Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Ambivalence on China

Asian studies scholars recently discussed the challenges of working with Chinese students who live with conflicting views of their history and culture. On one hand, Chinese students are repeatedly taught throughout early education that China was once a great civilization but was robbed of its place in the world in the 19th century, only to now be rising again. On the other hand, Chinese students seek to understand Western (and specifically U.S.A.) culture and are encouraged to break out of previous rote and passive learning styles so that they can contribute creativity and innovation to China's 21st century renaissance.

The conflicting narratives are difficult for Chinese students to reconcile. While studying abroad some Chinese students are ardent advocates for China but others question and challenge a narrative of cultural and intellectual superiority. For professors and administrators who serve as hosts and teachers for the 300,000+ Chinese students attending their institutions, learning that Chinese students have different views and that their views could heavily impact them on return to China is critical.

Then there is the U.S.A. narrative, one largely but not completely shaped by the Trump administration - Chinese spies and interlopers stealing the genius of America's best. The U.S.A. narrative is equally debilitating and should be carefully considered among those who seeks to educate rather than indoctrinate. Parag Khanna's The Future is Asiawould be on the top of my recommended reading list for those who want to know the history of all Asia, with a particular focus on China, as well as be introduced to how Asia and the rest of the world is changing.

This is the responsibility of educators - teach the reality of the world in which students live and help them welcome, rather than fear, their future. And teaching all students, domestic and international, in ways that help them embrace the international connections that will be central to their lives is most important.

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