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World view: Americans, Chinese can learn plenty from each other

Nov. 21, 1997

By Liu Jian

Three months have passed since I came to this great country, America. How time flies! I'm impressed by the beauty and immensity of Waco and by the quick pace of life here. It's said the pace is much quicker in bigger cities or in the eastern part of the U.S. When asked what America is like, I still can't tell for sure, especially so since my former picture of America was acquired through reading and mass media and may not be the accurate image. In addition, I have only seen part of Waco because I'm a Mr. No-Feet (I don't have a car to travel around in) and haven't talked to many people in different sectors.

This reminds me of my American friends in China many years ago. I often encouraged them to travel broadly. Cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou don't represent the whole picture of China. My student, James Phillips (a Baylor scholar who stayed a few years ago in Kunming, Yunnan Province in South China for a year and a half) has had this experience. He saw people in the countryside who didn't have enough to eat or clothes to put on. I suggest to my American students to not forge a preoccupied picture of China after seeing Red Corner starring Richard Gere, which is Hollywood fiction and geared toward breaking box office records. If you want to know China, go to China and travel around.

Despite its long history of civilization, China has weakened itself in the past two centuries because of its closed-door policy. Small wonder it was repeatedly invaded by foreign powers, even by such a small neighboring country like Japan. In the past twenty years, China has scored some successes thanks to the re-opening of its doors.

It's a nice thing for the American and Chinese top leaders to contact each other. Active communication can dissolve misunderstandings and confrontation and help build up normalization of the Sino-American relations. Failure in communication may result in misunderstanding and even in unpleasant consequences, as we can see in the present world circumstances.

Preceding President Jiang Zemin's visit, a Chinese economic and commercial delegation came to the U.S. and signed a number of buying contracts with such companies as Boeing, General Motors and Motorola totaling 4.4 billion dollars. San Francisco nets some 6 billion dollars annually by doing business with Shanghai. Signs show China is a potentially lucrative market for American business, especially in the 21st century.

We are lucky to inhabit a globe rich with creatures and plants. A multi-national country is dynamic if it has and allows for the diversity of cultures. If all countries were copies of each other in every aspect,even if that one country is good in all regards, it might not be a good idea. People would ask why they had all of the same headaches as before. This is an understatement.

Mr. Jian is an exchange professor teaching Chinese at Baylor

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