Youth Leadership Exchange

US-China Youth Leadership Exchange December 2014 – January 2015

For the first time in the 78 year history of the American Legion program, the MWCA sent four young student leaders from Missouri Boys State and Missouri Girls State to Beijing, China for an enriching governmental, educational, and cultural experience.  Working with our educational partners at Beijing Language and Cultural University, students had the opportunity to experience Chinese culture, understand the history and politics of China and have the opportunity to explore Beijing.

The US Student Leaders had the opportunity to visit and meet with Ambassador to China, Max Baucus and his assistant Tom Hodges at the US Embassy, Jennifer Lee from China US Agriculture and Food Partnership, Sarah Zeng, Monte Lee, Yan Xiao and intern Kelly at Dentons Law Firm, Jake Laband and Nick Marro from The US-China Business Council, and the Commercial Press. The four student leaders visited with professors and students from Beijing Language and Cultural University, Beijing Foreign Studies University, Renmin University and Tsinghua International School. The discussions examined foreign policy and the future of international relations answering philosophical questions about the role of a hegemonic power, the importance placed on human rights, and the balance between conflict and world peace. In order to truly understand and gain perspective in the global world, it was imperative for the students to understand how the United States views its relationship with China. The delegation did have time to enjoy a visit to the Great Wall of China, Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City, Capital Museum as well as a surprise ride on a Chinese high speed train to Tian Jin reaching 294 km/h.

Our US Student Leaders 我们的美国学生领袖 2014-2015

Wisdom Nwike immigrated to Kansas City, Missouri  in 2001 from Nigeria. He attended the 74th session of Boys State in 2013 where he was elected Governor. Wisdom Nwike is enrolled at George Mason University majoring in Economics.

Wisdom Nwike 2001年从尼日利亚移民到了密苏里州堪萨斯城。他参加了2013年第74届男孩国务会(74th session of Boys State)并在那届会议上当选州长。Wisdom Nwike报名了乔治梅森大学(George Mason University)主修经济学。

Katherine Thompson was elected Missouri Girls State Governor in 2013. She served her term throughout the year, visiting Missouri American Legion Auxiliary units, speaking at the State convention in Jefferson City, promoting the ideals of patriotism and statesmanship, and leading the 2014 delegation. Katherine has worked in local, state, and national politics, establishing diverse experience at the ripe age of nineteen. She currently attends the King’s College, enrolled in the Politics, Philosophy, and Economics degree program.

Katherine Thompson 在2013年当选了密苏里女孩国家项目(Missouri Girls State)的州长。她在任期这一年中拜访了密苏里州美国退伍军人协会辅助单位(Missouri American Legion Auxiliary units),在杰弗逊城的国家会议上讲话,推广了爱国主义理想和政治才能,并且领导了2014年的代表团。Katherine踊跃参与当地,本国和国际政治,在19岁的年龄就拥有了如此丰富的经历。她现在在国王学院(King’s College)上学,修政治,哲学和经济学位课程。

Haley Barbour grew up in Kansas City, Missouri and attended Girls State the summer after her junior year in high school. At Girls State she was elected Senate Majority Leader, and selected to represent Missouri at Girls Nation. At Girls Nation she had the opportunity to meet with legislators and President Barack Obama.  Haley attends Drake University studying Political Science and International Relations.

Haley Barbour 在密苏里州堪萨斯城长大并且在高三毕业后的夏天参加了女孩国家项目(Girls State)。她在女孩国家项目(Girls State)中当选参议院多数党领袖(Senate Majority Leader),并被选派在女孩国家(Girls Nation)中代表密苏里。在女孩国家(Girls Nation)中她有机会和与立法者和巴拉克奥巴马总统(President Barack Obama)会面。Haley现在在德雷克大学(Drake University)上学,主修政治学与国际关系。

William Megl grew up in Troy, Missouri and is currently a senior at Westminster College studying Economics and Mathematical Sciences. On campus, he finished his terms as the student body President, Chief Executive Officer for their half million dollar, student run, inventing group, and Assistant of Treasurer for Delta Tau Delta Fraternity chapter.  William attended the 71st session of the American Legion Missouri Boys where he was elected State Treasurer of Missouri Boys State (MBS) hailing from Lewis City. He served on staff in the capacities of Assistant City Counselor, City Counselor, and City/County Programmer.

