Below, some of the better- and lesser-known facts about National Committee programs.

1972 Visit of the Chinese Table Tennis Team

The National Committee's granddaddy project of them all, the April 1972 visit of the Chinese Table Tennis Team to the United States, not only made history by turning "Ping Pong Diplomacy" into a household expression, but changed the NCUSCR's trajectory from its former focus on public education to becoming the premier organization capable of arranging exchanges between the United States and China — a mission the Committee has embraced ever since.

Astronaut Mark Kelly

Then NASA astronaut Mark Kelly joined the Young Leaders Forum in 2003, where he met his future wife, fellow program participant and then Arizona State legislator Gabrielle Giffords. Kelly once called his experience with YLF, which connects exceptional Chinese and Americans under 40, "one of the absolute highlights of my life, second only to flying in space," and carried a YLF banner into orbit.

China Fund for the Handicapped Delegation

In 1987, the Committee welcomed a delegation from the China Fund for the Handicapped. Headed by its founder and director, Deng Pufang (the son of Deng Xiaoping), himself wheelchair-bound as a result of a fall from a fourth-floor window during the Cultural Revolution, the delegation made stops in New York, D.C., Florida, and California, where it met with a host of national and local leaders, including President Ronald Reagan, Senator Ted Kennedy, and L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley. Then-NCUSCR president and delegation escort Art Rosen said Deng saw the trip as part of his mission "to raise public consciousness in China and the world to the problems of the handicapped."

Educational Exchange

The National Committee has been involved with U.S.-China educational exchange for longer than the two countries have had diplomatic relations. In 1973, we sent the first group of American teachers to the People's Republic and welcomed back a group of Chinese language teachers. The following year, we sent the first group of American university and college presidents.

Founding of the NCUSCR

When the National Committee was established in 1966, its founders included academics interested in a balanced debate about American policies toward China, businesspeople eager to open China's markets, and Quakers and other peace activists determined not to repeat the mistakes of the McCarthy era. Our programs continue to reflect the diverse backgrounds of our founders: we work with scholars, government delegations, businesspeople, and other groups interested in furthering U.S.-China relations.

George H.W. Bush and Deng Xiaoping

In 1975, when future president George H.W. Bush was stymied in his efforts to meet future PRC leader Deng Xiaoping, the National Committee played matchmaker. Bush, head of the U.S. Liaison Office, joined our delegation of civic leaders in a meeting with Deng, then first vice premier.


Providing participants an up-close perspective on life inside an American home and the opportunity to form close friendships with their hosts, local homestays have long been a feature of Committee itineraries for Chinese delegations visiting the United States. Although visitors often express trepidation ahead of time, afterwards they regularly cite their homestays as highlights of their visits. Over the years, hundreds of Committee friends have graciously welcomed Chinese visitors into their homes, starting with the first Scholar Orientation Program in 1980 and continuing to the present day, and we continue to be grateful for these wonderful acts of generosity.

Jan Berris

Working at the National Committee since 1971, Vice President Jan Berris has made over 150 trips to China and has met every top leader of the People's Republic except Mao Zedong.

Jet Li and the 1974 Wushu Delegation

It was the National Committee that first brought future kung-fu movie star Jet Li to the United States — at age 11. Li was part of a four-week wushu (martial arts) team tour in 1974. The group performed in Hawaii, San Francisco, New York, and Washington, D.C., where they were received by President Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

John D. Rockefeller III

The National Committee's first benefactor was John D. Rockefeller III.  In 1966, he gave a personal gift of $20,000. Later that year the Rockefeller Brothers Fund pledged $300,000 over three years. This early Rockefeller association lent critical legitimacy — and prestige — to our fledgling organization.

LBJ and NCUSCR Executive Director Cecil Thomas

In 1968, NCUSCR executive director Cecil Thomas and other Committee members briefed President Lyndon Johnson on ways to improve U.S.-China relations. Today, we continue our discussions with administration officials and share our Track II consensus papers with them.

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

When the National Committee programmed Pittsburgh into the itinerary of a first-of-its-kind delegation of Chinese involved in the production of children's radio and television in 1983, we received a great deal of "Why Pittsburgh?" push-back from the Chinese. But we knew that any delegation looking at children's productions wouldn't be complete without a visit to Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. After watching a taping of the show and talking shop with Fred Rogers (already changed out of his signature cardigan and slippers), the group was completely won over by him, as well as by the beauty and friendliness of Pittsburgh.

