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Talking Points, December 10 - 24, 2008

The USC U.S.-China Institute's weekly newsletter.
December 11, 2008
USC U.S.-China Institute Weekly Newsletter
Talking Points
December 10 - 24, 2008

Next week we mark the 30th anniversary of the joint communiqué announcing that the U.S. and China would establish formal diplomatic relations on January 1, 1979. At that time, our ties were relatively few and of a small scale. Now thousands of people cross the Pacific for work, study, or travel every day. (Click here for statistics on American travel to China and here for Chinese travel to the U.S.) We have more than 1,000 students from China studying at USC and each year send hundreds of our students to China.

Our economies have become completely intertwined. Two-way trade has risen from US $2 billion in 1978 to $387 billion in 2007. As Zhang Yun, China’s top diplomat in Los Angeles, put it at a reception Wednesday, “made in China” is a part of American life and American soft drinks can be found on dining tables throughout urban China. Staggering sums have been invested by companies on both sides. In many instances the returns are making firms profitable (e.g., Yum Brands, owners of KFC and Pizza Hut), but in some the results have been dismal (e.g., Chinese investments in Blackstone and Morgan Stanley).

Americans and Chinese both eagerly bought tickets to see the Chinese film “Hero” and Ang Lee’s multinational production “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” is the all-time foreign language box office champ in the U.S. “Lost” is one of the American shows with a large and dedicated fan base in China. American and Chinese audiences both turned out in large numbers to see “Kung Fu Panda” this past summer. Video games are an even bigger business than films and in World of Warcraft and other online games players from the both countries are cooperating or battling right now. Though good returns for McDonald’s in China are keeping the company in the black, it’s worth noting that the American appetite for the many varieties of Chinese food keeps more than 40,000 Chinese restaurants in the U.S. going.

Of course, cultural exchanges extend far beyond movies, television, video games, and food. Here in Los Angeles, museums have attracted large crowds for recent and current exhibitions of 2,200 year old terracotta warriors and objects related to Confucian practices. American art has proved popular in China, including the “Out West: The Great American Landscape” exhibition that toured several cities last year.

Many Chinese don’t need exhibition captions to be translated into English. Hundreds of millions of Chinese students are studying English. We in America lag far behind in taking up Chinese, but interest in the language is growing exponentially. When the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages surveyed high schools in 2000, “Chinese was not a blip on the radar screen.” But by 2004, the College Board found 2,400 high schools were interested not just in teaching Chinese, but in offering AP-level instruction. In October, the Los Angeles Unified School District’s board approved an initiative to dramatically expand Chinese language instruction beyond the 15 district schools where it is currently taught.

The breadth and vitality of such exchanges could not have been easily imagined back in 1971-72, when ping pong diplomacy amidst Cold War maneuvering set the U.S. and China on the road to the 1978 agreement to establish diplomatic relations. Strategic concerns remain important to the relationship. We have found ways to cooperate in thwarting the proliferation of nuclear weapons and we are working together to find ways to address more recently recognized threats such as global warming.

Of course, important differences remain. Finding productive ways to discuss each other’s priorities and concerns on such subjects is essential. Last week, for instance, the USC U.S.-China Institute hosted a session on Tibet where Sita, an ethnic Tibetan and one of the Chinese government’s top officials, articulated the government’s plans for Tibet and responded to questions about a variety of topics including the recently failed talks with the Dalai Lama’s representatives. The exchange did not erase differing views on the situation in Tibet, but it certainly helped those attending understand the emphasis Beijing is putting on Tibet and why it went so far as to cancel a summit meeting with the European Union to protest a meeting between French President Nicholas Sarkozy and the Dalai Lama.

USCI was created to foster improved understanding of the multithreaded and evolving U.S.-China relationship. We invite you to join us in noting next week’s anniversary, in celebrating the achievements made since diplomatic relations were established, and in continuing to explore the nature and importance of U.S.-China ties.


As we near the end of the year, there are fewer conferences and presentations to announce. But film fans won’t want to miss this weekend’s Taiwan Film Festival. Among the films to be screened at UCLA is the hugely popular Cape No. 7. Among current exhibitions is the Asia Society’s “Art and China’s Revolution,” now on display in New York. Details are below and in the calendar section of our website.

