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China Reflections

I began this final blog as I prepared to fly to Shanghai (to visit the World Expo) and then home to Tennessee. For five months I’ve taught Chinese undergraduate and graduate students, delivered Fulbright Guest Lectures at eight campuses throughout China and enjoyed countless informal discussions about China today and its future. Today China rides an economic tiger, which bounds forward with impressive double-digit economic growth (11.9% 1st quarter

Religion in China

Before I left for China, I was informed that few Christian churches exist in China, with missionary activity banned. The main Christian churches are large Catholic cathedrals built in “concession areas” that European powers seized from weak imperial China in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The exploitation of China after the Opium Wars and the national humiliation when Western governments imposed unequal treaties created a Chinese view that

Vietnam: Past Meets Present

My first impression of Saigon (now called Ho Chi Minh City), after flying there from Siem Reap, Cambodia, was of a bustling city with lots and lots of motorbikes. Saigon has a population of 10 million, with 7 million registered motorbikes! At stoplights in the city, the motorbikes fill the right lanes, sometimes 20 bikes across and about 30 bikes deep, packed together waiting for a traffic light to

Cambodia: Noble and Brutal Past

Some years ago I heard about the intriguing UNESCO Heritage site of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat lost temples. I flew to the capital of Phnom Penh from Hong Kong to view the famous ruins before I returned home. Although it was the monsoon season, I was fortunate to encounter sunny days, making a great background for interesting pictures of life in Cambodia today—and 800 years ago. Cambodia is a developing

Hong Kong Reflections

It has been over forty years since I visited Hong Kong, then as a naval officer on the destroyer USS Braine. At that time there was the popular saying aboard the ship that you “went broke saving money” in Hong Kong. The low prices for tailored clothing, stereos, cameras, jade and ceramics in this tax-free city encouraged you to spend heavily to take advantage of the bargains. That is

Tibet: Ceiling of the World

My daughter Christy, who visited me for two weeks, and I rode the 25-hour overnight train from Xining, China, to Lhasa, Tibet. The slow train ride to Lhasa (not a “bullet” speedster) offered a spectacular view of the landscape along the route—snow-tipped mountains, peasants toiling in fields and herds of sheep and yak grazing on the arid land. I didn’t recognize the yaks at first, which look like small

A Tragic Memorial

Over the three-day Dragon Boat Festival national holiday (June 14-16), one of my students took me to visit his hometown in Sichuan Province. We then drove to the nearby city of Hanwang, struck hard by the disastrous 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Hanwang is located about 50 miles northwest of Chengdu, the provincial capital where I’ve been teaching. The earthquake killed about 70,000 people in this western province of China, with

Pressures Facing Chinese Students

All Chinese high school students hoping to attend college next fall take the National College Entrance Exams (gao kao) on June 7, 8 and 9. The first day assesses their knowledge of Chinese, the next day mathematics and the third day English (written, not oral), plus a second subject of their choice—such as Chemistry, Physics, History and Politics. The Ministry of Education estimates 9.57 million students will take the

China’s One-Child Policy

In l979, as many Americans know, China launched a one-child policy to slow the growth of its huge population in order to foster economic development. In the early years, rural officials sometimes ruthlessly enforced the new policy. The traditional Chinese preference for male children—to continue the family line and provide for their parents in later years—led to sex-selective abortions and placing female children up for adoption. Many Americans, including

China-US Conference

My invited participation to a two-day international conference on “China-US Relations under the Obama Administration,” held May 7-8 at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou (Canton), was one of the most rewarding experiences in my academic career. The informed, frank and often critical sharing of views by Chinese and American scholars was in the finest tradition of the academy. The first days proceedings were in English and the second day

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