William Megl 在密苏里州特洛伊长大,现在是威斯敏斯特大学( Westminster College)主修经济学与数学科学的大四学生。在学校里,他是学生会主席,学生自主运营价值50万美元发明组的CEO,也是Delta Tau Delta Fraternity chapter 的财务主管。William参加了第71届美国退伍军人协会密苏里男孩会议(71st session of the American Legion Missouri Boys)并当选了发起于刘易斯市的密苏里男孩国家项目(Missouri Boys State)的财政部长。他还任职于城市顾问助理(Assistant City Counselor),城市顾问(City Counselor)和城乡设计师(City/County Programmer)。

Meetings in Beijing, China 

Dentons 丹顿: 

S Student Leaders met with Dentons Law firm in Beijing, China. Their office is the strategic core of China’s outbound practice. Students engaged in conversation with Sarah Zeng and her associates about the differences between the legal, political and social structures of the United States and China.

美国学生领袖在中国北京与丹顿律师事务所会面。他们的办公室是中国对外实践的战略核心。学生参与到了与Sarah Zeng和她的同伴的关于中美法律,政治和社会结构区别的谈话中。

US-China Business Council 美中贸易委员会 : 

The US China Business Council is a private, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization of roughly 220 American companies that do business with China. USCBC has provided unmatched information, advisory, advocacy, and program services to its membership for more than three decades. US Student leaders met with Jake Laband and Nick Marro discussing the current market situation in China.

美中贸易委员会是一个由大致220家美国的做对华贸易的公司私营的,无党派的组织。USCBC已经提供给它的会员超过30年了无与伦比的信息,咨询,拥护和项目服务。美国学生领袖和Jake Laband与 Nick Marro见面并讨论了中国现在的市场情况。

US-China Agriculture & Food Partnership 美中农业食品合作 : 

US Student Leaders met with Executive Director, Jennifer Lee of US-China Agriculture & Food Partnership. The US-China Agriculture & Food Partnership was established in 2013. US Student leaders discussed the relationship the organization has between US agriculture companies and regulatory agencies and their Chinese counterparts.

美国学生领袖和美中农业食品合作的执行董事Jennifer Lee会面。美中农业食品合作成立于2013年。美国学生领袖讨论了美国农业公司和监管机构和他们的中国同行之间的关系。

Embassy of the United States of America 美国大使馆: 

US Student Leaders had the opportunity to visit and meet with the Ambassador to China, Max Baucus and his assistant Tom Hodges at the American Embassy in Beijing. The student leaders were led into Richard M. Nixon conference room, where we met with Tom Hodges. Moments later in the middle of introductions, Max Baucas, the Ambassador to China walked in to meet our Student Leaders. Ambassador Baucas sat down with the student leaders  where they engaged in a very real discussion about the challenges that were affecting Sino-US relations, economic challenges, cyber security and maritime disputed that needed to be resolved, such as the East and South China Sea.

美国学生领袖有机会参观了在北京的美国驻华大使馆,并与对华大使Max Baucus和他的助手Tom Hodges见了面。学生领袖被带到了Richard M. Nixon 会议室,在那里与Tom Hodges会面。在介绍过程中过了一会儿后,对华大使Max Baucus走了进来并会见了我们的学生领袖。Baucas大使与学生领袖坐到了一起参与讨论了影响中美关系的挑战,经济挑战,网络安全和需要被解决的海上争端,例如中国的东和南海。

I cannot believe I had the opportunity to meet and speak with the Ambassador to China, Max Baucus, it honestly was a life changing experience.” –Haley Barbour

