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【Pacific Dialogue】 The Ties that Bind: Sino-U.S. Cultural Connections
By Ding Ying  ·  2019-01-28  ·   Source: Web Exclusive

There's a famous Chinese saying that states: "He who hasn't been to the Great Wall is not a true man." President Richard Nixon proved he was a true man, because he was the first U.S. head of state to visit the Great Wall in 1972, breaking the ice in Sino-U.S. relations. The wall, which was first built to fend off invaders some 2,000 years ago, has become its opposite. Now this Great Wall stands for openness and friendship, as tourists and political figures flock to it.

Can we say the same about President Donald Trump's walls? The actual wall he wants to build on the Mexican border somehow led to a U.S. government shutdown. And his figurative walls are shutting out globalization and worldwide cooperation.

We the Chinese have learned our lesson: Walls don't work. So, let's get back to the things which really bond peoples together: education, tourism and family.

Before the 1970s, there were hardly any exchanges between the two peoples.

In late 1978, for the first time since the founding of the People's Republic, 52 government-funded students were sent to U.S. schools. Forty years later, some 360,000 Chinese students were studying all across the United States. Although there are fewer U.S. students in China, more and more young people from the U.S. side are studying at some of China's top universities. In 2017, China announced it would offer 10,000 more scholarships to U.S. students from 2018 to 2022.

Another key area of exchange has been tourism. The two countries held a "China-U.S. Tourism Year" in 2016. More than 2 million people from the United States visited China as a result, making China the top destination for U.S. tourists in the Asia Pacific.

In 2016, figures showed Chinese visitors spent the most among foreign tourists in the United States, which was unimaginable 40 years ago when China was a poverty-stricken nation.

There have been many cultural exchanges featuring music and the arts, along with sporting events in the past 40 years. It is through these people-to-people exchanges that the two countries are getting to know each other on a human level.

Identifying what matters most to people is actually not that hard. Take holiday traditions for example. For the Chinese, Spring Festival is hands down the most important. For Americans, it's Christmas. Although the two are vastly different, there is one common thread: The top priority is to spend quality time with family.

We are certain that if we keep building human bridges between the two countries, there will be no need for walls that shut people out.

Copyedited by Rebeca Toledo

Comments to dingying@bjreview.com

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