Interview: Expert calls for strengthening people-to-people connectivity between China, U.S.

By Xinhua writer Liu Yanan (Xinhua) 16:25, June 20, 2022

NEW YORK, June 19 (Xinhua) -- An important building block in China-U.S. relations should be laid between their people, a U.S. expert on China has said, calling on the two countries to reinforce people-to-people connectivity to nurture warmth and trust toward each other.

"The basis for moving forward is built upon respect and understanding of each other and that comes from a human connection," said James B. Heimowitz, president of the China Institute in America, a U.S. non-profit organization dedicated to deeper understanding of China, in a recent interview with Xinhua.

Calling the two countries "probably the two most important countries on the planet, at least for my lifetime," he said there are bound to be some disagreements between them on some issues, but "the question is how do we better manage our shared future."

"I do believe that our whole planet will benefit from more Westerners understanding China," said Heimowitz, who previously worked in business consulting and finance.

Having spent over four decades studying and working on China, Heimowitz said he can't think of a better way to do that than through cultural, historical and business exchanges.

The life of Chinese people has changed dramatically since his early time in China in the 1980s and the advances are unparalleled, the China hand said. "I don't know any other country that has transformed the way that China has transformed."

Many Americans' perception of China lags probably a decade or two behind, Heimowitz noted, expressing his worries about the anger and hatred hurled at Asians and Asian Americans in the United States.

The violence towards Asians and Asian Americans is rooted deeply in ignorance, and the solution lies in educating people to increase their comfort level and awareness, according to Heimowitz.

"I would hope that we can still nurture that warmth and feeling that we have towards other people's cultures and other people's histories. And this needs to be worked on both sides," said Heimowitz, adding that people from his institute try to help the world better understand China through its language, art, culture and business practices.

Specifically, Heimowitz noted a strong appetite in U.S. parents of different backgrounds who want their kids to learn the Chinese language, adding that U.S. adults are also interested in learning Chinese for the purposes of professional development, enriching personal interests and connectivity, or just driven by general curiosity.

Heimowitz was first exposed to Chinese culture because his grandmother took cooking lessons at China Institute in the 1960s, he recalled.

Up till now, his institute has touched nearly 1 million people through its various programs, and around 700 people signed up for a recent on-line program on the influence of Confucius in today's China, he said.

Heimowitz encourages American students to go to China and believes they will learn to appreciate and love many aspects of the Asian country.

"What I hope to achieve is to have success through building an institute that really serves as a bridge ... If we constantly only see the differences, it's gonna be a very ugly place," he said.

"The human-to-human connectivity is where advances are going to start," Heimowitz emphasized, expressing his hope that the governments of China and the United States will facilitate the creation of more person-to-person links.

Founded in 1926, the New York-based China Institute is the oldest U.S. bi-cultural organization exclusively focused on China.

(Web editor: Zhong Wenxing, Liang Jun)


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