By Qinglian Gao
As an international student from China, I experience differences in American culture, ideology and values every day. For example, February 14th is Valentine’s Day in America, however in China our traditional Valentine’s Day would be on July 7th in the Lunar Calendar.
I experienced another one of these differences in one of my classes called Leadership Ethics when my professor asked us what our values are as public servants or public administrators. While my peers’ instant responses were fairness, justice and democracy, mine was that group interest is more important than individual interest and that sometimes when these two conflict, the latter should yield to the former. Similar situations in which I feel different from my American classmates happen quite often. That said my American classmates are also good friends to me. We go to bars together, we go hiking on weekends, we camp together and we have parties.
That gets me thinking that people really can be friends even with different ideologies, which reminds me of an old phrase from the Liberty Song: “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.” It quite accurately describes the relationship between China and United States right now. We all acknowledge that there are quite a few disputes between these two countries over environment, currency, military, democracy, international trade, etc. But we also acknowledge that the benefits we get from each other are worth much more than the disputes. Chinese people love Starbucks, Nike and Apple products. Americans enjoy delicious Chinese food, mysterious Chinese culture and wisdom from Chinese Saints. It is inevitable that United States and China should become allies because together, they can do more than they can if separated.
President Obama and lots of other governmental officials in United States set a very good example for our young people, which is that active conversation and communication not only on a governmental level, but also in the private sector and nonprofits field, will maximize the common interests of both countries. Following this idea of cooperation, right now I am organizing a China-US Panel at University of Washington where I study. The idea came from my best friend, and we initiated it right away. Even though China and the United States are separated by Pacific Ocean, united we stand. China and United States have so many opportunities to make this world better, but only if they unite together!