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Everything you’ve wanted to know about China but were afraid to ask

Wednesday's “Everything you’ve wanted to know about China but were afraid to ask” panel sponsored by CISCO and the GSC was well attended.

On November 28, Smith international student Shuyao Kong ’13 and Economics Professor Roger Kaufman collaborated to present “Everything you’ve wanted to know about China but were afraid to ask” — an interactive panel featuring dialogue between Smith’s Chinese and American students.

The project, which was sponsored by the Chinese Interregional Students Cultural Organization (CISCO) and the Global Study Center intended to open a door of communication between Smith’s Chinese international students and their American peers by discussing Chinese society and culture. The event was a hit and attracted an auditorium filled with Smith students, professors, and visitors of diverse backgrounds. A panel of “opinionated Chinese and curious American students” (as described by the advertisement flyer) informed the audience of three important topics; China’s One Child Policy, free speech and internet censorship, and the development of relationships between Americans and Chinese.

The panelists shared a variety of interesting facts and personal stories with their listeners. For instance, did you know that the One Child Policy was first implemented in 1978 and even though only 36% of the population is mandated to follow the law, 400 million births have been prevented? Also, you can say whatever you want online in China as long as you don’t challenge either the Chinese government or the governments of other nations as this is seen as a threat to the peace. The panel also addressed the difficulties faced by LGBT members of the Chinese community, most of whom never “come out” to their families.

Perhaps the most important part of the discussion was about the fostering of intercultural relationships on Smith campus. The panelists challenged many typical Chinese stereotypes and recognized the fact that many American stereotypes aren’t true either. The goal of the event, as explained by Elaine Zheng ’13 is to initiate relationships between students “not as Chinese to American but as people”.

Americans: “the ball is in your court,” as Professor Kaufman says. It’s important to be patient, engaged, and open-minded with not just Chinese international students but with all of your peers. You never know what relationships can form if you take the first step and start a conversation. Shuyao presented a goal for the Smith College campus; at the next yearly Moon Festival, she wants to see American and Chinese students all sitting together to celebrate the event.

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