PCVs Out of China by June 2020

Thanks for the ‘heads up’ from Arnold Zeitlin (Ghana 1961-63)

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) issued the following statement after the Peace Corps formally notified members of Congress it will be withdrawing its volunteers from China beginning in June 2020:

“Today’s decision by the Peace Corps to withdraw its volunteers from China confirms what we all know — China is no longer a developing country. For too long, Beijing has fooled organizations such as the World Bank and the World Trade Organization into believing otherwise so it could exploit our global institutions. It is time for these organizations, both U.S. and multilateral, to change the way they deal with China.

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From the Peace Corps

The Peace Corps formally notified members of Congress this week that it will withdraw volunteers from China starting in June, according to a statement from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

Other China News

The latest: In what could be another sign of worsening relations between China and the U.S. — amidst an 18-month trade war — the University of Maryland said on Friday that it will close its Confucius Institute, the earliest of its kind in America.

Background: The Peace Corps’ retreat from China follows a December report from the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) that determined there is a “strong argument” that China committed “crimes against humanity” in its northwestern region of Xinjiang.

What they’re saying: “U.S. taxpayer dollars should not be used to bolster Communist China through the Peace Corps, and I’m glad they no longer will,” Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, top Republican of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement on Friday.

 

11 Comments

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  • Just to clarify, this is NOT an immediate exit. Serving PCVs will be able to finish their 2-year terms, with gradual phase-out by 2021, according to Peace Corps.

  • It is wise and just for Peace Corps to close its program in China. Typically, this will be accomplished in a reasonable and timely manner which will not penalize either serving PCV’s or their Chinese sponsors and beneficiaries. The Peace Corps presence in China – Chengdu Province – has been inconsistent with Peace Corps tradition and program policy since its beginning.

    This does not detract from the excellent service of hundreds of highly qualified and competent PCVs. It simply recognizes that the resources provided to the Peace Corps China program is more justifiably utilized in countries whose needs are far more consistent with Peace Corps goals and the use of Peace Corps resources.

  • The Peace Corps, from the beginning always has had THREE goals (i.e. purposes), and I wonder if maybe the immense value of #2 and #3 isn’t being overlooked. We went over this same thing with the E European PC projects. It may be time to revisit the ascedancy of the development-oriented Goal #1 in light of today’s world. John Turnbull Lower Canoncito, New Mexico (Ghans-3 Geology and Nyasaland/Malawi-2 Geology Asisgnment. 1963, -64, -65.

  • I see a lost opportunity here. Yes, China is a major league player in the international economy and in global politics. It is also, arguably, the most important country in the world for the United States to have as a friend rather than an enemy. Friendship and cooperation with China is likely to provide more benefits to our grandchildren and their children than with any other country. To ensure friendship and cooperation in the decades to come, strong people-to-people relationships at the grassroots level can play a decisive role, and there is no USG program that can do this better than the Peace Corps. But only a Peace Corps operating “out of the box” can be successful. In short, a sustainable Peace Corps program in China would have to be organized as an exchange program that brings as many Chinese volunteers to the USA as American volunteers go to China. This is the way to reflect the first and most important goal of the Peace Corps: learning about other countries. It will be vital for our national security that Americans understand China and that the Chinese people understand the USA.

  • Peace Corps China has been a focus for Republicans earlier. It was Senator Rick Scott, another Republican Senator from Florida, who went to Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen in June of 2019 and demanded she immediately withdraw Peace Corps Volunteers from China. She refused. In July, he introduced legislation to place the Peace Corps under the direct supervision of the State Department. The bill, S2320 is still in committee in the Senate. NPCA is advocating for its defeat.

    Years ago, then Representative Mike Coffman(R Colorado) as reported in the Denver Post in 2011 also wanted Peace Corps out of China. From the Denver Post, September 1, 2011:

    “Rep. Mike Coffman wants the Peace Corps out of China.

    Coffman, R-Colo., said he was shocked during a recent visit to the country that Peace Corps volunteers are teaching English in Chinese universities, rather than serving underdeveloped rural areas.

    “Having the Peace Corps in China, where we have to borrow money from the Chinese to fund it, is an insult to every American taxpayer and to so many of our manufacturing workers who have lost their jobs to China,” he said.

    Coffman is gathering congressional signatures to send a letter to President Barack Obama demanding that the government immediately suspend the Peace Corps program in China.”

