Crystal Liu (Brookings John L. Thornton China Center)

“I feel present.”

In an Italian restaurant at 17th and Q, my high school debate coach and I were talking about Hilary’s obvious victory as the Party’s nominee, and two gentlemen sitting next to us were debating on American’s military bases at Guantanamo and Okinawa. In a bookstore cafe on Mass Ave., I was reading a book by the last British governor of Hong Kong, and the lady sitting behind me was telling her friend about her investment in China. On way from Dupont Circle to Georgetown, I was calling my Chinese friends about the prospect of Brexit, and the guy walking in front of me turned back and I realized he was making the same argument to his cohort.

Everyone here is talking and dreaming and doing about something, but it doesn’t mean that I have do everything.

First time I met with my supervisor and my senior fellow at Brookings Thornton China center, they both gave me a couple of monographs and books about China. One on Chinese legal reform, one on Chinese democratic process, and a couple more. Every time I went to panel discussion events, speaking events, or networking events, I met people and we touched on topics from American veteran benefits to Brunet’s economic diversification. It was a flood of information, and I am interested to learn everything, but I know that is not pragmatic or possible. Currently, at least this summer, I decided I wanted to become a China expert, deepening my understanding of China’s domestic political sentiments and the arguments from both China and western sides of the ongoing political issues. From here, reading is my routine necessity that I try not to make any excuse for myself. With at least one area of focus, it is much easier to find the balance and the sense of fulfillment in many occasions.

What is diversity and a global heart and the American dream?

I was in the Marriott near the Federal Circle. I was just there for a cup of coffee. Next to the escalator, there was an Asian guy who was doing the shoe-cleaning business in the corner of the fancy lobby. There were two armchairs that were positioned high above the floor. In the armchairs, there were two guys in suite. One was white, and one was black. The Asian guy was kneeling in front of them on the floor, diligently wiping their shoes. I was on the escalator, moving slowly onto the second floor. I am an Asian girl in a business dress who is pursuing her college education and more in this country.

I was on the yellow line to work. Between Pentagon and L’Enfant Plaza, the train traveled from underground to above the Potomac River. Sitting in front of me was an Indian family. The kid was only about 3 years old. He had beautiful eyelashes and spoke perfect English. He was playing with his toy car, and he would look out at the river and ask about everything about the river. His dad would explain to him patiently, in a very perfect Indian English that I didn’t really understand. It was a flashback. I was like three years old, and I was in London. My dad and mom would borrow books from the children’s section of the British Library. They read the stories in English for one time, and then they translated the story into Chinese and read another time. We had books with us on trains or wherever we went. That was how I learned English. It was British accent but more so a Chinese accent from my parents.

An environment really has the power to refine people’s mentality. One of my Vandy friends would tell me 14-year-old boys would have assault rifles in their pick-up trucks and threat their next-door black neighbor kids. I went on a taxi in DC and the driver was in Keffiyeh. I almost shut the door and turned away if not for my friend was with me. After the 15 mins drive, I became friends with him. If I didn’t meet him, I would always unconsciously associate Keffiyeh with terrorism.

What do people do to facilitate multilateral understanding?

Thursday morning 9am, Secretary of the Treasury was talking at AEI about US-China bilateral trade development. His main point was that over the years of working with Chinese officials, he had created a mutually respectful relationship with them. He admitted the ideological difference between the two countries, whatever the causes were, but he appreciated that the two sides can focus on what can be done together to improve the mutually beneficial economic development.

The same day in the evening, I was at a YPFP event. I met an old research fellow from Cato who specialized in Russia and East Asia. He was telling me people from his generation still firmly believed that Russia and China relations were as bad as that in the 1980s. He said that was why he enjoyed talking with the younger generation, because young people were more willing to argue based on evidence instead of the ingrained opinions.

The next day I met with my senior fellow again. He was editing the China Thinkers Series, and he asked me to research on a couple of Chinese scholars and write a summary of their works. Maybe he was trying to emphasizing the importance of my work, he told me his intentions behind translating those Chinese scholar works into English. He said when any new work are published in the United States, usually Chinese publishers and scholars translate them into Chinese (let’s save the censorship conversation for another time), or the Chinese scholars who have mastered English can easily have access to them. Therefore, Chinese people always experience an ideology input surplus. What he wanted to do was to use his resources to provide western world with a platform to know what is going on in the contemporary Chinese intellectual world, from the mouth of the Chinese people, to improve mutual understanding.

“Everyone here has a huge ego.”

So I was in the rooftop pool, and I was getting tanned. A guy and another guy was sitting next to me, chatting about life. Guy 1 said, “Do you have a girlfriend”. Guy 2 said, “Nah, you know, I’m 25, I’m in DC, not yet ready for a relationship.”

My whole train of thoughts was dragged back to the women’s empowerment conversation. After the whole Asian “leftover women” talk and the very confirmative notion around the world that women should shoulder the family responsibility. Can women say the same sentence “I’m 25, I’m in DC, not yet ready for a relationship” without any underlying guilt, but with confidence and independence and maturity? I saw a lot of women in DC are like the latter, but Melinda Gates said this morning, many young women dare not to challenge the social pressure that has been imposed on them. This summer, besides manifesting our own success and our ego at the Capital of the United States, can we, as the young men and women who were born with the undeserved privileges, find our passion and show the dedication to live out our responsibility?

When Meagan told us that one key principal of networking is to empower each other’s network, I thought it was also the principal of the future international politics. We have our own interests, but we lift each other up, and nothing is really a zero-sum game.


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