“我简直不敢相信我居然有机会与对华大使Max Baucus见面交谈,这真是一次改变人生的经历。”—Haley Barbour

“Never did I imagine at age 19, I would be sitting across the table from former US Senator and current US Ambassador to China, Max Baucus.” –Katherine Thompson

“我从不敢想在我19岁的时候我能够坐在前任美国参议员,现任美国对华大使Max Baucus的对面。”—Katherine Thompson

We were shown into the Richard M. Nixon conference room. Two doors down was the Henry A. Kissinger conference room and right next door was the Jimmy E. Carter conference room.” –Wisdom Nwike

“我们被带进了Richard M. Nixon会议室。那两扇关着的大门左面的是Henry A. Kissinger会议室,右边的是Jimmy E. Carter会议室。”—Wisdom Nwike

We had Q&A with Ambassador to China Max Baucus. Mr Baucus is a really nice guy!” –Will Megl

“我们能够和对华大使Max Baucus互动。Baucus先生真的是一个很好的人!”—Will Megl

Chinese Youth Federation 中国青年联合会:

Student leaders had the privilege to sit down with five young Chinese student leaders from Beijing Language and Culture University, selected to the Chinese Youth Federation Committee for their exemplary display of leadership. Discussions progressed through economic relations, perceptions of one another’s country, and our respective educational system.


Beijing Language and Culture University 北京语言大学:

Beijing Language and Culture University, known as The Mini-United Nations, is the only university of its kind in China that offers Chinese language and culture courses to foreign students. Our US student leaders participated in Chinese language class with students from South Carolina University.

北京语言大学以迷你联合国著称,是中国唯一一所对外国学生提供中国语言和文化课的大学。我们的美国学生领袖和来自南卡大学(South Carolina University)的学生参加了中文课。

Renmin University of China 中国人民大学: 

Renmin University of China is one of the most prestigious universities in China, with a distinct focus on humanities and social science. Renmin University has produced many influential figures in China’s reform and development, and is home to many outstanding scholars in law, economics, journalism and more. Renmin University has consistently ranked among the top three most selective Chinese universities in the liberal arts and social science division. US student leaders engaged in conversation with Professor Li and graduate students, Annie and Drizz, about China’s political structure and economic future.


Beijing Foreign Studies University 北京外国语大学: 

BFSU is a prestigious university in China and under direct management of the State Ministry of Education. As the first foreign language university and offering the most language programs in the country, it excels in the teaching and studying of foreign languages, foreign literature, overseas sinology, and also serves as an important base producing quality professionals with language competence and global vision.


Tsinghua International School 清华附中国际部: 

As a division of the High School Attached to Tsinghua University, THIS provides curriculum and instruction based on American progressive educational philosophies and practices, while also integrating Chinese perspectives on education. Their Primary School curriculum follows the “Bank Street” model of education, in which “lively intellectual curiosities turn the world into an exciting laboratory and keep one ever a learner.” The curriculum in the Secondary School furthers this interactive foundation and is designed to prepare students for entry into colleges and universities in the United States, Canada, and other western countries. Students are nurtured to become global citizens with a global perspective, ready to engage with the world as leaders and participants in the realities of an interactive, international society.

作为清华大学附属中学的一个部门,清华附中国际部提供了根据美国渐进式教育理念和实践的课程和指导,也整合了中国关于教育的观点。他们的小学课程遵循着“银行街(Bank Street)”教育模式,主张“活泼聪明的好奇心将这个世界变为一个令人兴奋的实验室并把每个人都变成学生。”中学的课程进一步加强了这个互动基础并且为学生进到美国,加拿大和其他西方国家的大学铺路。学生被培养为具有全球视野的全球公民,做好准备以领导和参与者的身份参与到一个互动的国际化的社会中去。

HANBAN Confucius Institute 国家汉办孔子学院:

Student leaders toured the cultural exploratorium and the Confucius Institute exhibition learning about both Chinese Culture and the global vision and network of Confucius Institute.


