People to People Exchanges in US-China Relations: Forgotten Past, Fateful Future

by Project Pengyou on June 27th, 2015   7026 views

On June 21st, 2015 Project Pengyou, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies – China (SAIS – China) and the Committee of 100 brought together over 130 guests including Project Pengyou Chapter leaders, students, and professionals in Washington D.C. to the SAIS campus for a speaker forum featuring expert U.S.-China bridge-builders.

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On June 21st, 2015 Project Pengyou, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies – China (SAIS – China) and the Committee of 100 brought together over 130 guests including Project Pengyou Chapter leaders, students, and professionals in Washington D.C. to the SAIS campus for a speaker forum featuring expert U.S.-China bridge-builders.

Holly  Chang, President of the Golden Bridges Foundation, and the Acting Executive Director of the Committee of 100 (C-100), opened the day-long speaker’s forum, titled: People to People Exchanges in US-China Relations: Forgotten Past, Fateful Future. The event was designed to provide historical nuance and context to the complexity of the relationship between China and America, spanning nearly 400 years, in order for bridge-builders to better understand a broader narrative of US-China and their role in the relationship.

The Speakers


Fateful Ties: A History of America’s Preoccupation With China

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Dr. Chang web-conferenced in from California to speak with the crowd.

Gordon H. Chang, PhD, Professor, Author, Director of the Center for East Asian Studies at Stanford University

Gordon H. Chang was the first of the distinguished speakers. He is Director of the Center for East Asian Studies and a professor of American history at Stanford University, and he has extensively studied and written about the connection between race and ethnicity in America, and American foreign relations.

Leading with a discussion of his newly published book, Fateful Ties: A History of America’s Preoccupation with China, Dr. Chang drew the audience all the way back to the discovery and later founding of America, threading the U.S.-China narrative artfully through U.S. history and showing that although we sometimes view this bilateral relationship as new and therefore challenging, in reality we have been fatefully tied to each other through much of history; Christopher Columbus was searching for trade routes to China when he landed in America, and the tea thrown into Boston Harbor was oolong tea from China.


Story of Wong Chin Foo: Justice for America’s Chinese

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Scott D. Seligman

Scott Seligman, Historian, Author, Business Executive (retired) & Career “China Hand”

“But where do Chinese-Americans fit into this narrative?” asked a curious audience member. The next topic was led by Scott Seligman who went on to tell the story of Wong Chin Foo, the first known Chinese-American civil rights activist who advocated for justice for Chinese in America. Seligman is a writer and historian with extensive experience in China, having lived in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China for eight years. His book on the topic is called, The First Chinese-American: The Remarkable Life of Wong Chin Foo.

Throughout his career as a “China Hand”, Seligman became fascinated with Wong Chin Foo, a historical figure in the history of Chinese-Americans during the Chinese Exclusion Act era. He painted a riveting picture of Wong as a plucky Chinese immigrant with impeccable English caught between worlds. He was born in Shandong but adopted by American missionaries, and spent much of his life trying to build bridges between Americans and Chinese, fighting the prejudice towards Chinese in America that was prominent during that time. Seligman’s sharing of this forgotten piece of America’s history made us all wonder; how would our perceptions of Chinese-Americans be different today if we were taught about Wong Chin Foo alongside other great civil rights leaders such as Dr. King and Gloria Steinem?


 Students as Bridge-Builders: Young Americans in China

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Madelyn Ross

Madelyn Ross, Director, Hopkins Nanjing Center Washington D.C., Associate Director, Johns Hopkins University SAIS China

Madelyn Ross, the Director of SAIS-China, was one of the first American Students to study in China following normalization of US-China relations. She explained that because of certain restrictions surrounding the type of study available to Americans in China, it took no less than a heroic effort and several signatures on official documents from high-level government officials for her to make it to China. But she finally made it, and her experiences teaching and learning in China so soon after it re-opened to the world in 1979 provided us a rare glimpse into that pivotal period in modern U.S.-China relations.

She remarked that although a lot has changed for the better since the lifting of the Exclusion Act and the days of China as a closed, mysterious place in the “Orient”, there is still much work to be done in the realm of educational exchange between the U.S. and China. She urged young bridge-builders in the audience to seize all the new opportunities that have arisen to create dialogues, products, programs, and friendships that will help illuminate China to Americans and America to Chinese.


 China and America in the 2016 Federal Elections

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Jeremy Wu

Jeremy Wu, Co-Chair, Washington D.C., Board Member, Committee of 100

Dr. Jeremy S. Wu is currently the Washington D.C. Regional Co-Chair of the Committee of 100, the Director of the Big Data Innovation Center at East China Normal University and an adjunct professor at George Washington University.

Jeremy Wu represented the Committee of 100, speaking for the Chinese Americans whose cultural inheritance places them in the perfect position to be cultural brokers and bridge-builders between Americans and Chinese. He spoke of federal elections in the past during the height of the Chinese Exclusion Act era and tied it to the opportunity that politicians have today with the upcoming elections. With China’s growing presence in the world, it will inevitably become a tool in each candidate’s campaign strategy, and it is an opportunity for those candidates to avoid alienating Chinese-Americans with uniformed rhetoric.

