Hope Amid Despondency


(CUSEF President James Chau moderating a panel discussion at The Jimmy Carter Forum on U.S.-China Relations in Atlanta, GA.)

As we commemorate the 45th anniversary of the United States and China's decision to normalize relations—a historic turning point that reshaped our world for the better—I'm reminded of its profound impact on our mission at the China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF) to foster mutual understanding and cooperation amid rising global tensions.

I've just spent three weeks traveling across the U.S.—from Georgia to Montana, and California to D.C.—for a series of events and meetings with scholars, experts, students, and policymakers who share in that compelling vision. My conversations and experiences were truly enlightening, and helped replenish my hope and optimism in our ability to navigate an increasingly daunting present and future.

At a forum celebrating the 45th anniversary hosted by The Carter Center in Atlanta, I moderated a discussion with esteemed figures including Dr. Jeffrey Koplan and Deborah Seligsohn, highlighting the often overlooked linkages between climate change and public health. It was an honor to pay tribute to President Jimmy Carter, the co-architect of the events of 1979, and one of the few survivors of that remarkable era. I was also privileged to be in Atlanta on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and to attend a service at Ebenezer Baptist Church where he pastored, and Senator Raphael Warnock now leads the clergy.

In Washington D.C., CUSEF co-organized a symposium of academic leaders from the U.S., China, and the United Nations. Despite differing perspectives on the future of the bilateral relationship, I was encouraged by an underlying tone of cautious optimism amidst the complexities of the upcoming election year.

My visit to Bozeman, Montana, provided refreshing perspectives and enriching conversation. There, my colleague Laura de Belgique and I recorded a podcast discussing global climate strategies. Our focus on the well-being of the planet aligns with CUSEF's commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals. Click here to listen to our podcast.

Aside from my travels, CUSEF continues to promote bilateral exchanges, and student exchanges in particular, having brought over 2,000 American students to China in the 16 years of the organization's existence. In January, we welcomed the first college delegation of 2024 from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. You can learn about their ten-day experience in this video from The China Current, our digital storytelling platform.

(Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs students in Shenzhen, China.)

At CUSEF, we believe these exchanges are critical and that people-to-people contacts carry unique importance, especially after three years of a pandemic. They allow individuals to share their ideas and values in an environment of openness and trust, and bring these experiences back to their own communities. If you wish to support our student exchange programs, either as an alumnus or as someone who shares our commitment to the next generation, please reach out to me directly.

We look forward to engaging with you in the Year of the Dragon.

James Chau


China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF)