Bringing Feelings Front and Center: My Reflections on the Student-to-Student Dialogues
Atharv Gupta | May 20, 2021
Responding To: Georgetown Students Reflect on Virtual Exchange
As someone who has only been involved in the political dimension of China studies, the dialogue between Georgetown and our Chinese counterparts were incredibly substantive and helped in introducing me to a new perspective with regard to U.S.-China relations. Due to scheduling restrictions and work, I was only able to attend the dialogue sessions involving Peking and Zhejiang universities. However, throughout those two sessions, I was surprised by the variety of opinion on issues pertaining to the full spectrum of relations between our two countries.
One of our Chinese counterparts opened the conversation by mentioning a reality which I had yet to consider: one only needs to know English and Mandarin in order to survive in operating globally in the 21st century. While it is certainly true, the lack of focus on China on my part prior to coming to Georgetown disallowed me from recognizing the true magnitude to which the U.S.-China relationship will define our world in the coming years.
To me, the dialogue sessions were not merely one-to-two hour commitments every week to discuss issues with students our age on the other side of the planet. Rather, they were a formative cultural exchange experience which served to introduce American college students to a unique outlook during a time when interactions with people in our world are becoming more challenging than ever.
The discussions covered a variety of topics, and it often seemed that the dialogue was organic and—even if there had been a script previously—everyone was engaged and committed to a level so as to warrant an intensely personal and thoughtful contribution. In the case of our dialogue with Peking University, I found that the issues we discussed quickly evolved into brainstorming strategies for better cross-cultural exposure between China and the United States. It was clear that our Chinese colleagues did not come to the meeting carrying a unified viewpoint, but instead had maintained a tapestry of opinions on topics ranging from the securitization of the Asia-Pacific to the role high-level summits play in shaping our bilateral relations.
With regard to the dialogue with Zhejiang University, we found ourselves transitioning from big-picture topics to discussing issues as specific as Xinjiang, autopilot technological development, and climate change cooperation. I was struck by the willingness by our Chinese counterparts to not only engage during the discussion, but to develop a long-term personal relationship so that we may continue our conversations outside of the dialogue. This is when I recognized the true purpose of the dialogue: it was to open up a channel for communication and exposure during a period of heightened tension between our two countries.
As I reflect on the dialogue, one thing becomes more clear to me. Despite geographic and political distances between China and the United States, there remains a significant number of opportunities for cooperation. It is in capitalizing on these potential areas of cooperation that we can make a better world which includes both of our countries, and I am thankful for the dialogue for helping me realize that.
Max Hamid (SFS'22) is a junior in the School of Foreign Service majoring in International Politics with a concentration in International Security.
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