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American Exceptionalism is Not The Only Model

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An important and eye-opening study was published last week whose findings may come as a hard to believe shock to some. The unprecedented report, “Understanding CCP Resilience: Surveying Chinese Public Opinion Through Time”, examined the relationship between Chinese citizens and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from 2003 to 2016.

The study found a near-universal rise in average satisfaction toward all four levels of the Chinese government – township, county, province, and central levels – in this 13-year period based on more than 31,000 interviews in both urban and rural areas.

For example, in 2016, the last year the survey was conducted, 93.1 percent of respondents were either “relatively satisfied” or “highly satisfied” with the highest-level central government’s performance, representing a rise of 7 percentage points from 2003. In the same period, township governments, the lowest level of government examined, received the approval of 44 percent of respondents in 2003, but the number jumped to 70 percent in 2016, a 26-point rise.

By way of contrast, Americans’ satisfaction with the comparable U.S. federal government ranged from 39 percent in 2003 to 37 percent in 2016, according to Gallup polls.

Too good to be true? Communist propaganda? Fake news? Well, consider the source. In this case, the source is the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, and the report’s lead author is its China Programs Director, Professor Edward Cunningham.

The study has the distinction of being the longest academic study of Chinese public opinion ever conducted by a research institution based outside China. According to Harvard, it used “the most objective and quantitative methods” currently available.

So, why do President Trump and his aides continually try to demonize China and encircle it politically and economically when Chinese citizens’ satisfaction levels vastly eclipse those of Americans? That’s even well before Trump’s incompetent handling of the COVID-19 crisis?

People cross the street in Huntington Beach, California, U.S., July 19. /VCG

Can’t they concede that American Exceptionalism is not the only model and that the Chinese have crafted a different viable system, albeit with an ideology they don’t like; a system that works well enough to have lifted more than 800 million people out of poverty and this year, with all China and the world have been through, domestically eliminated basic poverty to guarantee all Chinese citizens a moderately prosperous society in all respects?

Why do they even have to consider a policy that would exclude all CCP members and their families from entering the U.S. (or booting out ones already there), about a tenth of China’s population? If and when the U.S. ever gets over Trump’s mishandling of the medical emergency and the tens of thousands of deaths and permanent disabilities he has caused, this potential exclusion does not sound like either a way to win friends and influence people or a great idea to help jumpstart the American economy’s comatose tourism industry.

And what about the now reversed proffered policy to expel or exclude foreign students, of which Chinese students are by far number one, from American universities in order to force live classes on potentially dead students, depriving the universities of essential funding and depriving the country of potential talent? It makes no sense unless there’s a pathological jealously or envy of China’s accomplishments. After reading Mary Trump’s book “Too Much and Never Enough” about Trump and his dysfunctional family, this is a distinct possibility.

As the strongest country in the world, America has to find a way to accommodate the second-largest economy. Bilateral relations will still be strained, but they will be conducted seriously, professionally, and competently. Institutionalized bilateral dialogues begun in the Bush years but dropped by Trump on key issues like trade, defense, cyber, military-to-military relations will likely resume. Talking is certainly superior to fighting.

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A Community With a Shared Future for Humankind in Light of U.S.-China Tensions

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I’m Robert Lawrence Kuhn and here’s what I’m watching: China’s vision of a Community of a Shared Future for Humankind in light of U.S.- China tensions. China’s vision is unambiguously good. Who could deny the benefits, to all human beings, of seeing all human beings as a community, and envisioning a shared future together? But rationality is not the problem here. The problem, in certain quarters, is that the phrase has come to represent China — and interpreted, by some, as symbolizing China seeking to become a dominant power, perhaps the dominant power in the world, and to impose its ways of governance and control on others. Is the problem irresolvable?

Consider the recent 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, and the “Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War.” Such reflection is especially relevant today because, sadly, the U.S. and China, the world’s two largest economies, have moved from collaborators to competitors, with some on each side now calling the U.S. and China adversaries, a descent into a hostile, perilous, zero-sum game.

What is worth remembering about U.S.- China cooperation in fighting Japanese aggression in World War II is that, at the time, the interests of the U.S. and China differed, yet they still cooperated, united by a common foe. To China, the battle on Chinese soil was existential: their country invaded, partially occupied, and suffering unspeakable horrors. To the U.S., the battle on Chinese soil was diverting Japanese forces and resources, reducing Japan’s capacity to wage war against America and American interests throughout the Pacific theater.

What’s the solution to U.S.- China conflict today? If common foes are what we need, the U.S. and China have common foes in abundance: they are not marching soldiers, but they are every bit as dangerous and deadly: pandemics, climate change, world poverty, world inequalities, terrorism, organized crime, wars and threats of war in numerous locations. In this context, a community of a shared future for humanity can thrive.

