Why Host a World Savvy Salon? (Scroll down for specific Salon Guide for China)
In a world where media tends to focus more on celebrities than on pressing global issues, it is challenging to find reliable sources of quality international news coverage and opportunities to discuss the meaning and impact of global events and trends.
This is ironic, given that we are at a time in which our lives are inexorably connected to the lives of people around the world in ways previously unimaginable. Even so, American mainstream media coverage of international affairs has declined. The result is a public which lacks the capacity to meaningfully discuss world affairs around the dinner table and, by extension, around the negotiating table in halls of power as global problem solvers.
The World Savvy Salon is a forum for individuals to convene and discuss these pressing issues. Salons are Book Clubs for the 21st Century. World Savvy’s Monitor provides you with the content, context and tools to organize a Salon in your school or community. By focusing on one global issue or region each month, the Monitor and Salons are designed for participants to:
- Inform themselves about critical world affairs
- Gather with a group of curious global citizens to discuss the issues, challenges and solutions on the world stage and in your own backyard.
- Host a dinner party with a purpose: to educate, to inspire, to promote global citizenship.
Salon participants bring diverse perspectives and backgrounds– from history, science, technology, psychology, law, finance, art, education, politics, community action, and parenting – to bear on each conversation. All sides of important global issues can be dissected; films and books are recommended; and future collaborations devised, from work and travel to philanthropy and activism. Salons can spark brainstorming and debate over how to talk to others and our children about the world.
Be part of a new movement: the book club, reinvented. Start a World Savvy Salon today using the World Savvy Monitor:
- Each member of your Salon subscribes online to the World Savvy Monitor. Individual subscriptions are $75/year. We encourage you to register your Salon with World Savvy so we can provide support and follow progress this year.
- Members receive and read the monthly edition (available monthly from August-November and January-May) and convene for a World Savvy Salon to discuss the latest Monitor issue.
- Use the World Savvy Monitor website for Salon Guides with discussion questions to spark conversation.
- Invite speakers with expertise in various areas relevant to Monitor topics to present to the group – these could be experts, photographers, activists, or just people who have traveled worldwide or are particularly passionate or well-informed about world affairs.
- Engage in community education, advocacy, volunteerism, activism, and/or philanthropy around the issues raised.
- Find ways to bring your children into the discussion and engage their peers.
- Communicate with your schools and workplaces about how global citizenship can be nurtured and expressed in these settings.
Why the World Savvy Monitor and Salons?
Consider The Following Statistics:
From the 2006 National Geographic Society Geographic Literacy Study
Among Americans, Age 18-24
- 6 in 10 could not find Iraq or Saudi Arabia on a map of the Middle East. 9 in 10 could not find Afghanistan. 75% could not find Iran or Israel.
- 75% did not know that Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country, and half thought India is predominantly Muslim (suggesting maybe they are mixing up the two?)
- Over half could not put Sudan or Rwanda in Africa.
- Only half knew the Alps are in Europe; just over half knew the Amazon Rain Forest is in South America. 20% could not find the Pacific Ocean and 65% could not find Great Britain.
- They generally had no idea of how the US and China compare: 75% thought English is the most spoken native language in the world (when it is Mandarin); 71% named China, not the US, as the largest exporter of goods and services; and most thought China’s population is only double that of the US (when it is actually quadruple).
- Only 25% thought it was important to know where countries in the news are located; only 60% thought knowledge of a foreign language was important.
From 2007, 2008 Pew Research People and the Press
Among Americans, Age 18-65
(Note: these were multiple choice questions!)
- Only 69% could name the Vice President of the US (down from 74% in 1989).
- Only 36% could name the President of Russia.
- Only 32% could come up with Sunni as the rival Muslim sect of Shia.
- Only 50% could match Hugo Chavez with Venezuela.
- Only 46% knew it was Kosovo that recently declared independence from Serbia.
- Only 28% could estimate the number of US troops killed in Iraq by the fifth anniversary of the invasion in March 2008 when given the choices 2000, 3000, 4000, and 5000 (it is 4000).
Modern China: The Promise and Challenge of an Emerging Superpower
Possible Discussion Questions
- How do you believe the media has portrayed recent and/or upcoming events taking place in China?
- Recent protests in cities around the world during the Olympic Torch relay highlight the strong feelings many people have about modern China. Discuss these issues, especially around human rights. What are protestors seeking to achieve? Do you think these protests were an effective way to pressure the CCP? How do democratic and totalitarian states respond to pressure differently? Can you think of any human rights abuses perpetrated by Western governments today?
