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Critical Language Scholarship to China: Vyacheslav Dade

Vyacheslav Dade is a senior with majors in Security & Intelligence and Chinese. Here he shares his essay submitted as part of his application for a Critical Language Scholarship. Vyacheslav was awarded the scholarship which funded his study abroad in China.

“It would be quite difficult to find a country more vital to both U.S. national security and economic interests than the People’s Republic of China. The U.S. and China are two very interreliant economic powers, so having a good relationship with China is critical. Due to the rapid growth of China’s economy, many Americans see China as a threat, and there are many who argue that war with China is inevitable. However, nations that trade with oneanother tend to refrain from going to war with one another. The U.S. is China’s largest export market and China owns a substantial portion of U.S. debt. If relations with China ever declined, China could potentially cause a global recession by selling off some of U.S. government debt and thereby causing U.S. interest rates to skyrocket. The health of America’s economy is critical to national security, and China clearly has an immense influence on the U.S. economy. China also works closely with the U.S. on a myriad of important issues: AIDS, global warming, terrorism, and others. While the political differences between the U.S. and China may be jarring, there is also common ground. That being said, the points of discontent between the U.S. and China threaten the already fragile U.S.‐China relationship, which is why it is of utmost importance for the U.S government to have people knowledgeable about China in order to tackle these issues.

In regards to U.S. national security, China is of utmost relevance. In 1996, the U.S. and China almost came to war when the Chinese shot missiles just outside of Taiwan’s ports in order to protest the President of the Republic of China visiting the United States for the first time. The Taiwan issue remains as complicated as ever. China knows the United States would most likely be morally obligated to aid Taiwan if they ever invaded, but they also feel pressured by their own populace to prevent Taiwan from proclaiming formal independence. The United States is also deeply involved in the current Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands dispute. Several high‐ranking U.S. officials have even theorized that China and Japan could potentially declare war on each other over these islands. If this nightmare scenario ever happened, the United States would be legally obligated to respond to any attack on Japanese territory. In terms of cyber espionage, Chinese hackers, many of whom almost certainly are on the Communist Party payroll, have been hacking U.S. defense contracting firms and the U.S. military. While China’s main focus has always been domestic policy, the hacking of U.S. military secrets portrays how far they are willing to go to try and stay militarily competitive with the United States.

Any one of these important issues, or a combination of them, could lead the U.S. into conflict with China in the next few decades. The best way to avoid such conflict is to have more educated people about China working for the U.S. government. While China is a popular topic, there are few who are truly educated about China and even fewer who can speak the language fluently. Misunderstanding China and its intentions is the easiest way for conflict to arise. Education about China is the key to peacefully coexist with China and thereby make the world a better, safer place.

Learning Chinese and becoming knowledgeable about China’s culture is crucial to my career prospects. My goal is to work for the government as a policy analyst or intelligence analyst on Asia, and I could not imagine calling myself an “expert” on China without being fluent in the language. To be more precise, I would be most interested in working in Open Source Intelligence, which a number of government agencies have begun relying on more and more. Popular Chinese websites and phone applications, such as Sina Weibo and WeChat, literally have hundreds of millions of users. The U.S. government must be very interested to use Chinese websites to study trends about the Chinese populace. However, these agencies need analysts who have an extremely strong command of the language. Thus, becoming fluent in Chinese is the first step I must take to become an Open Source Officer. While I am learning Chinese because of my own personal interest in the country and its language, Chinese is also one of the most critical languages that government agencies look for in applicants. If I could attain true professional fluency in Chinese, it would aid me immensely in fulfilling the Boren federal service requirement.

The study abroad program I have selected, CET Harbin, will propel me to a new level of fluency in Chinese. Although my Chinese level has been graded as advanced-low through an Oral Proficiency Interview test, I would personally describe myself as a high-intermediate speaker of the language. Spending a long period of time in China in an intense program like CET Harbin will finally allow me to bridge the gap and truly become an advanced learner of Chinese. In career fairs, I have spoken to many government agency recruiters and they have all told me the same thing: Washington is full of language majors who do not have the ability to use their language in a professional setting. Too many people erroneously believe that majoring in a language is enough to use it in a career. My goal is to be able to spend enough time in China in order to gain the language fluency and cultural competence required to be an effective civil servant.

Apart from my proposed Boren program, I have already begun my journey in attaining Chinese language fluency and cultural awareness. I have studied Mandarin Chinese for five years, three in college, and my language abilities were put to the test recently. I was awarded the Critical Language Scholarship last year and was able to spend two months studying Chinese in Suzhou, China. Although I only spent two months in China, my language ability improved immensely, and being immersed in China taught me many things about the Chinese way of life. I cannot imagine the progress I can make in Chinese if I spent more time in China, which is why it is my goal to spend as much time as possible there. The more fluency I gain in Chinese directly correlates to the success I will have in fulfilling the service requirement.

Apart from Chinese language, my studies at The Ohio State University also directly correlate to a career in government service. Since my major is Security and Intelligence, I have taken many courses where I have learned much about international politics, the U.S. intelligence community and their functions in the past decade, as well as courses on how to be an effective intelligence analyst. I am convinced that taking courses in political science and intelligence studies is the first step in pursuing a career with the government.

China is a monumentally important country to U.S. national security, and the chance of conflict with China escalates the more the U.S. misunderstands China and misinterprets its intentions. My goal is to be an expert on China and afluent speaker of Mandarin Chinese. By fulfilling this goal I will not only be able to increase my chances of becoming an Open Source Analyst, but also be able to make a real difference in U.S.-China relations.”