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June 5, 2022

Responding To: Georgetown Student Dialogue Participants Reflect on Exchange with Fudan University

Reflection on Respective Worldviews

Ari Filler

It is such a shame that, between rising U.S.-China hostilities and the pandemic, opportunities for cultural exchange and genuine interaction between Americans and Chinese have been dwindling. I genuinely believe that such interactions are crucial to preventing the Sino-American relationship from descending into the catastrophic toxicity some analysts see it as reaching; that view of mine is heavily informed by this Student-to-Student Dialogue.

Perhaps the most uplifting element of the Dialogue was the ability to connect with people across the world as if they were potential friends I had just met in class. Our peers from Fudan University were generally friendly and outgoing, kind and personable. That was, frankly, a relief. Going into the Dialogue, I had no idea what to expect from my counterparts at Fudan. A series of conversations between Americans and Chinese—and politically-engaged Americans and Chinese at that—about U.S.-China political dynamics seemed like a mess waiting to happen. With tensions between the two countries so high, how could I count on these conversations to be friendly and respectful? To be clear, that sense of uncertainty applied to my Georgetown classmates as well, not just our counterparts at Fudan. The generally amiable nature of the Dialogue, then, was quite uplifting.

That is not to say that the conversations passed without disagreement, though. There were certainly moments where my Georgetown classmates discussed the United States in terms I didn’t quite agree with—but I’ve spent far too much time tuned in to political discussions in the United States in general, and at Georgetown in particular, to be surprised by that. What was more interesting was to hear the opinions of my new friends from Fudan. One particular dynamic stood out to me: My new friends from Fudan all seemed to preach the need for closely scrutinizing government narratives, be they from the U.S. government or the CCP. At first, I found that quite heartening, as it’s a sentiment I certainly agree with wholeheartedly. I must admit, though, that there were moments I found myself a bit disillusioned. My friends from Fudan espoused some viewpoints—including that blame for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine lies primarily with the United States and NATO leaders who drove NATO expansion—which the CCP has promoted and with which I strongly disagree. Perhaps my friends at Fudan simply held opinions I disagree with for reasons entirely unrelated to the constrained information environment fostered in China by the CCP. But it also strikes me that, given the CCP’s ability to censor information and perspectives it finds loathsome while promoting facts and narratives it deems preferable, the CCP has made it all too easy for Chinese people to buy into many elements of the CCP worldview while nevertheless thinking of themselves as highly critical of government narratives so long as they question a government claim here or there. To be clear, I pin blame for that phenomenon—assuming that I’m correct in diagnosing it—on the CCP regime that represses and/or punishes even rather limited forms of speech it finds unsavory, not on the everyday people who are no less products of their cultures and political environments than I am of mine.

Ari Filler (SFS’23) is a junior in the School of Foreign Service majoring in international politics and minoring in both Chinese and economics.

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