    I wrote Representative Coffman and emphasized the Third Goal of the Peace Corps. I included a copy of Peter Hessler’s book about his Peace Corps experience in China: River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze. I also told Coffman we shared a link. He was a GI assigned to Nurnberg, Germany and earned his G.E.D. from Nurnberg American Highschool, of which I am also an alumni.

    He was not impressed. It was a year later, when he was up for re-election, when he answered. He thanked me for the book and said his parents were missionaries in China. His letter did not mention the Peace Corps.

    Coffman was defeated in 2018 by now Congressman Jason Crow (Democrat, Colorado). Representative Crow is one of the
    Impeachment Managers.

  • With the changing circumstances in the world today, it may be time for a major reevaluation of the concept of the Peace Corps. Not that the First Goal doesn’t have great relevance to many developing (or UNdeveloping) countries, but there is a multitude of other countriies, for which (as suggested above) more of an exchange program is warranted, fosterrng not development, but cross-cultural understanding. John Turnbull

  • When I served (1975-1977), we had one elderly PhD in chemistry teaching in the national Honduran university and we had at least one woman working much like an adjunct professor with the national museum (2 out of 109 volunteers). Recently, as the Peace Corps reentered Mexico, the jobs were a bit bizarre. Mexico requested PhDs in plastics. The argument as to which comes first, the chicken or the egg, seems a fitting analogy. The host countries request aid in the form of trained men and women. Volunteers have always served as requested, including (like my younger son) as English instructors. This congressional criticism is just another example of exaggeration to destroy the agency. The proper answer is a flood of memoirs to describe in detail exactly what we did and why we all should be proud of trying to help our neighbors.

  • Discussions of which countries are appropriate to host PCVs are nothing new. When I was a PCV in El Salvador in the mid 1970s, there was frequent commentary that Costa Rica was too well off economically to host Peace Corps. It was referred to as a Country Club country as compared to El Salvador. Of course those of us who were stationed in rural El Salvador also frequently commented that volunteers stationed in the larger cities of San Salvador and Santa Ana also had things way too easy!

    I was later an urban-based PCV (working for a university) in Costa Rica, so I’ve been on both sides of the argument. I believe that PCVs do good work and learn a ton about the culture regardless of the economic situation of the country in which they serve. I would love for all countries to have the option of sending volunteers to the US also. Let’s put renewed emphasis on the peace in Peace Corps by having volunteers from all over the world serving in the US as well, learning about our culture as we have learned about theirs.

  • John,

    While China may not need Peace Corps Volunteers because it is now a ‘developed nation’–an economic status it has enjoyed for at least the past decade, our country most certainly benefits from a continuing source of RPCVs who understand its culture and language through their service there, then go into professional careers in the Foreign Service, the Congress, universities, and with Non-governmental Organizations. All of the stated reasons for pulling Volunteers out of China by June were as evident many yeas ago as they are now. If the principle of the presence of ‘human rights violations’ were applied to other Peace Corps countries, then the Agency’s portfolio would substantially be reduced.

  • I have shared John Coyne’s post on my facebook page and with my other RPCV facebook friends. I also have searched the Peace Corps official website. I do not see any announcement on that website. I know that Peace Corps is required to notify Congress before it closes a program. I don’t know if Congress must approve the closure before there can be a formal announcement.

    From the Sam Farr and Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2019: SEC. 203. CONSULTATION WITH CONGRESS REQUIRED BEFORE OPENING OR
    CLOSING OVERSEAS OFFICES AND COUNTRY
    PROGRAMS.

    Section 10 of the Peace Corps Act (22 U.S.C. 2509) is amended by
    adding at the end the following new subsection:
    “(k)(1) <> Except
    as provided in paragraph (2), the Director of the Peace Corps may not
    open, close, significantly reduce, or suspend a domestic or overseas
    office or country program unless the Director has notified and consulted
    with the appropriate congressional committees at least 15 days in
    advance.

    “(2) <> The Director of
    the Peace Corps may waive the application of paragraph (1) for a period
    of not more than 5 days after an action described in such paragraph if
    the Director determines such action is necessary to ameliorate a
    substantial security risk to Peace Corps volunteers or other Peace Corps
    personnel.

    “(3) <> For the purposes of this subsection,
    the term `appropriate congressional committees’ means–
    “(A) the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on
    Appropriations of the House of Representatives; and
    “(B) the Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee
    on Appropriations of the Senate.”. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2259/text

    Senator Marc Rubio is a member of both the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate.

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