In the summer of 1980, the National Committee initiated its Scholar Orientation Program (SOP). The program aimed to supplement the academic training that Chinese scholars and students engaged in advanced studies at a U.S. institution were receiving, in order to create a better understanding and appreciation of America’s social and political systems for selected members of this very important group — China’s future experts, opinion leaders, and policy makers. It was the first program of its type.
Scholars with similar interests were brought to the East Coast — Williamsburg or Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, and New York — for up to two weeks. Program participants attended lectures and seminars on U.S. history, government, society, and economy; engaged in site visits to points of historic and cultural interest; and met with American officials and professional colleagues. As part of the program, participants were housed with members and friends of the National Committee, adding another, deeper dimension to the scholars’ understanding of American life.
Over the course of the 22 years of the SOP, many separate programs were held, ranging from two to six per year. All in all, 1145 Chinese participated, and many are still involved in Committee activities today.
While the Scholars Orientation Program was discontinued in 2002, the National Committee has continued to develop and run programs with very similar goals — ones designed to ensure that China’s future (and current) leaders have greater familiarity with America’s history, culture, and key institutions.
The SOP was the intellectual forerunner of the Committee’s U.S. Foreign Policy Colloquium. Instead of bringing 13 people to the East Coast for two weeks, the Colloquium brings 150 Chinese graduate students studying at a U.S. institution to Washington, D.C., for a three-day program focused on the American foreign policy process.