Aislin Salassi | June 6, 2022
Embracing Differences and Moving Forward Together
It was my great honor to participate in the Georgetown University Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues’ Student-to-Student Dialogue. Personally, I have a great interest in U.S.-China relations in the past, present, and future, and think that discussions like this allow both sides to realize some of the common challenges we face, as well as how both countries can take up leadership roles in creating a better world. Coming out of the discussions, I was able to acquire a better understanding of this relationship, and strengthen my belief that we can indeed work together.
As I reflect on my experience in our discussions, one particular topic really stands out to me. I actually initiated the discussion after just finishing watching a Chinese talk show called “shisao yao”, during which a history professor from Fudan brought up an interesting question that got me thinking: is it a zero-sum game between retaining one’s cultural uniqueness and embracing certain global values that all civilizations share? Is it possible that we embrace elements that are uniquely Chinese (for example, “socialism with Chinese characteristics”), while also incorporating into the global order without rejecting it? We then had a very interesting debate on the definition of globalization: is “globalization” simply a term synonymous to “westernization”? Is globalization a word coined by the West, so that it is more justified to export things like democratic values, Hollywood movies, NBA, etc.?
After both sides talked to one another, we came out of the discussions with an answer to the professor’s question: no, it is not—and shouldn’t be—a zero-sum game. And in fact, the answer to this question was closely related to the value of our people-to-people dialogue as a whole. Through these dialogues, as we listened to each side with open-mindedness, and we realized, despite our cultural differences, that there are a lot of similarities between us. The most fundamental similarity between people across different cultures, ideologies, and religious beliefs is that we all want the betterment of our humanity, and to make progress for our world to become a better place. Thus, dialogues like this are important first steps to mutual understanding, and knowing each other well, so we can understand that we are really all the same, and that we can indeed work together like a family towards our common goal.
This realization of the possibility for integration and collaboration is a really comforting one, especially during a turbulent and divisive time like today, where geopolitical situations and multilateral relationships are becoming increasingly complicated. We wouldn’t have reached such a conclusion without the open-mindedness and inspirational insights from our peers on both the Georgetown and Fudan side, so I really want to thank everybody involved for making our discussions fruitful.
Emily Li (SFS'22) is a senior in the Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service, majoring in international political economy and minoring in philosophy.
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