We closed the weekend with the US-China Summit, and with speeches by esteemed rocker Kaiser Kuo and basketball great Yao Ming, I have been both inspired and enlightened by the culture of China and openness of its people. Through the Summit and interactions with both American and Chinese students, I have gained a greater insight on the cultures of both, and the distinct traits of each. For example, when talking to Chinese students about family culture and dining customs, the student from a small farming village, Howard, in Northern China had a similar practice to that of Western culture, with the head of the family sitting at the head of the table, most often facing the doorway, with his closest friends and relatives surrounding him. The other student, Alex, who was from a fishing village on the coast of China, had a different custom, with the head of the family sitting with his back to the door, and surrounded on both sides by his guests, with friends and family sitting across from him.
Alex also had many more superstitions and old traditions growing up, and one that especially stood out dictated how to eat fish, a staple in any fisherman’s diet. In his village you could only eat the fish from one side, it was taboo to flip it over to reach the meat on the other side. In order to get all the meat from the fish, one had to remove all its bones after eating one side to make the other side accessible. Unfortunately Alex could offer no explanation as to why this tradition existed, other than its always been like that since he was born. It would be interesting to learn its origin, and what circumstances led to its creation.
Learning about these different customs and what it was like growing up in China gave me a unique insight and a new view on my own way of life, and I have a newfound respect for the people of China and the incredible amount of work that many of them put in to reach where they are today.
The rest of the Summit served to foster the relationship between China and the U.S., promoting greater interaction between the peoples of each nation, and greater cooperation between the two nations. While this was very inspiring and great to hear, it all seemed to be just on the surface, with no discussions ever delving too deep into any real issues or problems that have come between the U.S. and China. While this Summit is a good first step, and definitely a success in terms of promoting communication between Chinese and U.S. students, it would have been interesting to hear China’s take on global issues and its relationship with the U.S., and what it feels its responsibilities are, if any, as one of the world’s reigning global powers.