Making connections: A lecture at Fudan University

Josh '14

Today we had an early start, as we were on the road at 8.30. We were going to meet with Professor Shen Dingli, a renowned lecturer at Fudan University. Professor Shen’s expertise is Sino-American relations, particularly in terms of their respective nuclear capabilities. He has spoken at Universities across Asia, the US and Europe, and according to Mr. Gao, is a shaker on the foreign relations scene in China.

Starting off stressing the importance of a somewhat balanced relationship between two powers, he used the example of America’s first lady traveling to China to meet with her Chinese counterpart, after missing the opportunity last October. This would not have been an important trip to make, had China not become a huge player in the world economy and politics over the last few decades.

In the Fall term, in my Modern Chinese history class, Mr. Nicholson emphasized the importance of understanding that a country can be so culturally different from the United States, and yet be so similar in terms of international political power and economic growth. Prof. Shen echoed this and explained how learning the Chinese language and understanding the culture cannot make an individual or country anything but wealthier. For a leader of a country, being able to communicate effectively and understand what is said first-hand, without the need of a translator can mean the difference between a cordial relationship or conflict between powers. A translator might leave out details important to the decision-making process, and he thinks this played a role in the present Ukraine issue.

Professor Shen praised the United States for taking a leading role in ensuring the welfare of people around the world, but pointed out that this may be one of its weaknesses. By having to juggle relationships with countries from every region of the world, it may be difficult to place themselves in ideal circumstances. China’s juggling is concentrated among the Pacific islands. Professor Shen’s description of China’s capitalist economy and communist government seemed ironic, as just on Wednesday, we went to a shopping plaza with a Haagen-Daz store and a Starbucks a block away from the birthplace of communism in China.Today’s lecture put clearly into words what I’ve seen and thought this past week.