China and the U.S. need more open doors

Photo: Anthony Moretti, 27May2017

Pick a place faraway from you on a map. You and I can be there in roughly 24 hours. And that means the world, however big it might seem, is small.

Unfortunately, right now, the divide between China and the U.S. seems galaxies apart. That needs to change. The American government will tell you recent economic sanctions and tariffs against multiple Chinese interests are necessary because of China’s human rights record. The Chinese government will tell you the Americans are deliberately projecting a false message about it and the Chinese people in order to maintain hegemony around the world. One can hear doors slamming in Washington and Beijing as each word is spoken.

A recent set of meetings between the two nations dissolved once the Americans opted to lecture their Chinese counterparts about their conduct at home and abroad. The Chinese were quick to rebuff the rebuke, noting that America’s history of human rights meant it was in no place to lecture China or any other nation on the topic. The two sides forced their respective doors open to allow for some meaningful dialogue to take place, but the message right now is clear: Washington and Beijing are struggling to find areas in which they can — and must — cooperate.

The hardening of feelings at the political level has had an effect on the citizens of both countries. Multiple U.S. news reports have noted Americans see China as foe, not friend. And a similar conclusion can be drawn in China: The Chinese people have made clear they will not silently tolerate attempts by any nation to undermine national pride.

Our world is made better when doors are open. They lead to better understanding of culture, history and people. Open doors make friendships possible. They make all of us see that the people “over there” look a lot like the people “over here.” Our aspirations, our hopes, our values are more alike than we might believe.

I hope that once health conditions improve sufficiently that I can make my long wanted trip to China. Ideally, I’d like to incorporate some aspect of my role as a teacher with my seemingly never quenched curiosity about other countries. I don’t know who might accompany on this trip, whenever it might happen, but I know my visit will be made in the spirit of being one person seeking to open even just one door. If I succeed, then maybe, just maybe, a number of doors might open for me and my past, present or future students and for a number of current, present and future Chinese college students. And, of course, for their teachers, too.

Call me naive, if you wish. But I won’t ever stop believing that doors that are open are better than doors that are closed.

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