Yesterday, on the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, I had the privilege of hosting an official from the Chinese Embassy on a visit to Wisconsin to receive a major award at a dinner celebration attended by 250 people from industry, education, and government. Before that, we had a spectacular luncheon with some local Chinese friends that I arranged to honor my guest. How delighted I was to find that he knew and even had worked for the hero of one of my favorite books, The Man on Mao’s Right by Ji Chaozhu. At the luncheon, I used my terrible Mandarin to make a toast: “Zhong-Mei youyi wansui!” (“Long Live the Friendship Between China and America” – I’m not even sure that this is the correct or best way to say it, but they understood). It was a sincere toast.
Like Ji Chaozhu, the father of my Chinese guest from the Embassy had participated in the Korean War. My father did, too. It’s possible that our two fathers were shooting at each other in that terrible no-win war. There are still international tensions between our two nations in various parts of the globe. Later I reflected on how some of my conservative peers (I am pretty conservative) might react to my interest in China and to such a toast. There are some complex issues here, but I’d like to cite the example of Ammon, the son of King Mosiah in the Book of Mormon, who took it upon himself to go into Lamanite territory and spend 14 years there. He went not as a spy or Rambo-like commando to disrupt the economy or military supply chains of that enemy nation, but he went as a friend and servant, even a servant to a king. Could this not be considered as treason in the sense that he was supporting and helping a historical enemy? Perhaps, if one wishes to be critical. But what divine wisdom (not greedy profiteering) was in his selfless service! His love for an “enemy people” would change thousands of lives and greatly bless his own people as well in the end.
Long Live Nephite-Lamanite Friendship! This toast comes a bit late, unfortunately, so I’l stick with “Zhong-Mei youyi wansui!”
The story of Ammon and the sons of Mosiah may have parallels that can help guide us in thinking about nations where there is tension in the relationship or where we worry about the current lack of religious toleration or religious freedom. There may be great miracles that yet can be unfolded through small means and selfless service, and great prices to be paid by those ready to give all for what matters most.
When change comes, it will come swiftly, and catch many of us unprepared for the needs and opportunities ahead. As always, this is the best time to prepare. There is also so much to learn from China – don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s all about us going there to bring new wisdom, though I believe we have something wonderful to offer them, just as we have something wonderful to offer the United States, Britain, Brazil, etc. There is much we need to learn from their modern and ancient wisdom. Great opportunities lie ahead for those who are wise and prepare.