A thoughtful conversation about China, the West, and current affairs. This is what I had a few nights ago in speaking with a group of eight men in a book club about my journeys and China. Sitting outside around a gas fire late into the cool autumn evening, we talked, shared experiences, and tried to understand the world a little better.
In the temporary absence of what Dori Jones Yang aptly terms necessary "people to people" connections between nations, we were able in our own localized way to continue the discussion. I am by no means the perfect medium for this; however, these eight Americans have an interest and thirst for more information to consider the broader world around them, and we had a chance to explore.
The questions were penetrating--about technology transfer and concerns over economic security, about the potential for military conflict, about what the Chinese want and feel and believe, about speaking foreign languages and visiting and living in foreign communities.
One man's father was a Jewish refugee from Europe in World War II who escaped to Shanghai and lived there for several years from a young boy to a teenager. Another man's grandfather emigrated here from Southern Italy by himself at age sixteen seeking to support his family back home. A third man lived abroad with his family at the time of the 2000 US Presidential election and came home with a new perspective on how different people and societies can and do experience the same world with different eyes. A fourth man has hosted Chinese exchange students at his home and watched how they interacted and processed living in an alien environment. All of them brought their own unique perspectives and history to the dialogue, and we all benefited from the exchange. Let us hope that China and America can continue to do the same.