The Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy hosted a roundtable discussion in October, 2015 on the subject of the importance of East-West cultural and education exchanges. The Center invited three members of the Chao family—Dr. James S.C. Chao, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, and Deputy Chairman of the Foremost Group, Angela Chao—to share their thoughts on this important topic, particularly in light of their long-standing family commitment to developing educational opportunities and strengthening cross-cultural understanding between China and America.
The subject of US-Sino relations was a natural fit for the Chao family. Dr. Chao spoke about how much his Chinese education prepared him for the challenges he later encountered and to overcome them. He said that he encouraged his daughters to never forget their Chinese roots and traditions, even while immersing themselves in the new culture of America. In fact, this theme of appreciating and utilizing the gifts of both cultures would guide many of the activities of the Chao family. Dr. Chao and Elaine Chao spoke about their encouragement of young Chinese visitors to the United States to take every opportunity to learn about America, while at the same time being sure to impart to their hosts the rich cultural heritage of China. Angela Chao agreed, noting that in today’s highly connected world, one must be able to operate within their own environment as well as in many different cultures.
The Center predicts that interactions between the United States and China will only increase in the coming years, and the Chao family were in agreement, emphasizing the growing influence of China on the world scene. Elaine Chao noted that she visits China annually, and has seen first-hand the significant improvement in infrastructure and growth in the nation’s economy. Angela Chao spoke about the inherent challenges in the US-Sino relationship. While everyone may agree that China has become a key player on the world stage, she observed, the lack of true understanding of Chinese culture causes mistrust in the minds of many. Angela explained this is why it is so important to have meaningful cross-cultural dialogue and exchange opportunities.
The Chao family is well known for their philanthropy, especially in the area of education. Dr. Chao mentioned the impact his late wife, Ruth Mulan Chu Chao, had on his success and on shaping the family’s philanthropic work. Elaine Chao spoke about the various education initiatives funded by her family, including the establishment of several kindergartens, and scholarships for needy Chinese students. Both Dr. Chao and Elaine Chao spoke about the need to create programs and pathways for the future generations of young Chinese, so they can assume the mantle of international leadership across all spectrums of the political and economic world. Dr. Chao said that he encourages young people to strive for excellence and to have a mission of improving the world.
The Chao family expressed their belief that exchange between academics, government officials and business executives opens the door to continued cooperation and cultural engagement between America and China. Angela Chao mentioned that she encourages students to take advantage of opportunities to participate in programs and that participate in building trust and goodwill between the Chinese and Americans, as well as with other nations around the world.
The Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, housed at Tsinghua University, works to develop solutions to global challenges, especially through collaboration and dialogue.