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Despite Warnings, U.S.-China Exchanges Resume

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Despite U.S. State Department cautions against nonessential travel to the People's Republic of China, some educational exchange programs have resumed sending students and teachers to the politically unsettled country.

Tourist travel to China remains "minimal," according to a State Department spokesman. However, a growing number of exchange-program administrators say they already have sent representatives to China this summer or plan to send them there this fall.

Most of the exchange-program participants are university students, but a few high-school teachers and students have also planned tours.

Exchange programs evacuated Americans from China and canceled summer tours in June following the massacre of student protesters in Beijing. Many programs feared their exchanges with the country could not be renewed in the wake of the political turmoil.

Now that some stability appears to have returned, exchange programs show little agreement in their policies toward China, and their officials offer widely different assessments of the safety of students and teachers who travel there.

Scott D. Ramey, a spokesman for a.f.s. Intercultural Programs, said his group is not sending teachers to China because it takes as "gospel" the State Department's recommendation that nonessential travel to China be deferred "until further notice."

"While security conditions in China have improved, the situation remains more unsettled than before the imposition of martial law in May,'' the State Department said in a revised travel advisory issued Aug. 9.

But Jennifer W. Fountain, director of programs in China for the American Institute for Foreign Study, said her organization plans to send a 29-member group of high-school students and teachers to China late this month.

"From a corporate point of view, we are very confident in the ability of Americans to be safe in China," she said.

Ms. Fountain added that Chinese university and education-ministry officials have actively encouraged her to resume programs and have guaranteed the safety of the American students she sends there.

Nevertheless, Ms. Fountain said, the tour group will cut short its stay in Beijing, the site of most of the previous violence, and will strictly abide by State Department cautions against such activities as photographing troops.

John H. Skillman, deputy executive director of Asian programs for the Council on International Educational Exchange, said his group sent university students to China in August, but still views the country as unsafe for high-school students.--ps

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