Commercial Press 商务印书馆: 

The Commercial Press is the longest-standing modern publishing house in China. Guided constantly by the principle of fostering cultural enhancement and intellectual enlightenment, its impact on the history of cultural and educational publishing in modern China has been profound and far-reaching.


The Great Wall of China 中国长城: 

The Great Wall of China is more than 6, 000 kilometers long. From east to west, across desserts, over mountains, through valleys till at last it reaches the sea. It is one of the seven wonders of the world. They say, “climbing the Great Wall makes you a real man.” The wall is one of the most extensive construction projects ever completed.


Tiananmen Square 天安门广场:

Tiananmen Square is a large city square in the center of Beijing named after the gate, Tiananmen gate (Gate of Heavenly Peace) separating it from the Forbidden City. Tiananmen Square is the fourth largest city square in the world.


The Forbidden City 故宫:  

The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming dynasty to the end of Qing dynasty. It served as the home of the emperors and their households as well as the ceremonial and political center of Chinese government for almost 500 years.


 Dashanzi Art District 大山子艺术区: 

Dashanzi Art District or 798 Art Zone, is a 50 year old decommissioned military factory buildings with unique architectural style. It houses a thriving artistic community.


High Speed Bullet Train 动车: 

The Beijing–Tianjin Intercity Railway (simplified Chinese: 京津城际铁路; traditional Chinese: 京津城際鐵路; pinyin: Jīng-Jīn chéngjì tiělù) is a China passenger-only line high-speed rail that runs 117 km line (72.7 statute miles) between Beijing and Tianjin. The Chinese government built the line to accommodate trains traveling at a maximum speed of 350 km/h (217 mph), and currently carries CRH high-speed trains running speeds up to 330 km/h (205 mph).


2013/2014 Youth Leadership Exchange 

National Leaders, Global Entrepreneurs and Teenagers: The Promise of the US-China Youth Leadership Exchange

by Bob Holden, Chairman Midwest US-China Association
MWCA Publications, White Paper, August 2013

In the last two weeks of June, the seeds of what could become greater international diplomacy and commerce were planted on the campus of the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg. Side-by-side, smile-by-smile, with the youthful ease and curiosity of teenagers who know no borders, a group of 36 students from 11 different provinces and municipalities in China took part in the American Legion Missouri Boys State and American Legion Auxiliary Missouri Girls State programs. Boys and Girls State, as the program is known collectively, is one of the most respected educational programs in the country for inspiring young people to become involved in their government, rather than sitting on the sidelines as mere critics. Participants learn the rights, privileges and responsibilities of franchised citizens and the leadership skills which they gain in the process are invaluable.

In its 78 year history, this iconic American program has shaped some of our nationʼs most notable leaders. This first-ever international convening, called the US-China Youth Leadership Exchange, will help shape the global leaders of tomorrow.It is worth noting, and with time might prove to be providential, that the American and Chinese students sitting down at a cafeteria table in mid-June in middle America was preceded and followed by US-Chinese meetings of the highest order, first on the West Coast and then the East.

President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping sat down to the dinner table at the Sunnylands Summit in California in early June, as part of a two-day meeting to set the strategic tone and direction for an evolving US-China relationship. Just days after the Chinese students left Missouri for home, a high-level delegation of Cabinet members, ministers, agency heads, and senior officials from both countries sat down at the negotiating table in Washington, D.C. They were there for the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED), the follow-on to the summit in California.The meeting of the S&ED provided an opportunity to begin to implement that strategic framework, with small but concrete steps towards progress on a multitude of issues ranging from a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) to cyber-security. High-level talks such as this, begin to facilitate transparency and practical cooperation on major issues which impact the developing economic relationship.The stakes are certainly high.