 


 The Great LOL of China – Next Generation Bridge-Building

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Jesse Appell

Jesse Appell, Intercultural Comedian, Performer

Jesse Appell is a recipient of the Fulbright Scholarship, and has studied Chinese comedy and performance in Beijing. His  mission is to foster cultural understanding between the two countries through laughter, and with several viral comedic videos (Mo Money Mo Fazhan, and Laowai Style being the two most famous,) and his new video series with Asia Society, Great LOL of China, he is well on his way.

The youngest speaker of the group, cross cultural comedian and Fulbright Scholar Jesse Appell brought the focus to the variety of opportunities that are available to young Americans to build bridges in China. His section was a mixture of Chinese language skill and cultural observations and knowledge. Several times, his wit and skillful imitations brought the crowd to roaring laughter, especially when imitating a Beijing cab driver! He explained that although comedy is often thought of as one of the hardest things to translate, the basic elements are the same across both cultures. He told the audience ” One of the most valuable things I have learned in China through this work is that people would much rather laugh with each other than fight with each other.”


U.S.-China Relations: Perspectives From Washington

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Hank Levine

Hank Levine, Senior Adviser, Albright Stonebridge Group

Following Jesse was our expert on the hill, Henry ‘Hank’ Levine, changing the topic to a more present and solemn concern: U.S.-China issues in Washington. Levine is a Senior Adviser in the Albright Stonebridge Group, drawing on decades of experience in China to assist clients in the Chinese market. He explained that our involvement with China is unique in that our countries are increasingly intertwined on almost any major issue you can think of facing our modern world. From business and economics, environmental issues, nuclear proliferation, prevention of pandemics, and etc, it is vital that the U.S. and China learn to work together, and be able to juggle all of these issues at once.

He highlighted several recent changes in the U.S.-China relationship, including China preparing to take on more leadership roles globally, lack of a ‘vision for China’ in U.S. leadership, concern over China’s growing military prowess, and an increasingly connected but uncertain business environment between the two nations. These changes, for better or worse, are giving policy-makers in Washington a certain level of anxiety, with hope that people to people exchange can help to alleviate that anxiety.


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The Speakers pose with the Project Pengyou Chapter builders and Team Pengyou.

After the event, the guests stayed to mingle and engage the speakers in conversation. Even after a long day of listening intently to so many in-depth and detailed topics, many of the attendants stayed for a full hour after the speakers had finished and were reluctant to leave when the hour was up! It was a rare and special delight to gather so many excellent speakers, who not only entertained us, but also helped us expand our view and spark our curiosity!

We would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude for all the hard work and support of our co-organizers, our staff and interns at Golden Bridges, and all of the Project Pengyou Chapter leaders and guests who came out and participated on Father’s Day and for making this event so insightful and special.

See more photo highlights in our photo gallery.

See the full list of speakers and more information about the organizers below:


 

EVENT SPEAKERS

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Holly Chang

Holly Chang, President, Golden Bridges Foundation | Project Pengyou, Acting Executive Director, Committee of 100

Holly Chang  is concurrently serving as the Acting Executive Director of the Committee of 100 and President of the Golden Bridges Foundation, which houses the Project Pengyou initiative. As a Chinese-American social entrepreneur, she has served hundreds of nonprofits in China as an international bridge-builder supporting diverse projects in climate change, education, health and philanthropy. Ms. Chang began her career as a civil engineer at the United Parcel Service working on cutting-edge and fast-tracked engineering projects budgeted over $1 billion. She entered college at the age of 16 graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a dual bachelors degree in Civil Engineering and Psychology from the University of Kentucky, and an MBA with a China focus from Bellarmine University.

 

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Gordon H. Chang

Gordon H. Chang, PhD, Professor, Author, Director of the Center for East Asian Studies at Stanford University

Dr. Gordon H. Chang is Director of the Center for East Asian Studies and a professor of American history at Stanford University. His academic interests lie in the connection between race and ethnicity in America, and American foreign relations. He has written on Asian-American history and US-East Asian interactions, and he also researches the fields of U.S. diplomacy, the U.S.-Soviet cold war, modern China and international security. Chang is the author of Friends and Enemies: The United States, China and the Soviet Union, 1948-1972 (1990), Morning Glory, Evening Shadow: Yamato Ichihashi and His Wartime Writing, 1942-1945 (1997), Asian Americans and Politics: An Exploration (2001), Asian American Art: A History, 1850-1970 (2008), and Fateful Ties: A History of America’s Preoccupation with China (2015).

 

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Scott D. Seligman

Scott Seligman, Historian, Author, Business Executive (retired) & Career “China Hand”

Scott D. Seligman is a writer, a historian, a retired corporate executive and a career “China hand.” He lived in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China for eight years and has worked as a legislative assistant to a member of the U.S. Congress, lobbied the Chinese government on behalf of American business, managed a multinational public relations agency in China, served as a spokesperson for a Fortune 50 company and taught English in Taiwan and Chinese in Washington, D.C. He is the author of The First Chinese American: The Remarkable Life of Wong Chin Foo, Three Tough Chinamen, Chinese Business Etiquette and Dealing With the Chinese and co-author of the best-selling Cultural Revolution Cookbook and Now You’re Talking Mandarin Chinese. He holds an undergraduate degree in history from Princeton University and a master’s degree from Harvard University.

