The relationship between the United States and China is important, as demonstrated by recent meetings between President Barack Obama and his counterpart, Xi Jinping.
The 21 girls and 16 boys are part of the newly formed US-China Youth Leadership Exchange, an initiative of the MidWest US-China Association to create understanding and positive relationships between the two countries. The students will join 1,400 Missouri teens during the weeklong campus experience.
Former Missouri Governor Bob Holden is Chairman of the MidWest US-China Association. He told St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh that he hopes the new program encourages American and Chinese youth to try and understand each other - their differences and similarities.
“The key is for these people to get to know each other,” Holden said. “When you build relationships and you have a difference of opinion, you figure out a way to solve it peacefully. If you don't have a relationship and you have a difference, then sometimes another course of action is taken.”
While the focus of this month’s cultural exchanges is to foster better understanding between U.S. and Chinese youth, the Association stresses the importance of economic cooperation and development. Such business cooperation can be a byproduct of cultural exchanges.
"When we get people to come and see what the Midwest has to offer, we have a much better chance of them picking the Midwest and staying here because of our lifestyle,” Holden said. “Particularly for a Chinese family, they can look at the Midwest and say 'that mirrors our lifestyle and what we want for our children better than many other places in the United States.'"
Marsh also spoke with Joel Glassman, Director of the Center for International Studies at the University of Missouri – St. Louis, and Zoey Wang, a Chinese student at Webster University and former St. Louis Public Radio intern.
The Chinese students will sightsee in St. Louis, Kansas City, Columbia and Jefferson City in addition to their time in Warrensburg. Boys State takes place June 15-22, and Girls State is June 23-29.
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