Mission to Beijing: From Dialogue To Partnership

What a great week this has been. More than 40 of black America’s best and brightest joined the National Urban League on a global mission to plant the seed for what we hope will become a long-term, fruitful relationship with China and African-American communities and businesses.

While we came here to start a dialogue, what we are coming away with is much more. Our hosts have shown us incredible hospitality. We have sat and had interesting and productive conversations with some of China ‘s most important leaders. We have enjoyed experiencing Chinese culture including eating incredible food, climbing the Great Wall and taking a trip on a high-speed rail train. We have bonded with one another, made new friends and contacts and are walking away with tangible results that will that will benefit our children and our communities.

Tuesday was a major highlight for our time here in Beijing. We came away from a meeting at the Ministry of Education with the Department of International Cooperation and Exchange Deputy Director Shen Yang celebrating two significant commitments from the Chinese.

One is to establish a Confucius Institute at Xavier University in New Orleans (No. 17 on the BE Top Colleges list). It will be the first HBCU to have this program at its campus. We hope Xavier is just the first of many. The Confucius Institute, named after the famous Chinese thinker, is a nonprofit public institute with the goal of promoting friendly relationships with other countries, enhancing the understanding of Chinese language and culture and providing good learning conditions. There are already more than 350 of these institutes around the world.

Second, the Chinese committed to working with the Urban League to establish an education/cultural, student/teacher exchange program between Chinese and African American students and teachers in urban communities. The program, which will be developed and facilitated by the Urban League, will focus on schools in urban communities. We already have affiliates like Los Angeles and Greater Pittsburgh which have programs in their communities that can take exchange students. That means we will be ready to get things moving when it’s time.

We also spent time on Tuesday with Yu Ping, vice chairman of the Council for the Promotion of International Trade. Our invitation to participate in our trade show at the Urban League annual convention in July was well received. We hope to have China be a part of this year’s conference, as we continue to celebrate the National Urban League’s 100th anniversary in 2010.

On Wednesday we traveled the high speed rail to Tianjin where we visited the Tianjin Urban Planning Exhibition Center and met and lunched with governors of Tianjin Municipal Government.  Thursday we will head back to the United States. We have had a wonderful time here and we will leave feeling that our trip has been successful. We are hopeful that the relationships we started to form will grow and become stronger resulting in investment, education and business opportunities for African Americans.

Marc H. Morial is president and CEO of the National Urban League.