I have spent a good deal of time in China and have traveled throughout the country. I am always amazed at the hospitality and welcoming spirit of the Chinese people. As an educational institution, Benedictine has built programs throughout China on one underlying assumption — if there is to be peace in the 21st century, China and the United States must become partners. My sense from engaging many levels of Chinese society is that China does not want an aggressive relationship with the United States; it wants to forge a partnership of mutual respect and opportunity. If China and the USA are partners in the 21st century, I firmly believe that peace will reign and humankind will flourish. I shudder to think of the alternative.
My very strong sense is that China does not want to conquer the world; it wants to secure its borders and live in peace — as does the United States. Our number one problem is that the USA and China do not know one another. Our old ways of viewing one another are remnants of the Cold War. A new century requires a new way of looking at one another. We must move away quickly from viewing one another as potential enemies to a view that as friends there is no problem we cannot solve.
How do we get America and China to recognize each other as respected partners and not potential aggressors — through education! When we exchange faculty, courses, and students and when we build strong educational programs together — we become friends! Government officials are not in the best position to develop friendships when they are charged with enforcing policies. Our students — in the classroom, in mutual visitation of campuses, in joint research projects, in simple interaction — become friends for life.
As I have said, I am convinced that the Chinese do not want an aggressive relationship with the USA. Part of the problem is that the United States continues to view China as if the Cultural Revolution was still unfolding and is a potential foe; another part of the problem is that the Chinese do not market themselves well. The 2008 Olympics forged an amazing marketing effort by the Chinese to open the country to the outside world. I still have on my computer the song “Beijing Welcomes You.”
What happened to that marketing after the Olympics? Our countries still do not know one another, which does not bode well for the 21st century. Both countries need to take a “timeout” and learn about one another.
We need to build a platform for a long-term U.S./China partnership. This can be done through our educational institutions partnering in new and exciting ways. Through education, Chinese and Americans get to know one another at a very young age and can become close lifetime friends. In educational activities, we share, work, and solve problems. This same ability will transfer to the world’s stage when our students become tomorrow’s leaders. As a result it is very hard to view your friend as the aggressor.