University at Buffalo Confucius Institute Sponsors “China Town Hall”
Buffalo, N.Y. – On November 16, 2011, sixty-five people at the University at Buffalo (UB) joined hundreds of others across the United States to participate in a live webcast on U.S.-China relations with Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, former U.S. national security advisor during the Carter administration and one of the architects of normalization of relations between the U.S. and China in 1979. The interactive presentation by Dr. Brzezinski was the feature event of “China Town Hall,” a national day of programming on China organized annually by the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations (NCUSCR).
Following the webcast, the Buffalo audience benefited from remarks and discussion with Peter Geithner, former director of Asia Programs at the Ford Foundation and the Foundation’s first representative in China. China Town Hall activities in Buffalo were sponsored by the UB Confucius Institute, UB Asian Studies Program, and the International Institute of Buffalo.
Stephen Orlins, president of NCUSCR, moderated the webcast with Dr. Brzezinski. Mr. Orlins opened the webcast by stating that his organization established the annual China Town Hall five years ago “in the belief that U.S.-China relations would be the defining relationship of the 21st century, and that getting the relationship right is critical to peace and stability throughout the world.” Dr. Brzezinski then gave opening remarks and took questions from Mr. Orlins and from audience members throughout the United States.
In his assessment of the current state of relations between the United States and China, Dr. Brzezinski said that despite areas of tension and perceptions of rivalry, “The fact of the matter is that there is also something unique about the American-Chinese relationship . . . namely, that today, each side knows, and the leaderships certainly know . . . that we need each other.” A rupture in positive relations would be damaging to both sides and disruptive to global stability. Brzezinski further pointed out that leaders in the United States and China have the opportunity to resolve problems for our mutual benefit, and he urged leaders in both countries to work to maintain positive relations and avoid igniting nationalist passions.
In his talk on the nongovernmental sector, Peter Geithner summarized the history of the sector in China since the opening and reform period initiated by Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s. Mr. Geithner said that the nongovernmental sector in China is currently very active and plays an important role in addressing many pressing problems, from poverty alleviation to women’s rights to environmental degradation. He said that recent scandals involving misuse of funds by nonprofits in China have led to a drop in contributions to the sector. The Ford Foundation’s primary concern at the current time is therefore to help China’s nonprofit sector strengthen its transparency and accountability.
The 2011 China Town Hall coincided with the University at Buffalo’s celebration of International Education Week, with the 2011 theme of “social entrepreneurship.” Mr. Geithner was selected to speak in Buffalo because of his experience with the Ford Foundation supporting Chinese nongovernmental organizations that are energetically and creatively developing solutions to difficult challenges in China.
The National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, which sponsored the national China Town Hall events with funding from the Starr Foundation, is a nonpartisan public affairs organization devoted to building constructive and durable relationships between the United States and China. NCUSCR creates opportunities like the annual China Town Hall meetings for informed discussion and reasoned debate about issues of common interest and concern to the United States, the People’s Republic of China, and Taiwan.
The Confucius Institute at the University at Buffalo was established in early 2010 as part of the UB Asian Studies Program to promote the teaching of Chinese language and culture at UB, in local schools, and throughout the Buffalo community. A major goal of the Institute is to provide teachers and resources to schools to help them establish or expand Chinese language programs. The Buffalo Confucius Institute also organizes and sponsors major events; provides support to teachers of Chinese language in Western New York schools; organizes summer camps; and assists Western New York students and school administrators who participate in Hanban-sponsored study tours in China. Major funding for the Confucius Institute is provided by the Chinese Language Council International (also known in Chinese as Hanban) and the UB College of Arts and Sciences.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. In the fall 2011 semester, more than 1,000 students from the People’s Republic of China are enrolled at UB. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.
Bruce Acker is assistant director of Asian Studies and secretary of the Board of Directors of the Confucius Institute at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York.
By Bruce Acker