Bob Berkowitz

If you have been following the news lately, you’ve heard about the tariff controversy between the U.S. and China. The reason for this is because there are billions of dollars in trade between our two countries and each side wants to get the upper hand in negotiations

Most of this trade takes hard bargaining on both sides to reach a deal. These deals are accomplished because each side has people who can understand the language of each other.

Last month I spent 11 days in China, trying to learn how we can be more effective in dealing with the Chinese and what we can learn that will be beneficial to Del Norte County. I came away with some startling discoveries.

The first was how forward looking the Chinese government is. For business profits, they are not interested in how business is doing quarter by quarter, but instead, they take the long view of where they want to be in three to five years and in some cases, 10 years down the line.

Second, is that most deals are built on long term relationships. Many of the people I was dealing with seven and eight years ago, in my last trips to China, were still in their same positions. Those are the people who continue to foster those decade-long relationships.

Thirdly, I found that it is critically important to be successful, that we learn the up and coming language of business, which is Mandarin Chinese along with English.

During my last of three trips to China, I was able to visit several primary and secondary schools. One of them was in Tianjin, a city of about 11 million people. Here at Tianjin Number 55 High School, the students are serious about learning English, which they begin in the second grade. During my discussion with a junior high school student, she was able to tell me of her hopes and dreams along with her goals and objectives in perfect English.

Many of our country’s primary and secondary schools have already discovered the fact that they will need to know Mandarin Chinese if they are going to be successful in the world of government and business, and have already included Mandarin as a course in their schools. The benefit to all of this is that a high school graduate who is fluent in Mandarin can write their own ticket to success.

Traveling with our delegation was Chelsea Boweler-Shelton. She is the principal of Buckeye Union Mandarin Immersion Charter School District located in El Dorado Hills, California. When I asked her what her goals were for the school, she said “Our goal is to build relationships with other schools with Mandarin Immersion programs to help us develop a world class program that provides a unique learning experience for our students. Additionally we would like to learn as much as possible about Chinese language, culture and educational experiences again to enhance and expand our understanding and appreciation for China and its people.”

In total, I met about a dozen school board members, principals and teachers who were either interested in starting a Mandarin language program in their schools or expanding an already existing one.

These schools know that they can give their students a leg up in the world of business, right out of high school, at no additional cost to the school district.

The sponsor of my trip to China was the College Board, the ones who put on the SAT each year along with an arm of the Chinese government. No county funds were used to pay for my trip.

When I inquired about the possibility of getting a Chinese language teacher to teach Mandarin in our Del Norte Schools, I was told that the College Board would put up half the cost of a teacher and provide the living expenses for a teacher to teach in our schools.

Think about this for a minute. We can prepare our students for very good paying jobs as translators right out of high school. Isn’t it time we gave our students this great opportunity?

Bob Berkowitz is a Del Norte County supervisor.