Last night my wife and I had the pleasure of speaking with a large group of students from a US university who were touring China to learn about business and life here. I was with part of the group in one banquet room and my wife was with several others, and both of us were telling our story while they ate. We talked about how much we love living here, how great the people are, how proud we are of China’s progress in IP and innovation, how wonderful my wife’s Chinese students are, etc. There was no agenda to praise China, it’s just impossible for us to talk about our 8 years here without recognizing that we love this place and the vast majority of the Chinese people we know.
While my wife was speaking, a highly educated Chinese woman, a professor living in the US, started crying and explained why: “It’s been so long since I’ve heard anybody from the US say anything nice about China.” She’s heard so much bashing, so much hostility, and knows of Chinese people in the US who get told to “go back to your own country!” That very day they had met with a US government representative who rather openly said negative things about China. How sad that our few sincere words would be so rare that it made a woman cry. Know some Chinese people? Try this on them and let me know what happens. Say something nice and make the world a better place.
This week a large group of performers from Brigham Young University are coming to perform at what may be the nicest performance hall in Shanghai (the beautiful Shanghai Culture Square, site of many Broadway musicals and other high-end performances). It’s a celebration of BYU’s 40-year relationship with China. I’m so grateful to the leaders at BYU and the many students, coaches, and others that made this huge event possible. Doing this in the middle of tensions with the trade war is an important symbol of BYU’s commitment to friendship in spite of whatever is happening with politics. I believe Utah itself also stands out as a place with high interest in China and other foreign countries, with a willingness to learn, to share, and to be friends. Please don’t let the acrimony of politics destroy our ability to be friends with others from afar.
There is so much the West needs to learn from China, including its culture and history, its rise and rapid growth, its innovation, its people, its rich languages, its family values, and (please oh please oh please!) its food. A great Chinese meal brings tears to my eyes — here’s hoping some of you might make me cry when I’m back in the States for a while this summer!