In an ongoing effort to encourage an open discussion on global issues and ideas, the Eisenhower Institute along with several academic departments at Gettysburg College hosted representatives from the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in New York in the Penn Hall Boardroom on Oct. 6.
Approximately 20 students and faculty members attended the event, which sought to explore U.S.-China relations and provide insight and perspective on political and cultural viewpoints. The Gettysburg contingent featured a range of academic disciplines including professors and students from international and global studies, political science, public policy, East Asian studies, economics, and business, organizations, and management.
EI Executive Director Tracie Potts set the stage for the discussion and introduced the Chinese delegation, which included Deputy Consul General Jin Qian, consul Jingzhi Feng, and vice consul Xiaoxi Hao. The consulate out of New York City works directly with 10 states in the U.S. including New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
“Our goal is to promote exchanges between these states and China,” said Qian. “We are here to learn and get to know the people in these states, and build a bridge between the people and governments of our two countries.”
A long-time diplomat, Qian noted the diverse group of Gettysburg personnel in attendance with several students and faculty from states within the consulate’s appointed district as well as a few from international backgrounds. He also pointed out Gettysburg College’s own important role in history with students and faculty listening firsthand to the words of Abraham Lincoln during the Gettysburg Address in 1863.
While stressing commonalities between the two countries, Qian called out the important role media and educational institutions such as Gettysburg can play. He and his colleagues came to the College to impart knowledge, and likewise receive feedback from the students and faculty.
“It’s important for the media and educational institutions to recognize the special role they play in helping each side understand each other better,” said the Deputy Consul General.
The students engaged with the Chinese diplomat on several current topics, including economics, climate change, Taiwan, and U.S. politics. In each instance, Qian was able to provide direct background and context that the students would not have been able to gain through secondhand sources.
“I think it's an amazing experience as a student,” said Mason Clark ’24, a double-major in political science and international affairs and East Asian studies minor. “I've spent a lot of time trying to learn about Chinese history, culture and language and I found that in the United States it can often be sort of warped by the fact that so much of our information comes from within. I'm glad to have that opportunity to speak with diplomats here because I don't know when else I would get the chance to do that. I'm really thankful to Gettysburg for setting that up.”
A number of students approached the diplomat about the prospect of studying abroad in China once again. The country had been closed off to study abroad students until recently. Political science and economics double-major Noah Albanese ’24 directed a question about climate change to the Chinese diplomat before gaining additional insight into the relationship between China and Taiwan. Albanese plans on studying abroad in Taiwan next semester.
“I feel like we have different perspectives, but climate change is something where we need to work together because it's a worldwide issue,” said Albanese. “I was really glad that I was able to talk with him afterwards about [Taiwan]. Now that I’ve heard their perspective, I'm really excited to go to Taiwan and hear their perspective.”
At the end of the conversation, Qian presented the students with small tokens from the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and gave Potts a large volume containing artistic representations of the history and culture of the Chinese people. The red-bound book will be added to the Asian art collection housed in Special Collections in Musselman Library.
Learn more about the Eisenhower Institute and its mission to engage diverse people and ideas in an effort to find common ground and take action.
By Corey Jewart
Photos by Abbey Frisco