History of the Peace Corps in China
In March 1988, the Chinese foreign minister and then-Secretary of State George Shultz agreed in principle to place Peace Corps Volunteers in China. A year later, an exchange of letters signed by the U.S. ambassador and the secretary general of the China Education Association for International Exchange (CEAIE) and the Peace Corps opened the way to establish a Peace Corps post in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province.
In June 1989, the first group of trainees for Peace Corps/ China began training in the United States. However, following the Tiananmen Square incident, the training was canceled; the China program was temporarily suspended and the trainees were offered assignments in other countries.
The first group of 18 Peace Corps Volunteers to be sent to China arrived for their training in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, in June 1993. Following training in teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL), Chinese language, and cross-cultural issues, the 18 trainees swore-in as Volunteers in August 1993. They were posted to Sichuan Province, which at that time also included what later became the separate political entity known as the municipality of Chongqing. This group was viewed by the Chinese as a two-year experiment to determine whether Peace Corps was appropriate for China. Those Volunteers completed their service and returned to the United States on schedule in the summer of 1995. The Peace Corps country agreement was not signed until June 29, 1998.
In 1999, the Peace Corps program moved in Guizhou Province. In 2000, the program moved into Gansu Province. The Chinese government decided to hive off what became known as the Municipality of Chongqing in 1997. This change in political status had the effect of creating a fourth political jurisdiction in which the Peace Corps operates. In April 2003 the Peace Corps pulled out of China during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) crisis. Volunteers returned to China in July 2004. From the start of the program in 1993 through September 2006, there have been 287 Peace Corps Volunteers who have served in China. As of September 2006, there were 104 Peace Corps Volunteers serving in-country.
Since the Peace Corps began work in China in 1993 up until the present time TEFL has been the main program area. From 2000 until 2006, the Peace Corps also had an environmental education program.
At the national level, the Peace Corps comes under the China Education Association for International Exchange (CEAIE), which is affiliated with the Ministry of Education. CEAIE is the largest non–governmental organization (NGO) in international educational exchange in China. Founded in 1981, CEAIE has a mission of promoting Chinese educational development and enhancing understanding and friendship between Chinese and international educational communities through international exchange and cooperation. Since its establishment, it has developed cooperative linkages with more than 100 educational organizations and institutions in approximately 30 countries and regions.