As one of the four bottom-liners of workshop 1 and someone who had decided to engage this after taking the first skype conference, I was rather relieved to see at least most of the objectives and planning were delivered. I actually just got to see the presentations from Ethan and Jared (our U.S. core team members) for the first time and brought me new perspectives of the country I have studied in for two years. It was also a good exercise to help the other Chinese core team members to think reflectively of the Chinese culture and the historical development pattern that very much affects the negotiation process today.
Yet, just a year ago in Copenhagen in the first China-U.S. youth workshop I probably would have never thought that I would be here to organize this when I was just participant then. Yet the transition from a mere receiver to an organizer has shed me tremendous light and dimensions on the way that grassroots connection and collaboration could be established to serve greater peace-building and planet-saving agenda that China and the U.S. should be pursuing. And much appreciation to Holly from GoldenBridges, a critical propeller of this initiative since Copenhagen, who have in the process of preparation and delivery challenged and provoked me into conjuring up THE bigger picture of the importance of our initiative and how to make it realized by more – the youth participants and the rest of the world.
“The presentations from the U.S. side gave me the ‘reality of a democracy.’ The U.S. seems like a prime example of the historical struggle of development pattern of the past that is based on fossil fuels and a new paradigm,” commented Mengsi, the editor of the ChinaDialogue magazine who attended the workshop. It is also of course a very provocative question for China to dwell on as well.
From the Chinese sides, both of the “cultural” and “technical” presentations of Chinese culture touched deeper issues than just the pictures and figures suggested. Xiangying’s personal history – from her parents’ happy union onto her school lives up to now -- spoke about the Chinese values, such as “respect for the elders and teachers,” “strong value on family relationships” etc. Ying-ao’s presentation on the Chinese country and development patterns of China especially since it joined WTO asked a provocative question: with the need to provision a better life when the per capital income of the rural households in China was just around 2 US dollars per day, how could china address its people’s welfare as well as tackle the global challenge of climate change?
The reasons why I got on the first skype meeting over a month ago are multiple. I was pretty determined that I wanted to go to COP 16 since I have taken a semester off for it, partially. I felt there needs to be more continuity of the China Youth Delegation as a whole, much as it was unfortunate that the there weren’t really any substantial follow-ups. And it was also a time when the Sino-American relations was at a rather critical point, with all the issues with all the little islands, not to mention the monetary war that is on stage right now, in addition to all the climate negotiation extravaganza.
So we really feel this sense of all-time high urgency that given the opportunity we have here to get together, what could we as youth do anything about it? Why we should do it? What difference will we make?
At least it doesn’t hurt to plant the seed now. I study environmental science and international relations at an American college. Forget about the science. Having stayed in the U.S., Denmark and Kenya for substantial amount of time in the past three years, it really came to me that it is not about relations, but rather, relationships. It is really when you have a good American or Kenyan friend who you know and understand well, you then can have a better understanding of the country and the culture. Imagine, if you and I are to become the next foreign minister or president or the chairman, how would we talk to each other when we enter the negotiation room.
Now that might sound like a cheesy proposal. But think about it. If you were to be a decision-maker or negotiator, why would you really want to give money and technology to these in need to mitigate and adapt to climate change, but also these who you might not have heard their names? Yet will you offer help, whatever kind, to your friends and families that you care? Yes, in a way, we therefore do want to speak loud the morals and the idealism that potentially hide in every decision-makers’ mind, but which they cannot express publicly because of their position, or their lack of personal connection to those who need a hand. Or, even more fundamentally, their ignorance of the subtle but powerful interconnectedness of the world we live in – every piece of signal you send out will have a recipient and it will be reflected upon you eventually.
That is, the empathy, or compassion, as emphasized by Holly, that we need to develop when still young and do not shy away from making it contagious. “We need to develop sensitive leaders ourselves,” as commented by Jared.
So what we want to prove to the world, is that we have made the very efforts to know, understand and make friends with each other; we have tried to write a “joint research proposal” of projects the young ones could engage in to set models for the heads of our countries; and our extra efforts will make the difference. Even thought that impact might not be delivered right away as we still have a long way to go before we reach a higher maturity and “circle of influence.”