WHAT IT MEANS TO BE OPEN TO THE WORLD
As a student interested in U.S. China relations since my days at Brown University after I emigrated from Shanghai, I cannot claim I am an expert comparable to James Fallows’ depth of experience. But as a bicultural person living in America for over 50 years and raising three multicultural children, the PBS news story about Obama’s visit to China reminded me two pieces of Chinese wisdom. Laotze advised: the more powerful, the more one needs humility. And, Confucius once said that insensitive lecturing is more a sin than a virtue. Obama is in a position to advise China about openness. China, as a nation, judging by the success of three decades of reform and opening up, fully appreciates that a progressive nation must be open to the outside. Most of all, openness needs to be followed by humility and the will to learn. The rise of China as a nation fully demonstrates the Chinese people’s willingness to learn from the outside. Nevertheless, we must guard against free public advice, less we trample on others’ dignity.
As a young country, America is well endowed in resources and financial successes. We are lucky to have attracted so many foreign talents who contributed to building a prosperous society. But, are we willing to learn from these foreign cultures or their success experiences, instead of making excuses? Especially from Eastern cultures that may hold a drastically different philosophy and pursue different development paths? What happens if a reverse “brain drain” takes place when our economy is in relative decline during a financial crisis? (For example, see the November 17, 2009 Time magazine article “Obama's Half Brother Mark Obama Ndesandjo Speaks Up in China.”)