March 10, 2008

Conference Discusses Beijing ’08 Olympic Games

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Americans for Informed Democracy hosted an audience of community members on Saturday to share perspectives on the development of China and its preparation for the Beijing 2008 Olympic games. The conference, entitled “Beijing Olympics 2008: Understanding China’s Emergence Onto the World Stage,” featured leading scholars who spoke about the effects the Olympics will have on China and the rest of the world.
“[The Beijing Olympics] is emblematic of the rise of China”, said the opening speaker, Prof. Robert Sutter, Asian studies, Georgetown University.
In his opening remarks, Sutter, an expert on Chinese foreign policy, emphasized that the Beijing Olympics is evidence that China is a leading world power and that the U.S. should recognize it as such.
Following Sutter’s introduction, Prof. Thomas Hahn, East Asian studies and city and regional planning, gave a presentation called “Construction and Urban Development of Beijing in Preparation for the 2008 Olympics.”
In the presentation, Hahn spoke about the modernization and the transformation of Beijing that has occurred to accommodate the Olympic Games. At the same time, Hahn highlighted the side effects of the city construction, citing that 300,000 Beijing residents were forced to relocate to make way for the Olympic sites.
“The modernity of the city has generated two victims: one is the city itself and the other is its people. People are just marginalized,” Prof Hahn said.
Americans for Informed Democracy also hosted three panels on China’s national unity, foreign policies and environment, respectively.
Additional sponsors include the East Asia Program, Government Department, Office of the Provost, Office of the Dean of Students, Peace Studies Program, Population and Development Program, and the Student Activities Fund (SAFC).
The panel on China’s national unity before the Olympics focused on issues involving Taiwan and Tibet.
Edward Arnold of Cornell Business Services, delivered a presentation on issues regarding Tibet. He stated that the exiled Tibetan government has been patient regarding the agreement with the Chinese government.
One member of the audience reacted to his speech, claiming that “it is important to boycott the Olympics.”
Arnold responded that “the Tibetan government in exile will not support boycott” because boycott did not serve their long-term goal.
In the panel on Chinese foreign policy, panelists spoke about the interdependence of China and the U.S., suggesting that the U.S. should establish an objective attitude towards China’s rise and foreign policies.
“Most of the time, when people think of Chinese identity, they think of Chinese nationalism … There is a great deal of diversity in China today — plurality. There is not a single division of nationalism, but rather, people go in a number of different directions,” said Prof. Allen Carlson, government.
The last panel spoke about the current environmental situation in China. Prof. Andrew Mertha, political science, Washington Unverisity, and Chad Furtrell grad, offered insights into the environmental issues in China.
Mertha talked about the role of both the Chinese government and non-governmental organizations in solving environmental problems.
According to Lesley Hernandez ’09, treasurer of American for Informed Democracy at Cornell, the goal of the conference was to help the youth achieve a better understanding of China
“We’ll eventually become the leaders of the country, and when we go to China, we represent the U.S. Rather then being influenced by stereotypes about China, we need to be informed about a real China, which will help us make decisions in the future or become a well-informed citizen,” said Hernandez.
Attendees said they enjoyed the conference.
“In China, most of the information we accessed is from a official source,” said Linlin Li grad, SUNY Potsdam, speaking in Mandarin. “It is very interesting to hear another perspective today.”