Consider the impact of world poverty alleviation. China’s experience in bringing some 850 million people out of extreme poverty is a vital resource for poorer countries. While different conditions and cultures preclude wholesale transfer, China’s targeted poverty alleviation success provides a model and a benchmark: standardized criteria, methods, measures, systems, and on-the-ground organization with five levels of local government.

While appreciating lessons to be learned from history, I also believe, to take a contrarian position, that history lessons have limited value today. Our epoch is unique. For multiple reasons, especially instant global communication, our geopolitical conditions are sui generis – unique, never before happened – which should give us pause to reflect before we react. The burden is on us, especially U.S. and Chinese leadership, to find the right road on which both great countries and peoples can walk in peace and harmony, with honesty, dignity and mutual respect. For a community of a shared future to truly work for all humanity, U.S.- China cooperation is a necessary condition.

I’m keeping watch. I’m Robert Lawrence Kuhn.

Scriptwriter: Robert Lawrence Kuhn

Cameraman: Morgan Compagnon

Video editor: Liu Yuqing

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Peng Liyuan Sends Congratulatory Message to UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education

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China’s First Lady Peng Liyuan, also United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) special envoy for the advancement of girls’ and women’s education, sent a congratulatory message to the award of UNESCO via a video on October 12.

In her message, Peng expressed congratulations to prize-winners from Sri Lanka and Kenya. In 2015, China established the Girls’ and Women’s Education Award with UNESCO, and Peng mentioned that there are millions of people who devote their life for the education of girls and women in China.

Zhang Guimei is one of them. She is a female teacher who has taught in the poor mountainous areas of Southwest China’s Yunnan Province for over 40 years. She established the first full-tuition-free girl high school in China, which helps many young girls from poverty-stricken families receive education.

This year, 1.5 billion students have been forced to suspend classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Peng, and this impact on girls is particularly pronounced. We need to find ways to help those girls get back to school so that they won’t be left behind due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sixty-three percent of illiterate adults around the world are women, said Peng, and the education of girls and women is of great benefit to the present and the future. China will continue to work with UNESCO to ensure the success of the Girls’ and Women’s Education Awards from 2021 to 2025, and make greater contributions to promoting girls’ and women’s education and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, Peng added.

Audrey Azoulay, director-general of UNESCO, thanked the Chinese government for supporting the establishment of Girls’ and Women’s Education Awards.

The UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education honors outstanding and innovative contributions made by individuals, institutions and organizations to advance girls’ and women’s education.

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What is China’s ‘People-Centered Philosophy’?

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I’m Robert Lawrence Kuhn and here’s what I’m watching: What does President Xi Jinping mean when he says that the Communist Party of China has a “people-centered philosophy” for China? Many countries talk about improving the welfare and serving the interests of their citizens — what is so special about China’s “people-centered philosophy”?

To some foreigners, the phrase may sound like an empty platitude, devoid of meaning or import. But while Chinese officials hear the identical linguistic sounds in their ears, they perceive quite the opposite meaning in their minds. They take the Party’s phrases seriously. Well they should; their careers are at stake.

Here’s how President Xi defined “people-centered philosophy” in May 2020. He had four points:

First, the fundamental goal for the Party is to unite and lead the people in revolution, development and reform, and thereby ensure a better life for them.

Second, the Party must always put the people’s interests first.

Third, people’s lives and health should be protected at all costs, and since the beginning of the novel coronavirus outbreak, the Party has made people’s lives and health the top priority.

Fourth, people are the solid foundation for the Party’s governance.

More important than his speeches, President Xi walks the walk literally by visiting poor villages — his visits numbered well over 50 when last I counted.

In 2019, during a tour of southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality, President Xi stressed the goal-directing phrase, “two no worries and three guarantees” in poverty alleviation work. The “two no worries” refer to those who have been living in poverty no longer needing to worry about food and clothing. And the “three guarantees” refer to guaranteeing compulsory education, basic medical treatment, and safe housing.

Visiting a poor mountainous village, Xi entered a primary school, walked through the cafeteria, inspected the kitchen, and inquired about the food subsidies and hygiene of the poor students. “Not a single person should be left behind in the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects,” Xi said.

But to hit a poverty alleviation target is one thing … to keep sustaining a multi-decade poverty alleviation campaign to prevent some from falling back into poverty and to continue to combat relative poverty … is quite another. For this, Xi says, what’s needed is wisdom. I’m keeping watch. I’m Robert Lawrence Kuhn.

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