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People-to-people exchange important to Sino-U.S. ties: expert

01-21-2011 08:31 BJT

BEIJING, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- For returned overseas Chinese student Li Zhen, the United States was different from what he had expected in 2006 when he graduated from a high school in China's southwest Chongqing municipality and left for Webster University.

Despite knowing that his university, located in the suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, would be definitely free from the hustle and bustle of a metropolis like New York City, he had prepared for a busy lifestyle as this would be typical from what he had observed in Hollywood blockbusters, for average people living in the industrial country.

His stereotyped thinking about the U.S. started to change soon after he settled down at his new college.

After four years of study and boarding in the United States, he said he now realized not every American longed for a city life in New York or Los Angeles, as some of his friends would rather live in the country to enjoy a life that was not described in the movies he had watched.

"I now found some of my old thinking about the United States was so stereotyped. A close look at the society by myself, and talking with local people, helps me to better understand the country and my impression about the United Stated changed," he said.

For 24-year-old American Johathan Ray, communication, too, helped him get a bigger picture of China.

Ray studies Chinese in China's southern city of Nanjing and volunteered to become an oral English teacher in a primary school for migrant workers' children.

Given the fact that China has now become the world's second largest economy, Ray could hardly believe that only 20 percent of his students' parents are willing to pay a monthly fee of 10 yuan (about 1.52 U.S. dollars) to initiate a school program which seeks to facilitate teacher-student communication via cell phone text messages.

"Needless to say, communication bridges understanding between people from different cultural background. That's why both Chinese and Americans are encouraged to increase exchanges and visits," according to Bei Wenli, vice dean of the School of Advanced International and Area Studies in East China Normal University.

"People believe their own eyes and ears, and what they have observed will help change stereotyped thinking. People-to-people or non-governmental exchanges are sometimes more effective than publicity programs," he said.

Standing in other people's shoes and making close observations is probably what we need to do in boosting Sino-U.S. ties, he said, adding that people-to-people communication will continue to play an important role in advancing Sino-U.S. ties, as it has been in the last 40 years.

In retrospect, it was the historic "ping-pong diplomacy" that melted the ice between the two nations, he said, noting now that people-to-people exchanges between the two countries have been expanded to cover more areas and in various forms.

In 2010,the 6,000-square-meter U.S. Pavilion at Shanghai Expo park was one of the most popular and received more than 7.2 million Chinese visitors during the six-month event.

In addition to hosting 150 cultural and entertainment events, the U.S. pavilion staff also reached out to Chinese communities in Shanghai. The intensive interaction during the event has highlighted the significance of people-to-people exchanges in boosting understanding between the two nations.

Pavilion president and CEO Martin Alintuck said the event played a tremendous role in promoting cultural exchanges between the two countries.

Experts have also credited the momentum of increasing understanding between the two countries to the full-fledged development and cooperation in the educational sector. ' On Dec. 26, 1978 China sent 52 scholars to the United Students. Now the number of Chinese students studying in the United States has exceeded 120,000, while more than 20,000 Americans are pursuing studies in China.

It is the common aspiration for both Chinese and American people to strengthen their interactions, promote mutual-trust, show respect for each other and eye long-term interests, said Professor Zhu Yingquan, dean of the School of International Studies under Nanjing University.

The United States and China have carried out cooperation in politics, economy and culture, said David Lampton, Director of China Studies, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

With extensive cooperation and exchanges, the two countries will be able to tackle more issues in the future, he said.

Editor:Yang Jie |Source: Xinhua

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