By Austyn Askman
Jun 6, 2017
Today we spent some time at the Shanghai American Center. We were able to hear a presentation that was about the relations of China to many other cities and world events. Along with the world events, we were able to hear how those events impacted China and the politics and government within it.
Our conversation started with our presenter telling us that everything he says is completely off the record. None of the things he was saying was publicly disclosed, but more of his personal opinions and what he chose to talk about regarding each individual topic. He started by working as a consul in Jerusalem and then eventually moving to Bangkok. After traveling around with similar style of jobs, he ended up in Shanghai working at the Shanghai American Center. He has a background in management information systems and majored in that during his years in college. He worked in the political-economic section and did a two year intensive training program including Chinese. Within this time, he learned many skills, routines, and ideas that gave him the knowledge to move forward in his career. He explained that he knows 5 languages; he first learned English then learned more based upon the need. He told us that something that pushed him to continue working in the field is his love for languages. He has always had a passion for different cultures and languages and appreciated them to the extent that he wanted to continue his education in the language area.
We were taught the different sections that one could work in based upon the area and the specific needs. One area is the political and economic section. This section focuses on the political and economic happens of the area as well as other areas and look for ways to connect the two. Another section is public affairs. This primarily focuses on the media. This covers press conferences, Facebook, twitter, and other forms of social media, as well as getting out the information that the government feels needs to be shared. The consular works with relationships between businesses. Individually, every section acts as a business and the different locations act as businesses as well. This section focuses on bringing those sections together and creating and maintain the good relationships between them. During our time in China, we have learned that relationships mean everything. If there is no relationship, it is hard to get things when they are needed. The consular has the job to keep all of those in place and to keep things going well so they are able to support each other and ask favors when needed.
He also talked a lot about bilateral relationships and why they are so important. He feels that with China, there should always be a bilateral relationship. By that he means that it’s a give and take. When it comes to trade, paths, and resources, when one country is able to use a trade route to get to China, China should be able to use that route to ship their own goods. Things should be equal and a part of having a good relationship is making sure things are equal and ensuring that countries are happy with what they are giving and receiving. Along with that, when other countries impose new policies that involve China, China has the ability to impose new policies that affect the country that affects them in the same format. The goal entirely between countries is to resolve problems peacefully. Although different countries have issues with each other, a goal between them is to solve their issues without having to bring in military equipment or having to fight each other at all.
Within China, there have been huge developments over the last 30 years. The country as a whole has gone through endless development to get it where it is today. Many resources have been allocated to ensure that areas throughout China are incredibly developed. This is very visible throughout many coastal cities. The issue with this lies in the facts that the wealth is not distributed very well. A few select cities receive the benefits of all of the money and government resources while parts of the country suffer with starvation and poverty. This brings up issues with the one party political system. There is only one way within the country and people do not have the option to vote to change anything. Overall, all the decisions that are made about the distribution of wealth and resources are all made by the government and no one else.
A big issue we learned about that goes along with the wealth is the issues of money and real estate. For the most part, everything is government owned. It makes things incredible hard when people want to own their own pieces of land or houses. A typical small apartment can cost millions of dollars in big cities like Shanghai, Beijing or Shenzhen, etc. That means the average apartment costs 50x what the average person makes. Based upon this, it seems nearly impossible for anyone to own their own home and most of their money goes to renting property for a family to live in. A few years ago, this was recognized as a huge problem. The government tried to relax the rules that they were imposing hoping that people would eventually begin to be able to purchase property. This lead to a bubble which turned out to be an economic disaster.
A big issue that the government is beginning to see is the effects that the one child policy will be having on the country as a whole. With the need for so many jobs to fill, there will be less people entering the work force while still so many are exiting. Since each family was only allowed one child, there are not enough people rising to the positions that are either currently needed or will be needed in the future. Since the one child policy was seen as so necessary for so long, it became a cultural norm. Now, the policy has relaxed to 2 children. Even with that, the idea that a family is perfect when composed of a mother, a father, and their one child seems to linger and many people wonder why they would wanted to have more than one child. This will continue the issue of what to do with all the excess jobs and the lack of people to fill them.
Overall, it was very interesting to be able to hear his views on all of the issues we were curious about. He really took the time to ask us what we wanted to hear and was very open to giving us his opinions of how those issues are playing out in China and how it might end up effecting us back in America.