President Carter's decision to normalize diplomatic relations between the United States and the People's Republic of China in 1979 changed China, the United States, and the world. The Carter Center's China Program is dedicated to preserving this legacy and advancing U.S.-China relations. For more than 15 years, at the invitation of the Chinese government, The Carter Center worked to help standardize the vast array of electoral procedures being used in rural China and to foster better governance in local communities.
Today, the program works to build synergy between China and the United States on issues of global importance, including fostering greater cooperation between them in other nations, providing resources and scholarship, and nurturing the next generation of young leaders who can shape the critical U.S.-China bilateral relationship to be a cornerstone of global peace and prosperity.
The China Program works to highlight the benefits of coordinated and collective action between the United States and China in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. This includes developing a platform to monitor and report on regional crises that could result in internal chaos and damage the crucial U.S.-China relationship. The program encourages multilateral dialogue to help resolve local conflicts, provide advice and assistance to local economic development and political reform efforts, and produce confidence-building measures for the U.S.-China relationship.
Complexities in U.S.-China relations require the next generation of leaders in both countries to be innovative problem solvers and analysts with fresh approaches to the global impact of U.S.-China bilateral relations. The China Program is developing a framework for simulated U.S.-China negotiations on regional and global issues to enhance policy education for future leaders who will either manage or influence bilateral collaboration outside the two countries.
The Center also will select young scholars and professionals to be fellows working in the United States or China to monitor issues affecting U.S.-China relations and identify policy analyses to inform decision-makers and opinion makers. Fellows also will participate in the Center's worldwide election observation missions.
The China Program also produces original scholarship that provides action-oriented insights for advancing U.S.-China collaboration on global issues. Central to this, the program convenes an annual Carter Center Forum on U.S.-China Relations and organizes workshops on subjects crucial to both countries. Conference proceedings and workshop papers are published online or in print.
In 2000, the China Program helped launch a website on villager self-government in China that quickly became one of the most comprehensive websites on grassroots democracy in China. Today, the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs maintains the website. Two years later, the Center launched http://www.chinaelections.org/, which became the most visited political reform portal inside and outside China.
In 2008, the China Program and the Center's Global Access to Information Initiative jointly launched http://www.chinatransparency.org. In 2011, the China Program created http://www.sinoafrica.org/, which provides Chinese translations of African grassroots blogs and commentaries, giving Chinese stakeholders a resource to understand perception of their activities in Africa.
Since 2013, the China Program has followed a select community of 100 influential Weibo bloggers at http://www.weibochina.org/, where policymakers, scholars, and ordinary people can observe a China different from official media reports. Also in 2013, the program launched the website http://www.uscnpm.org/ to provide updates on a wide range of topics related to U.S.-China relations, including foreign policy, economy and trade, and social media.
With the implementation of new regulations that give citizens access to government information, China recently marked a turning point toward greater transparency in government operations. To enhance citizens' knowledge of their new rights, the Center created http://www.chinatransparency.org, an Internet clearinghouse including all of the new regulations and comparative studies of successful access to information practices in other nations. The Center also has worked with two local governments implementing the Open Government Information Regulation, passed at the national level in 2008, and worked to create exchanges among access to information officials and scholars in China and other nations. Read "Encouraging a More Open China" >
In addition to conducting voter education and monitoring elections for villager committees, the program cooperated with Chinese partners to introduce better election procedures and strengthen the capacity of elected deputies to oversee government performance for more than 15 years.
The Center recognizes that meaningful democracy requires informed and involved citizens. To that end, the program worked in rural villages, in cooperation with China's Ministry of Civil Affairs, to expand channels for civic participation and build volunteer corps. In urban areas, the program worked with local nongovernmental organizations to address the rights and practical needs of new homeowners.
The program also supported the Chinese-language National Information Network on Villager Self-Government (http://www.chinarural.org/), which facilitates the administration of local elections and the participation of rural residents in governance.
In 2011, the program launched an initiative that focuses on understanding China's role in Africa and facilitating collaboration among multiple stakeholders between the regions. The initiative convened a policy advisory group consisting of experts from Africa, China, and the West to work toward building mutual understanding and trust between China and Africa as well as exploring the potential for a pilot project in Africa featuring community-level collaboration between Chinese stakeholders and African civil society organizations. The initiative's website, www.sinoafrica.org, is available in both English and Chinese and provides news updates, translations of important articles, and academic research as well as information on experts and organizations working on issues related to China-Africa relations.
