In December 2018, a delegation of twelve graduate students from three top American universities traveled to China with the China-United States Exchange Foundation, to explore three cities in the country: Beijing, Yinchuan, and Shanghai. For the group of first timers in China, all the locations opened their eyes to the realities of the country, but each in their own unique way. The delegation gained insight into the transformation of Beijing as the city shifted from a sort of grey austerity to an international capital with a more environmentally conscious governance. Many noted that hearing multiple ex-patriots state that the air quality was the single largest drawback of living in the Chinese capital surprised them, but also clearly expressed the unique draw that Beijing holds for many outside of China. The additional day of tours to both the Great Wall and the Forbidden City provided a taste of the vast imperial history of the city, which students deeply enjoyed, taking pictures and videos while remarking on the “once in a lifetime experience” of seeing such wonders of the world in person.
Yinchuan proved to be a strong counterweight to Beijing, providing a glimpse into provincial life in China directly after being immersed in the urban sprawl of the capital. Seeing the diversity of lifestyle among the residents of the provincial capital as well as encountering the expansive ‘Smart City’ infrastructures caused the students to re-examine how American institutions process passports, business loans and more. Seeing the applications of technology in Yinchuan had many envisioning ways that those advancements could be used in their own communities and the improvements that could be realized in the U.S. Though a short time was spent in this city, a number of students cited the meeting with the Ningxia Yanbao Charitable Foundation as one of the most impactful of the trip.
If Yinchuan pushed the students beyond their comfort zones, Shanghai brought them back home, providing the vibrant energy of a New York or Chicago as soon as the delegation arrived. Students noted that the exclusive meeting with Chengwei Capital CEO was particularly intriguing/captivating, as from the outset he pushed the group to question theo perceptions of their chosen vocation and the implications of their own beliefs and biases on the practice of journalism. This exercise in paradigm shifting was perfectly suited for Shanghai, a city bearing marks of its colonial past beside the rising structures of its national future. Many students noted their enjoyment of the conversation with Eric Li, saying they found it to be “thought provoking and interesting to see both truths and biases spoken about America and China relations” and that they appreciated Mr. Li’s “candid approach to China and U.S. and the insights he shared on journalism in general.”