First off, you’ll notice that this blog post doesn’t have as many pictures as the others – our cell phones were confiscated upon entry. The consulate took all of our security very seriously – one of my classmates even had to leave behind her leftover pizza!
Our visit to the US Consulate on May 4th (an important day in Chinese history) consisted of brief remarks by the Section Chief and staffers from the Politics and Economics Bureau. After that, we went to a question and answer session, which ended abruptly as they were called away to business. I appreciated the depth and frankness of their answers, and it was apparent they enjoyed the questions and having us as guests.
The Consulate has multiple roles and responsibilities – it reports on events and circumstances in China to the United States government, and it advocates for and supports American policy and American citizens abroad. As such, it was very interesting to see events on the ground, not just from a textbook’s perspective.
For example: A common misconception of the Chinese government is that it is a single homogeneous entity. This is not at all true. Different provincial, urban, and prefectural governments have different interests. When we went to a lecture by the Party Secretary of Shanghai Jiaotong University later that week, he brought up the same issues – the differences between the ‘center’ and the provinces in terms of decision-making, and the questions of responsibility and results when there are differences of opinion.
This was only one of the topics we discussed. Our conversation also touched upon business development, information technology, and other pressing issues. I came away from this talk understanding the unique position of Chinese-American relations, and how similar their interests and needs are on many positions. Much hay has been made about how the two countries must always be adversaries, but there are some things which are similar, and how they can work towards a common goal.
Adrian, MPP/MA 2017