Exchanging Culture, Bettering Relations

Asia Society and the Aspen Institute have teamed up to launch the US-China Forum on Arts and Culture. The forum, beginning next month, will be sending notable American cultural figures to Beijing to collaborate with their Chinese counterparts. From the New York Times:

The trip, sponsored and organized by Asia Society and the Aspen Institute, will send 14 notable cultural figures from the United States to Beijing for five days of discussions and performances starting Nov. 14. Other participants include the writers Amy Tan and Michael Pollan, the dancer and producer Damian Woetzel, and the opera director Peter Sellars, among others. Chinese taking part include Ge You, one of the country’s biggest movie stars, and Bai Yansong, a prominent TV news anchor.

“Why don’t we get along?” Orville Schell, the Arthur Ross director of Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relationsand the main architect of the project, said of the United States and China. “It’s not just an issue of policy. The Chinese are formal and ritualistic in their encounters. Americans often feel thwarted, that they can’t break through the rigidity of their positions.”

Mr. Schell said he hopes that exchanges like this one will display the openness and spontaneity of American culture. There are also plans for a reciprocal visit.

[...]Shen Xin, an official with the Chinese People’s Association With Foreign Countries, the Chinese organization hosting the visit, said in an e-mail: “There exists differences and distances between the United States and China, but the challenges we face are shared. The more we learn from each other, the more opportunities we have.”

The EU is also hoping to bolster relations with China by building cultural bridges. From Euroalert.net:

The European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, Androulla Vassiliou is in Beijing to finalise plans for the launch of a “people-to-people” dialogue covering education, culture, youth and research. Commissioner Vassiliou will meet her counterpart in the Chinese administration, State Councillor Liu Yandong, to pave the way for the new framework for cooperation, which will be officially launched before the end of the year.

[...]Among the cultural programmes financed by the EU, the MEDIA Mundus programme supports international cooperation in the audiovisual sector, offering EU film-makers the chance to create networks with their Chinese counterparts. One of the aims of Commissioner Vassiliou’s visit is to encourage more Chinese films in Europe – and more European films in China.

Meanwhile, China also sees promise that cultural exchange can enhance bilateral relations as it looks to its geopolitical neighbors. Xinhua reports on a call for closer people-to-people exchanges with Japan:

State Councilor Liu Yandong on Thursday voiced a hope for more efforts by the Japan-China Friendship Association to reinforce people-to-people exchanges and bilateral cooperation.

Liu made the remark while meeting with a visiting Japanese delegation headed by Koichi Kato, chairman of the Japan-China Friendship Association and the former secretary-general of the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

As next year marks the 40th anniversary of the normalization of China-Japan diplomatic relations, China and Japan should take the opportunity to enhance cooperation in all areas and bolster bilateral ties, Liu said.

Another report from Xinhua outlines similar efforts between China and South Korea:

Visiting Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang and South Korean Parliamentary Speaker Park Hee-tae on Thursday pledged to enhance exchanges between the two countries.

During his meeting with Park, Li said bilateral ties had enjoyed comprehensive and fast development since the two countries established diplomatic relations 19 years ago. This had brought huge benefits to the two peoples and made a great contribution to safeguarding and promoting regional peace, stability and development.

Li said he hoped China and South Korea could expand inter-parliamentary exchanges, promote exchanges between political parties and youth and enhance the mutual understanding and friendship between the two peoples.