- Given the uproar, should China even have been granted the 2008 Olympics? Should teams boycott as they did in 1980 in Moscow and 1984 in Los Angeles? Should Heads of State attend the Opening Ceremonies? Why or why not?
- Consider the growing sense of nationalism and even xenophobia that has developed among some Chinese citizens in response to the Torch protests. What effect might this have on the policies of the Chinese government? On the policies of Western governments toward China?
- Discuss some of the profound social and cultural changes that have occurred in China over the last 30 years. What impact is this having on families and individuals? Are there any of these changes or impacts that resonate with Western societies?
- Use China as a case study for thinking about censorship and propaganda. Consider the power of words and why the CCP tries to limit freedom of speech. Do you think that they can continue to exert this control as modernization and contact with the outside world only increases? Compare Chinese censorship with laws and policies regarding free speech in the West and the US. How important is free speech to the development of other freedoms?
- Evaluate the relationship between the United States and China. What role do you think the US should take in its stance toward China? What does a post-US-dominated world look like?
- What do you think should be the stance of the international community toward China? For instance, on the question of the environment, should China be held accountable by the international community to improve environmental standards and reduce pollution, even though they are a developing country and in the process of becoming fully industrialized?
- Do some forecasting about China’s future, especially around its continued economic growth and the dominance of the CCP. Will China’s people continue indefinitely to trade one for the other? Is evolution toward democracy inevitable or are we seeing a new model for development arise, one that will perhaps inspire other second and third world countries for whom democracy is not working well? Will we see an alignment movement like we saw during the Cold War or will China be integrated into the international community as a “responsible stakeholder?”
- Refer back to the Issue in Focus and select several of the key players described. Make sure everyone understands key aspects to the background of modern China, then assign people (or groups) to take on the roles of these key players. Have a debate on major issues.
- Take a Western newspaper or magazine article about a current event in China, and compare it to articles on the same event in the Chinese press (worldpress.org). What differences do you see?
- Things to Watch For in the Coming Year:
- Watch coverage of the Olympic Games from the Western media perspective, and then go online to compare it with Chinese coverage, especially if protests break out.
- Continue to watch China’s role in the effort to bring peace to Darfur (see the May edition of the World Savvy Monitor on The Situation in Sudan and the Crisis in Darfur for background).
- April through June 2009 will mark the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests and massacre. Pay attention to how the occasion is marked in the West and, if at all, in China.
- Tibet will continue to figure in the news as the Dalai Lama ages and is potentially replaced (a controversy has already been created over whether China or Tibet should appoint the second-in-command to the Dalai Lama, the Panchen Lama). Muslim areas of China will also be important topics in the news as the Global War on Terror continues in Central Asia.
- Watch for potential backlash against China as Western economies stall amid high oil and food prices. Unpack what this means and how global economies affect each other.
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress: A Novel by Dai Sijie
This moving, often wrenching short novel by a writer who was himself re-educated in the ‘70s tells how two young men weather years of banishment, emphasizing the power of literature to free the mind. A feature film has also been made of this novel.
The Diary of Ma Yan by Ma Yan
This is the real diary of Ma Yan, a 13-year-old schoolgirl from the extremely impoverished Ningxi region in northwestern China. Originally written with a ballpoint pen purchased in lieu of two weeks' worth of food, these diaries detail the day-to-day life of a girl determined to get an education despite crippling poverty. This book was first published in Europe, after Ma Yan's mother pressed three notebooks containing the diary into the hands of a visiting foreign journalist. With photographs.
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
Set during the reign of the last emperor of China, this 1932 Pulitzer Prize winner tells the story of the honest farmer Wang Lung and his selfless wife O-lan, allowing readers to appreciate the sweeping changes that have occurred in the lives of the Chinese people during the past century.
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
This classic novel shows the stories and struggles of Chinese immigrants in America, but through their stories also provide a window into the lives they left behind in China as well.
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang
Chang chronicles three generations of women in her family living in China during the 20th Century. Her grandmother was a warlord’s concubine, her mother rose to a prominent position in the Communist Party before being denounced during the Cultural Revolution, while Chang herself marched, worked, and breathed for Mao until doubt crept in over the excesses of his policies and purges.
Oracle Bones: A Journey Through Time in China by Peter Hessler
This is an unusual, fascinating book – part travel journal, part memoir, part history – by a journalist who has lived and worked extensively in China. The author combines personal, heart-wrenching narratives by citizens from throughout modern China with reflections of his own, and examines some of the contradictions that exist in this ancient country as exemplified by a series of archaeological excavations taking place amidst modernization.
