Last month, the Tsinghua University Academic Center for Chinese Economic Practice and Thinking invited Thomas Friedman, Niall Ferguson, Martin Wolf and other “thought leaders,” a truly bizarre and vain title if there ever was one, to attend a conference with Chinese political and business leaders. The result has been a spate of dutiful platitudes on how China sees things differently than the West.
(Here’s a leading thought: A VIP pass, pseudo-exclusive access, and a half-decent spread of booze are excellent solvents on morality and sound judgment. A technique which seems to have paid dividends for CCP spin masters of late but that was first perfected by the roadies for Mötley Crüe.)
There is of course, some truth behind the platitudes and much has been made of the differences between China and the United States, their history, culture, and political systems. Yet what strikes me as an American who has been living in China for over 15 years are not the differences, it is the similarities. It is also the similarities which have the highest potential to create the kinds of misunderstandings and disconnects that can threaten smooth US-China relations.