A Work in Progress (Family calls….)

by Cathy Barbash

Just back from China jaunt as one of several “foreign experts” imported by the Ministry of Culture of the PRC as both window-dressing and lecturer for the International Conference on Promotion of Chinese Cultural Products. This marathon gathering began in Shenzhen, where we foreigners were herded onto the stage for the official opening ceremony, testimony to the importance of the event, but without the courtesy of meeting the presiding Chinese officials beforehand. We were then whisked away to inspect the cavernous exhibit halls, a chaotic and deafening mix of cultural products of all kinds. An afternoon visit to a satellite location (the local Poly Theatre) housing the performing arts exhibits found many unattended, and/or without materials in any language but Chinese.

Second stop was Luoyang, in Henan Province, where the foreigners lectured on their assigned topics to a group of almost 300 Chinese arts administrators and entrepreneurs from throughout the country. Most were young and enthusiastic, outgoing and, at the closing banquet, even boisterous. Last stop Beijing, with the same speeches given to a much more sedate crowd drawn from Ministry of Culture officials and administrators from the national level and Beijing arts organizations. A reserved group, mentally looking over their shoulders.

Now comes word that a high level Chinese delegation has arrived in the U.S. to study public diplomacy, in theory and in practice, and perhaps to engage in a private listening tour of what Americans really do think of the Chinese, unfiltered by the media.

Apologies, but much more on all this later, I’m off again to visit my daughter in the Peace Corps…..

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