China Road: A Journey Into the Future of a Rising Power by Rob Gifford
Another wonderful travelogue/memoir by NPR correspondent Rob Gifford who spent months traveling along the old Silk Road route (now Route 312) through China into Central Asia. He unearths many poignant narratives of ordinary citizens, and combines their colorful stories with historical and political commentary.
Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China by John Pomfret
These are the stories of China as told from the perspective of American exchange students who lived in China in the 1980’s. These first-hand accounts of their experiences include narratives of Chinese citizens who lived during the Mao era and have been part of China’s vast modernization. Pomfret went on to cover modern China as a journalist and offers many insights into the remarkable social and political journey of the country.
The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order by Parag Khanna
This highly readable survey of current geopolitics revolves around the thesis that the future global order will depend on the vast swathe of nations currently considered “the second world,” ripe for alignment with the great powers of the US, China, and EU. Region by region, Khanna gives succinct and insightful treatment to countries about whom many of us may know very little, and shows how their relationship with the Big Three first world powers will change the future of the planet.
The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria
Certain to become one of the bestselling books of 2008, respected journalist and Newsweek International editor Zakaria examines the decline of American hegemony, and explores what will happen in a century characterized by “the rise of the rest.” This brand new book is a must read for understanding China and others’ place in the new global order, and draws from many of the same sources we have presented here.
Below is a select, recommended list of films and multimedia resources. For even more documentaries and visual sources, see Visual Sources section of the Issue in Focus.
China: A Century of Revolution
This powerful three-disc documentary takes an objective, first-hand look at China's tumultuous 20th Century, examining the nation's social, political and cultural upheaval through personal interviews and rare historical footage. Beginning in 1911 with the fall of the last emperor, the program journeys through the decades, following China's growth into one of the world's largest economies.
China from the Inside
This PBS documentary explores China’s people, past and present, in four 60 minute episodes: Power and the People, Women of the Country, Shifting Nature, and Freedom and Justice. The full film is too long for the classroom, but lessons, film clips, and other background information are available from the PBS website.
Shot clandestinely at a blue jeans factory in southern China where 17-year-old Jasmine and her friends work around the clock for pennies a day, China Blue reveals what international retail companies don’t want us to see: how the clothes we buy are actually made. Available at teddybearfilms.com.
This documentary by award winning director Jennifer Baichwal follows Edward Burtynsky, a large-scale photographer of nature, to China, as he captures the effects of the country’s massive industrial revolution. This film leads us to meditate on human endeavor and its impact on the planet.
The Tank Man
This documentary from PBS Frontline chronicles the story of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in 1989, and what has happened in the struggle for democracy in the years since then by tracing the story of “The Tank Man” – the iconic figure who stood in front of advancing tanks. Buy the film, or watch it online. The website also includes a teacher’s guide with lessons focusing on media and rights.
Voices in Exile
This documentary presents the Tibetan exile community from the Tibetan point of view. The perspective provided from the modern history of Tibet and China reveals a great deal about the nature of China’s future leadership. Available at www.tibetanphotoproject.com
Farewell My Concubine
A seemingly unshakable friendship gets put to the test by war, a communist takeover, the Cultural Revolution and especially by the intrusion of a woman into the lives of two Chinese opera stars. Inseparable since childhood, Duan Xiaolou (Zhang Fengyi) and Cheng Dieyi (Leslie Cheung) find themselves increasingly at odds after Xiaolou weds a lovely courtesan (Gong Li). The film captures 50 years of Chinese history as it spins around the characters.
Multimedia and Web Resources:
BBC website with graphs and charts about several key issues regarding modern China, including geography, the economy, ethnicity, and more. Click on the “Changing China” button at the top to see an additional BBC website with updated news and analysis on China today.
China on the Rise
PBS NewsHour correspondent Paul Solman traveled to China in the summer of 2005 to produce a seven-part series on the Asian nation’s rise as a global economic contender and America’s anxiety that China will overtake the United States as a superpower in the 21st Century. The website includes transcripts, audio, video streaming, as well as links to relevant resources.
China Digital Times
China Digital Times is a collaborative news website covering China’s social and political transition and its emerging role in the world by aggregating up-to-the-minute news and analysis about China from around the Web.
Choking on Growth
This 10-part series of articles and multimedia from the New York Times examines China’s pollution crisis and how it relates to the nation’s rise to economic power.
Stephen Voss Photography
A photo essay of water pollution in China that documents the effects polluted water has had on the land and the people.
Population by Age and Sex, 1950-2050
This animation of China’s population demonstrates the dramatic change in the country’s age structure between 1950 and 2050.