In the second quarter of 2013, Chinese investment in the US grew by $2.5 billion, according to the Rhodium Group, bringing Chinese investments to $4.7 billion in the first half of 2013. $48 million of that investment occurred in the Midwest United States alone. With this being the strongest investment period on record, the timing of these multi-layered US-Sino meetings could not be more appropriately timed.To suggest that a cultural exchange between seventeen-year-olds compares in any way to the magnitude of the discussions detailed above would be a reach, but to offer that some day they might, would be rooted in actual history.

In 1985, a 33-year old Xi Jinping arrived in Muscatine, Iowa for two weeks with a Chinese delegation in search of better farming technology. Mr. Xi was, at that time, a Hebei provincial official. A New York Times story detailed how Xi was the guest of an Iowa couple whose sons had just gone off to college and bunked in the teenagersʼ room upstairs, overflowing with all manner of childhood mementos reflective of Western culture, Star Trek action figures chief among them. Mr. Xi ate breakfast with his hosts in the morning and he and his fellow ag researchers were afforded every hospitality this small farming town could provide, including a lovely dinner party and send off at the home of a nearby neighbor.

Fast forward 27 years to February 2012 when then Vice President Xi, who was by now, heir apparent to the presidency, returns to the United States for the first time, visiting California, Washington D.C. and Muscantine, Iowa, population, 23,000. Xiʼs first order of business was to invite 17 people he had met back in 1985 to tea. Apparently the reception he had enjoyed in Americaʼs heartland more than a quarter century before had stayed with him. Cornfield diplomacy had produced a bumper crop of goodwill with economic benefits on the side, because during that same 2012 visit, Chinese trade representatives signed agreements with American grain companies to increase soybean imports, underscoring Chinaʼs growing dependency on food grown in the United States. Given this context, it is hard to imagine what the long term, global impact might be of this inaugural international exchange between 1,800 of Missouriʼs and Chinaʼs highest achieving students.The near-term economic benefits however, are easier to predict. Many of the Chinese students will come back to the United States for college.

The Institute of International Education reports that the number of international students at colleges and universities in the United States increased by six percent in the 2011/12 academic year, with a record high enrollment of 764,495 contributing nearly $23 billion to the US economy. China sends more students to US colleges than any other nation with an estimated 158,000 in 2011 according to the same sources.

Traditionally the students gravitate to either coast, California, New York, Massachusetts predominantly (with the exception of Chicago) with the rest of the Midwest region remaining largely unfamiliar to Chinese students and their families looking for study opportunities abroad. The US China Youth Leadership Exchange will expose more Chinese students to the Midwest at an early age through its educational institutions, communities and culture.

The Midwest US-China Association hopes these rising college students will identify with and return to the Midwest as future undergraduate students, graduate students, working professionals or government leaders and contribute to the regional and national economy. Conversely, the chance for these Missouri students to engage with peers from another country, could ignite a desire in them to visit, or study or work abroad. Many of the Boys State and Girls State students come from rural parts of the state, with little or no opportunity to meet or interact with foreign students. The exchange of ideas, energy and shared experiences delivered through youthful unbias is contagious. Teenagers are teenagers, no matter their homeland. Perhaps herein lies the greatest benefit in a program such as the US-China Youth Leadership Exchange. Far too often suspicion fills the space where benefit of the doubt could reside. Commerce, indeed peace accords, become much easier to broker when one has the benefit of familiarity.

The heartfelt thanks from the Chinese students who told how the experience “had changed their life forever,” was echoed by many of the Missouri students who credit the exchange with opening their mind to possibilities theyʼd never imagined. These are the seeds which will help them grow to become the global citizens of the future.The future of this program is promising. Many of the early adapters who were critical to making the inaugural event in Missouri a success, have agreed to participate again next year.

The vision for the program is to expand it to American Legion Boys State and American Legion Auxiliary Girls State programs nationwide. It is the ardent hope of everyone involved in this inaugural US-China Youth Leadership Exchange that the insight gained from this cultural cross-pollenization might some day yield life-long friendships, educational or business opportunities and a broader global vision, much in the same way it made a lasting impression on a future leader of China, more than a quarter century ago.