Thanks to my good friend Haisong. He was so kind to invite me to the lunch with the distinguished guest from the Public Intellectuals Program of the The National Committee on United States-China Relations. It is wonderful time for me: interesting and inspirational.
I just said “we need a bridge” one week ago. Today, I saw one of the bridges. It is an important one, if not the most important one.
To be honest, I have no idea about the National Committee on United States-China Relations (NCUCR) before the meeting. How embarrassed I am when I realized the role of the organization after I did some research tonight.
You have some idea about how limited my knowledge about history and politics. I should not be active in the field of sino-American relations at all. If I hadn’t created the little website on Pudong Airport in English in the year 2000, I wouldn’t have started my blog in 2002 in English, and then I wouldn’t have been interested in the United States-China Relations as much as I do today. When I reviewed the old articles, I saw the shift of my focus from daily life, to the city of Shanghai, and recently to the gap between the two important countries in the world. My effort is limited, but the NCUSCR is a much bigger effort.
It was my greatest honor to meet everyone at the table. I was impressed to see how well every one’s Chinese is – we can discuss in Chinese. How funny it was when the waiter came in and found everyone talked with him in English. Obviously the waiter didn’t know what was going on. It is the first time in my life with so many foreigners who can speak really good Chinese.
I am also very happy to see Ms. Jan Carol Berris in particular. She is the VP of NCUSCR. She was the co-organizer of the historical China Ping-Pong team visit to the States in 1972. The event was the starting point of the 20+ years of Sino-American relationship.
The Importance of Personal Connections
I am a strong believer of personal connections. Nothing can replace it. We hear many news, locations, persons and organizations every day. However, most of them do not mean anything. “What does it mean for me if one delegate visits this city?”
It makes a big difference if you have the opportunity to experience a place, or to meet something in person. For example, I was very worried when I heard the subway fire in New York about one year ago. It was meaningless news for me before, but after I stayed in New York for about one month and take the D, and E lines every day, the news matters a lot for me.
It is the same for visitors to Shanghai. After they visited Shanghai, what I reported here from Shanghai becomes interesting for them, just because they have the personal connection with the city.
It is the same for me during the lunch. I never feel I am as close to the Sino-American history as today.
I heard about the Young Leaders Forum from Bo Shao and today from Haisong again. Both of them are members of the committee. Every year, the program choose 14 young (under 40) professionals from China and 14 from American and hold seminars in U.S. and China alternatively. Today’s group comes from the other program, Public Intellectuals Program. It offers opportunities of new generations of China specialist to talk with key persons in China.
One question I often asked was, “Does it really make any impact for spending money and effort on just several people?” I tend to think any program need to cover at least 1,000 people to be significant. In Shanghai, for example, a program reaching out to 10,000 people even didn’t make too much impact… It seems I was using the point of view of a marketing manager.
Recently, I found I was wrong. If a program can impact even one person, it makes difference. It is not quantitatively significant, but qualitatively significant. It made positive impact to participants, and they can make impact for people around them. I feel the personal connection with the bigger scope of Sino-American relationship, so does my readers.
This idea made me even more confident about my Coffee Bean program. 7 persons are a small group, but when we do it right, it is helping the country to get stronger. They are the future leaders of China.
The event inspired me a lot because I realized there are many people in American trying to use some “systematic” ways to understand China. In China, I know there must be a lot of similar efforts, but it is never enough. We should spend more time to understand American and build “personal connections”, instead of just reading newspaper, surfing on flaming BBS, or just watching movies. Sometimes, it is not understand. It is misleading.