 

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Madelyn Ross

Madelyn Ross, Director, Hopkins Nanjing Center Washington D.C., Associate Director, Johns Hopkins University SAIS China

Madelyn Ross joined SAIS in early 2015 as Washington Director of the Hopkins Nanjing Center and Associate Director of SAIS China. She came to SAIS from George Mason University, where she was Director of China Initiatives and the Global Consortium in the Office of Global Strategy. Ms. Ross was one of the first American Students to study in China following normalization of US-China relations. She did graduate work in Chinese at Fudan University in Shanghai in 1979-1980 and has studied and worked in Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Taipei. She holds an M.A. in International Affairs from Columbia University and a B.a. in East Asian Studies from Princeton University.

 

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Jeremy Wu

Jeremy Wu

Co-Chair, Washington D.C., Board Member, Committee of 100

Dr. Jeremy S. Wu is currently the Washington D.C. Regional Co-Chair of the Committee of 100, the Director of the Big Data Innovation Center at East China Normal University and an adjunct professor at George Washington University. Dr. Wu is retired from the federal government, last serving as Senior Adviser to the Census Bureau. Dr. Wu started his career in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he participated in the decade-long research and negotiation with China on U.S. wheat exports, leading to China lifting its wheat trade embargo in 1999. Dr. Wu earned his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in Statistics from the George Washington University.

 

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Jesse Appell

Jesse Appell

Intercultural Comedian, Performer

Jesse Appell, a graduate of Brandeis University and recipient of the Fulbright Scholarship, has studied Chinese comedy and performance in Beijing with a mission to foster cultural understanding between the two countries through laughter. His performances and commentary have been featured in TEDx, PBS, NPR, BBC, PRI, and The Economist as well as Chinese platforms such as CCTV, BTV, and CRI. In 2012, Global Times listed him as one of the “People of the Year”. He is the founder of LaughBeijing.com, a platform to further comedic exchange through videos, blogs, and stand up performances, and is the creative force behind Great LOL of China, a video series curated by the Asia Society.

 

Hank headshot

Hank Levine

Hank Levine

Senior Adviser, Albright Stonebridge Group

Henry ‘Hank’ Levine is a Senior Adviser in the Albright Stonebridge Group, drawing on decades of experience in China to assist clients in the Chinese market. Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Levine was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Asia. He served as lead negotiator for the annual U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade and advised two U.S. Secretaries of Commerce on China trade policy. Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, Mr. Levine earned a B.A. in Political Science from Bucknell University and did graduate work at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He graduated with distinction from the U.S. National War College.


ABOUT THE ORGANIZERS

 

Project Pengyou

The Project Pengyou initiative is a program of the Golden Bridges Foundation. In 2011, Golden Bridges was invited by the U.S. Department of State to build a global network of Americans with firsthand China experience. Conceived as the alumni network for the President’s 100,000 Strong Initiative, Project Pengyou is seeded by funds from the Ford Foundation and provides transformative leadership training to mobilize next-generation leaders to launch campus chapters of U.S.-China bridges-builders across the country. The initiative also maintains a dynamic online network and resource hub curating China-related jobs, events and exchange programs.

 

SAIS LogoSAIS China

A division of The Johns Hopkins University, The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, DC, is a global institution offering students a truly international perspective on today’s critical issues. SAIS China, the umbrella for all of SAIS activities involving China, is anchored by the China Studies Program in DC. The program features a superb faculty with considerable experience both within and outside academe, from work in government and multilateral organizations to NGOs and foundations. Courses range from Chinese leadership and foreign policy, economic and political reform, and human rights and law, to China’s environment, military, and growing involvement in Africa and beyond. SAIS China also encompasses The HopkinsNanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies, the preeminent and longestrunning educational collaboration between the US and the PRC. In partnership with Nanjing University, the Center’s graduate programs offer students the opportunity to learn from top Chinese and international scholars in a bilingual and bicultural environment in China. SAIS students also have the opportunity to spend a year at Tsinghua University taking courses in English toward a dual MA degree from SAIS and Tsinghua. SAIS China offers unparalleled training for future leaders and thinkers who will address China’s evolving role in the world. Learn more: https://www.sais-jhu.edu/content/china-studies#overview

 

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Committee of 100

The Committee of 100 is a leadership organization of prominent Chinese Americans who leverage their collective influence and resources to promote the full inclusion of Chinese Americans in the United States and advance U.S.-China relations. C-100 members are pioneers in their field and include: Leroy Chiao, NASA Space Commander; Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo!; Michelle Kwan, figure skating champion and Envoy for U.S. Public Diplomacy; and I.M. Pei, master architect and co-founder of C-100. Learn more: committee100.org


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