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Obama Announces New Program to Dramatically Expand U.S. Mandarin Learning


Washington, DC – September 25, 2015 – President Obama, during the first state visit to Washington by China’s President Xi Jinping, today announced a sweeping new nationwide initiative to see 1 million American students studying Mandarin by 2020.

The President called for a dramatic expansion of Mandarin language learning. Specifically, the 1 Million Strong initiative would in five years grow the number of K-12 students studying Mandarin in the US from approximately 200,000 to 1 million. The effort seeks to develop Mandarin language curriculum norms, double the number of Mandarin language teachers in the US and support the development of new technology platforms to enhance accessibility of language learning to remote and underserved communities.

“After all, if our countries are going to do more together around the world, then speaking each other’s language, truly understanding each other is a good place to start,” said President Obama at a joint press conference with President Xi.

“We welcome the US decision to extend the 100,000 Strong Initiative from universities to elementary schools. And by 2020, 1 million Americans students will learn Mandarin. The door of friendship with China will continue to be open to the American people,” said President Xi.

In 2009, President Obama announced the 100,000 Strong Initiative with a goal of encouraging 100,000 US students to study in China and learn Mandarin over a five year period. That goal was achieved in 2014. In 2013, then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton launched the 100,000 Strong Foundation, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, to further build upon the initiative and its goals. The Foundation will also lead the new 1 Million Strong endeavor.

“President Obama and President Xi Jinping share the goal of a stronger, more productive US-China relationship,” said Carola McGiffert, president of the 100,000 Strong Foundation. “That is precisely what the new 1 Million Strong Initiative is all about. By dramatically increasing the number of US students studying Mandarin over the next five years, we will ensure a greater understanding of China, create a pipeline of China-savvy employees and ensure that students from all walks of life have the skills and opportunities to compete in today’s workforce.”

To make 1 Million Strong a reality, McGiffert said the 100,000 Strong Foundation will work closely with governments and school districts across the country. The Foundation will also partner with technology and online-education leaders to ensure students, regardless of background or geography, have access to Mandarin language study.

About the 100,000 Strong Foundation

The 100,000 Strong Foundation is a bipartisan non-profit that has been endorsed by the US and Chinese governments. The Foundation’s mission is to strengthen the US-China relationship by dramatically increasing the number and diversity of US students studying in China and learning Mandarin. We are dedicated to ensuring our next generation of leaders is prepared to compete, collaborate and succeed in a world in which China plays a central role.

Media contact: Erin Billings, Podesta Group