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Youths talk bilateral relations, culture

By HONG XIAO in New York | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2016-10-21 13:27

The theme was 2020: China, US and Me, and during a two-hour exchange of views, Chinese and American college students covered a wide range of issues,including China-US relations, similarities and differences of their respective educational systems, campus life, cuisine and entertainment.

The exchange took place on Tuesday night at New York University (NYU) and was organized by the school and State-owned China Radio International (CRI). It was the fifth annual dialogue hosted by CRI, and the first one held outside of China.

Launched in 2011, the annual get-together, called From University to the World, invites student representatives from Chinese and American universities to meet and discuss trending topics from differing perspectives.

There were 10 students in this year's dialogue. Chen Yiqi, Tang Tianyi, Zhou Dingyi, all university students from the Chinese mainland, were voted to participate by about 100,000 Chinesenetizens. Franklin Zeng, Yin Danqing are Chinese students studyingin the US. The other five students were American from NYU, Matthew Gibson, NasrinJafari, Lily Li, Christina Perryand Michael Yang.

Zhou Dingyi, a third-year graduate student at Shanghai International Studies University, said that it's very common and reasonable for many countries, not just China, to consider their relationship with the US to be the most important bilateral relationship of the future.

"For many people in many countries, they grew up listening to American pop music and watching Hollywood movies, because America is currently the only super power of the world. Its global presence is so dominant and its cultural influence is prevalent," he said.

Chen Yiqi, a law school student from North China University of Technology,said conflicts between the world's two largest economies are somewhat unavoidable, but suggested this is just a small part of the overall relationship.

Yin Danqing said that China-US relations will become more complex and also more interesting. "I would use 'seeking common ground to all the differences' to describe the US-China relationship," she said.

Tang Tianyi echoed Chen's view. "I believe that China and the US can cooperate with each other very well and we should," said the senior from Beijing Foreign Studies University. "We can make a joint effort to make this world a better environment for us two."

As for the US-China relationship, a survey by CRI of about 500 Chinese and 350 American college students conducted ahead of the discussion showed that 66 percent of the Chinese respondents believe that the China-US relationship is the most important bilateral relationship of the future; 36 percent of the US students said relations between the two countries are the most important bilateral tie, and 39 percent of the US students said the US-Europe relationship is the most important.

Franklin Zeng said the world today is super connected and calling it a bilateral relationship is not accurate. The relationships between countriesare not mutually exclusive anymore but have a lot of overlapping parts.

Talking about the asymmetry of the understanding of each other's countries, both Matthew Gibson and Chen Yiqi spoke highly of Chinese students' understanding of Americans.

They also said Americans' old impression of China — like kungfu — has gradually been replaced by new things, for example, American university students just voted Jack Ma the third-most respected Chinese personality — after Confucius and Jackie Chan.

Tang Tianyi says young Chinese and American people need to get to know each other better.

"When I came to the US to have a summer course, one of my American peers asked me do you have McDonalds in China? So when I got this kind of reaction and I found that we don't know each other enough," she said.

The discussion did appear to generate one area of consensus: Frequent communication will increase trust and reduce the possibility of conflict. But all 10 students who participated in the session did concede that there is a perception gap that remains on both sides.

"I think this theme could not be more appropriate, more timely to discuss," said Zhang Meifang, Chinese deputy consul general in New York.

"As we know that the world is moving towards globalization, we are moving towards a global village, there are about two hundred countries and regions, two thousand and five hundred nationalities and different religions, " she said.

Zhang used a quote from Confucius — "Harmony without conformity" — to answer the question of how to live in this diverse but different world.

"Countries with different social backgrounds, different values, should seek corporation with mutual respect," she said.

"Right now China and the United States are enjoying a very stable and sound bilateral relationship," she said. "I'm sure that tonight's event will continue to play a big role in promotion of mutual understanding between the youngsters of the two universities."

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