oregon puts great emphasis in establishing cooperative relationships with China in a variety of areas, including those of education and culture. Many major universities inside Oregon have built up cooperative relationships with China and the future of all involved hinges upon the young generations of the countries reaching a deeper understanding and greater respect of each other’s culture. In the wake of the first US Confucius Classroom’s opening in Oregon in 2008, Oregon is now witnessing the opening of another 12 Confucius Classrooms. He thanked Liu Yandong and other concerned individuals for their substantial support of cooperative programs.

In addition to those of culture and education, Oregon and China maintain close economic and trade ties. John Kitzhaber said that in the past decade, China has become the most significant trading partner for Oregon and that as many Oregon enterprises have settled in China. Oregon State exports a great many educational products to China. Li Ning, a famous Chinese sports brand has decided to build its North American headquarters in Portland City. Oregon awaits many more cooperative opportunities to appear from China. Nowadays, Oregon is at the epicenter of substantial Sino-American development and it is believed that both sides will become involved in further cooperative efforts in areas, including ones with considerable potential development and those related to clean technologies.

Immersion education American children love learning Chinese

Zhu Jingqiu, Director-General of Chinese Education at International School of Oregon described local people’s enthusiasm for Chinese during an interview with a reporter from The China Press: ‘April 15th was our school’s open day and I was still teaching at school just before the unveiling ceremony. I saw waves of American parents bring their children to observe Chinese classes. That occasion was an unprecedented event. Right now there are not enough Chinese classrooms in the school, so we have been forced to use teacher training offices as Chinese classrooms.’

Eller, one of Zhu Jingqiu’s students, had a chance to communicate on a personal level with Liu Yandong that day. At the time, Liu Yandong was appreciating the Confucius Institute at Portland State University’s exhibition boards on which reports of the Institute’s Chinese cultural and Chinese learning activities were being displayed. Whilst Liu Yandong took in the reports, 10-year-old Eller stood next to her and spoke in Chinese.

When asked what he wished to tell Liu Yandong, Eller became very nervous. Finally he said with a sweet, shy smile: ‘I don’t know what I should say.’ His reply caused much laughter. ‘Children like Eller are of vital significance to Sino-American friendship’, observed Liu Yandong.

The International Language School at which Eller studies in adopts an ‘immersion’ approach to teaching Chinese, beginning at kindergarten age, i.e., Chinese is a major language and part of school life. Dr. Alfonso Orsini, Principal of the school applied for its IBO certification, meaning that the school’s Chinese learning diploma is internationally accredited. The school’s high quality Chinese teaching ensures that fifth grade students are able to pass the OHK Chinese Proficiency Test as hosted by Hanban.

Eller is still a fourth-grade student and his Chinese has not yet reached that level of proficiency. Zhu Jingqiu added: ‘He transferred to our school as a second-grade student. American children are very independent. Eller has said that he enjoys learning Chinese very much.’

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