Conversations on China

China Conversation

  With respect to recent conversations with Chinese professionals working in the United States, three observations.
  First, they tend to be proud of Chinese accomplishments, and defensive about criticism of China.   In this manner they remind me of my own tendencies when I spoke with people from France, Germany and Egypt during the 1970’s.   I had my own critiques of U.S. culture and foreign policy, but I did not appreciate hearing about U.S. shortcomings from foreigners.  
    Second, I find that my Chinese interlocutors are wary of American ignorance about Chinese society and history.   Among the things that they tell me about are how far China has come both politically and economically in the last century.  
    Finally, I find it useful in such conversations to offer two reflections.   I begin by offering my own views about some of the faults and problems of my own society.   Some of those views are about contemporary issues such as the power of our military-industrial complex, and the behavior of our high school students; this last topic especially invites substantial response.   In addition, I share some of my thoughts about U.S. history.     I find that most of the Chinese professionals I speak with have some sense of the U.S. emergence as a democracy, a free society, an economic powerhouse, and as a super power.   But I also try to recall some of the texture of anguish in our story.   So for example our holocaust-like treatment of Native Americans, our embrace of slavery, and the ease with which we go to war.   I find that when I share my understanding of some of the complexities of the United States, this can invite more realistic sharing about the complexities of China.