Ways to bridge gaps
A Chinese consulate encourages Americans to learn about China's language and culture, Lia Zhu reports in San Francisco.
When he started to learn Chinese as a mechanical-engineering student at the University of California-Berkeley 18 years ago, Adam Wright had little idea that the language would connect him to his future wife or help him land his current job.
"When I studied at Berkeley, more than half my friends were Chinese, so I was immersed in Chinese culture. If I wanted to get to know them a little bit deeper, I felt it was important for me to learn Chinese," says Wright, director of manufacturing at San Francisco-based NanoCore Technologies.
"As soon as I started to learn, I discovered that I really enjoyed it," he says.
Wright studied Chinese at Yunnan Normal University from 2008 to 2009. He's now a fluent speaker. He says the skill has helped him to gain a deeper understanding of China and easily establish personal relationships with Chinese people, which is why he was hired for his current job.
His company's 3D printers can print solid metal parts, and all the manufacturing is done in China.
"It's very important to speak with a factory owner and get to know them. Because of my Chinese ability, I get better treatment," Wright says.
To help other Americans improve their Chinese-language skills, Wright has organized a network of more than 50 people, including American students who have studied in China and Chinese-language learners, to meet regularly in the San Francisco Bay Area. The group has also partnered with the Chinese consulate in San Francisco to provide a platform for Americans in the region, who are interested in Chinese language and culture.
Wang Donghua, the consul general in San Francisco, recently hosted a reception at his residence for the group to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and China.
Wang encouraged his guests, including college students and retired professors, to continue learning about the Chinese language and culture, and to contribute to the friendship between Chinese and Americans, especially amid the current trade tensions.
A guest at the reception, Thomas Gold, who was among the first US-government-funded exchange students, had returned to the US after his visit to China in 1979.Gold shared his experiences as a student in Shanghai.
He later became a sociology professor at UC Berkeley and worked as the executive director of a program for Chinese-language studies there from 2006 to 2016. He expressed his concern over the lack of knowledge of China among many Americans.
"China-US relations in 1979 gave people an optimistic expectation. I hope the two countries can go back to the optimistic level of 1979.Otherwise, the 50 years I spent on people-to-people relationships would be a waste," Gold says in Chinese.
Wright says trade tensions have affected his life. His previous company went out of business, and his current company can't start mass production because of increased tariffs.
"All our manufacturing is done in China, so to avoid the high duty, we are waiting for the tariffs to go away before we start mass production," he says. "The company is doing smaller production now, because the tax is more affordable for smaller orders. As soon as we start larger orders, the 25 percent tax would be unbelievable."
Wright says part of the reason behind current tensions is that many Americans don't really know about China, and the misconceptions they have are potentially damaging to bilateral relations.
"I will share my own experiences and my photos in China with people (in the US), or take my friends to China as a tour guide. I want to show them what the real China is," he says.