National Committee's Logo

In the early 1980s, the National Committee purchased shoushan (alibaster found in Fujian) stone topped by a mythological beast and commissioned a local artist in China to carve the Committee's name in Chinese into it. The resulting seal — nine traditional characters, 美中關系全國委員會, read top to bottom, right to left — quickly became the basis for the National Committee's logo.

Next Generation Programs

Tragedies can create opportunities. In response to the chill in U.S.-China relations that followed the U.S.'s 1999 bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, the Committee began conceptualizing next generation programming as an investment into better future bilateral communications. Within the next few years, we launched the Public Intellectuals Program, Young Leaders Forum, Foreign Policy Colloquium, and Student Leaders Exchange — programs designed to engage future leaders of our two nations and to enhance the dialogue and build more lasting ties among them.

Notable Father/Son Duos: Xi Jinping and Xi Zhongxun

Chinese president Xi Jinping and his father Xi Zhongxun are just one of several notable father/son duos who have participated in our programs. As Guangdong's governor, the senior Xi led a 1980 provincial leaders delegation to the United States that the Committee arranged. Thirty-two years later the junior Xi, then vice president, was the guest of honor at a National Committee luncheon in Washington, D.C. Other father-son pairs who've engaged with the Committee include Deng Xiaoping/Deng Pufang and Zhu Rongji/Zhu Yunlai.

Packing List

From the '70s to the '90s, National Committee staffers escorting Chinese delegations around the States lugged a separate suitcase stuffed with electric kettles so that our Chinese visitors could make tea in their hotel rooms. The advent of in-room coffee makers was warmly welcomed!

Post-Tiananmen Scholar Orientation Program

After Tiananmen, in 1989, many questioned whether the U.S. should be dealing with China at all. The Committee believed — and continues to believe — that at a time of crisis, maintaining open lines of communication between the citizens of both countries is more critical than ever, and forged ahead with activities such as our Scholar Orientation Program, ultimately helping our two countries get back on a more productive track.

Promoting Foreign Language Skills and Cross-Cultural Understanding

We conservatively estimate that the hundreds of teachers who participated in our Teachers Exchange Program (which ran from 1996 to 2014) collectively taught more than 142,000 students in Chinese and American classrooms, promoting better foreign language skills and deeper cross-cultural understanding.

Robert Zoellick's Responsible Stakeholder Speech

It was as National Committee Gala keynote speaker in 2005 that Robert Zoellick, then Deputy Secretary of State, first publicly urged China to become a "responsible stakeholder." Zoellick's much-celebrated term caused great consternation among Chinese interpreters (who, interestingly, had significant difficulty coming up with a nuanced translation of "stakeholder"). Nonetheless it was quickly embraced by both the American and Chinese policy communities and continues to generate lively discussion about China's desired role in the international system.

Secretaries of State

Two former U.S. Secretaries of State — Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright — have served on our board. (Dr. Kissinger continues to be one of our board's vice chairs.) Two others joined us for their first visits to China before taking that job: Cyrus Vance in 1975 and Condoleezza Rice in 1988.

Shenyang Acrobats

One of the venues for the NCUSCR-sponsored tour of the Shenyang Acrobats in 1972-73 was the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The flag of the Republic of China hung in the Center's entryway, next to the flags of all other governments officially recognized by the United States. Looking to avoid any diplomatic flaps that the ROC flag's presence (or removal) might cause, the Committee suggested that the flags looked a bit tired and could all benefit from a restorative off-site cleaning. The Center took our advice and just happened to schedule the week-long process to coincide with the PRC acrobats' performance schedule.

Stan Smith & Anthony Kennedy

Tennis champ Stan Smith and Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy have at least one thing in common: both first traveled to China through the National Committee. Smith went in 1977 on a tennis exchange, Kennedy in 1995 for meetings with judicial colleagues.

U.S. Ambassadors to China

The National Committee has had a close working relationship with every U.S. ambassador to the People's Republic of China, all of whom have served on our board after returning from Beijing.

Yang Jiechi

The National Committee first worked with Yang Jiechi in 1977, when, at age 27, he accompanied a Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs delegation as its interpreter. Rising through the foreign affairs ranks, Yang has continued to be involved in our programs, as Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. (2001-05), Foreign Minister (2007-13), and now State Councilor (2013-present).

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