The Chinese government began direct village elections in 1988 to help maintain social and political order in the context of unprecedented economic reforms. Today, village elections occur in some 600,000 villages across China, reaching 75 percent of the nation's more than 1.3 billion people.
In a groundbreaking agreement, the Ministry of Civil Affairs of China granted The Carter Center permission in 1997 to observe village election procedures; to provide assistance in gathering election data and educating voters; and to train election officials. The Center also was allowed to host Chinese officials to observe U.S. elections. After the Center's completion in 1999 of a successful pilot project, The Carter Center and the ministry signed a three-year cooperation agreement. At the invitation of the ministry, the Center also began observations of township elections — elections above the village level — in conjunction with the National People's Congress in 1999. In December 2002, the Center observed elections at the county level for the first time. In March 2010, The Carter Center sent its largest delegation ever to assess two villager committee elections in Zhaotong city, Yunnan province.
Project results included:
• Developing a data information system with 600 computers at the county, municipal, and provincial civil affairs offices in the Hunan, Fujian, Jilin, Shaanxi, Qinghai, and Chongqing provinces and training 650 computer operators;
• Hosting a national seminar in 2000 to revise the National Procedures on Villager Committee Elections, following which 50,000 copies of the handbook were printed and distributed;
• Training 1,200 local election officials to foster better understanding of election procedures and to compare experiences across the provinces;
• Training 500 elected chairs of villager committees in the Shandong province on villager self-government procedures, including managing village finances, organizing villager assemblies, and resolving conflict;
• Printing 40,000 posters on electoral procedures for use in villages;
• Sponsoring the National Information Network on Villager Self-government (www.chinarural.org) to facilitate the national and global exchange of information on grassroots democracy;
• Sponsoring publication of 22 books on contemporary China's rural governance and election observation;
• Sharing information with the International Republican Institute, National Democratic Institute, European Union, and the U.N. Development Program;
• Organizing three random surveys of the status of villager committee elections in Hunan, Jilin, and Shaanxi; and
• Exchanging 16 delegations between Ministry of Civil Affairs officials and Center experts.
President Carter traveled to China in September 2001 to open the International Symposium on Villager Self-government, an unprecedented conference between 120 Chinese officials and scholars from around the world. For three days, participants discussed election issues. President Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, observed a village election in the Quanwang village in Jiangsu province and met with top Chinese leaders, officials from the Ministry of Civil Affairs, and the National People's Congress. During his visit, President Carter asked Chinese officials to move open and direct elections above the village level.
From 1987 to 1992, in collaboration with the China Disabled Persons Federation, The Carter Center helped to improve educational opportunities for handicapped children and to address the nation's need for modern artificial limbs. More than 9,000 teachers were trained to improve educational opportunities for children with physical and mental disabilities. Overall, the China Special Education Project established 886 special schools and 1,239 special classes, in which 85,000 disabled children were enrolled. This was a 75 percent increase in the number of special education schools and a 114 percent increase in the number of special education classes in China.
A second Carter Center initiative in the 1980's helped China develop the capacity to manufacture and deliver modern prosthetic devices for the millions of people who needed them. The highlight of the three-year project was construction of a new six-story building to house the Beijing Prosthetic Center, the Prosthetic Research Institute, and the Model Making and Testing Center. Work at the centers and institute has included: designing the first hand-pedaled tricycle for amputees, teaching future prosthetic specialists, fitting affordable plastic devices to patients, and designing new prosthetic components for manufacture in nonprosthetic factories. As planned, Carter Center involvement in the prosthesis project ended in 1991 after its successful startup. The Chinese government has sustained and expanded the project.
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Size: 9,596,960 square kilometers
Population below poverty line: 6 percent
Life expectancy: 75 years
Ethnic groups: Han Chinese, Zhuang, Manchu, Hui, Miao, Uighur, Tujia, Yi, Mongol, Tibetan, Buyi, Dong, Yao, Korean, and other nationalities
Religions: Although China is officially atheist, many Chinese are Daoist (Taoist), Buddhist, Christian, Muslim
Languages: Standard Chinese or Mandarin (Putonghua, based on the Beijing dialect), Yue (Cantonese), Wu (Shanghainese), Minbei (Fuzhou), Minnan (Hokkien-Taiwanese), Xiang, Gan, Hakka dialects, minority languages
Source: U.S. Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook 2013