As always we love it when you pass Talking Points on to friends and colleagues. We welcome your feedback.

Best wishes,
The USC U.S.-China Institute

12/10/2008 - 01/04/2009: Divine Performing Arts: Chinese New Year Spetacular
The Pasadena Civic
300 East Green St., Pasadena, CA 91101
Divine Performing Arts' Chinese New Year Spectacular 2009 is a grand live stage production inspired by the rich spirit of traditional Chinese culture.  

12/11/2008 - 12/12/2008: Chinese Buddhism: the Past, the Present, and the Future
University of the West
1409 N. Walnut Grove Avenue, Rosemead, CA 91770
(626)571-8811 ext.158
Six scholars will be presenting their papers on Chinese Buddhism at an annual conference sponsored by the Institute of Buddhist Studies at the University of the West. 
12/12/2008 - 12/14/2008: The Los Angeles Taiwanese Film Festival, 2008
UCLA James Bridges Theater
1409 Melnitz Hall, UCLA Campus
235 Charles E. Young Dr. East Westwood, Westwood, CA 90024
The Taiwan Film Festival features nine eclectic documentaries with a wide array of themes and topics.

North America: 

12/12/2008: Human Rights and Rule of Law in China: Where Are We Now and Where Do We Go From Here?
U.S. Capital-Room HC-6, Washington DC
This roundtable discussion will be led by a panel of experts and former Bush Administration officials exploring a range of perspectives on the human rights situation in China today.


09/10/2008 - 01/04/2009: Mahjong: Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg Collection
2626 Bancroft Way, UC Berkeley campus
Cost $5- 12     General Admission
141 works by 96 artists, drawn from one of the world’s most important and comprehensive collections of contemporary Chinese art. 
09/17/2008 - 01/11/2009: Confucius: Shaping Values Through Art
Pacific Asia Museum
Address: 46 North Los Robles Avenue, Pasadena , CA 91101
Cost: $7 for adults, $5 for students/seniors
Phone: (626) 449-2742 
Confucius: Shaping Values Through Art explores how Confucian values have permeated East Asian culture. It utilizes the Museum’s own collection as a case study.  
09/05/2008 - 01/11/2009: Art and China's Revolution
Asia Society and Museum
725 Park Avenue (at 70th Street), New York City
General admission is $10, seniors $7, students $5 and free for members and persons under 16
Asia Society Presents First Comprehensive Exhibition Devoted to Revolutionary Chinese Art from the 1950s Through 1970s. 
10/18/2008 - 01/11/2009: China Design Now
Cincinnati Art Museum
953 Eden Park Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
This exhibition captures an extraordinary moment as China opens up to global influences and responds to the hopes and dreams of its new urban middle class. 
08/23/2008 - 02/22/2009: Guests of the Hills: Travelers and Recluses in Chinese Landscape Painting
Freer Gallery of Art/ Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Smithsonian Institution P.O. Box 37012, MRC 707, Washington DC 20013-7012
Phone: 202.633.1000
Freer Gallery of Art presents an exhibition on the depictions of recluses and recreational travelers in Chinese landscape painting.
11/03/2008 - 11/03/2009: Ancient Arts of China: A 5000 Year Legacy
Bowers Museum
2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana, California 92706
Bowers Museum presents a collection that portrays the evolution of Chinese technology, art and culture.  
11/14/2008 - 11/14/2009: Chinese Art: A Seattle Perspective
Seatle Asian Art Museum
Address: 1400 East Prospect Street , Volunteer Park , Seattle, WA 98112–3303
Phone: 206.654.3100
The Seattle Asian Art Museum presents an opportunity to see a collection with representative works from each dynastic period.
11/15/2008 - 11/15/2009: Masters of Adornment: The Miao People of China
Bowers Museum
2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana, California 92706
The Bowers Museum presents a collection of exquisite textiles and silver jewelry that highlights the beauty and wealth of the Miao peoples of southwest China.

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USC U.S. – China Institute
3535 S. Figueroa St.
FIG 202
Los Angeles, CA 90089-1262
Tel: 213-821-4382
Fax: 213-821-2382
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