A journey of a lifetime, China is a destination of rich culture, nationalism and economic growth on the world stage. As American students, many of us that had the privilege to journey across the globe, were consumed by our preconceived notions; all driven by the Western world's view of China. It is however not until you are fully engulfed in the life of the people of China that you begin to gain a more rewarding view of what it means to be not only a foreigner in another part of the world but more importantly a citizen of the world. In addition to this many of our physical appearances acted as an international icebreaker bringing forth new friends and acquaintances.
As a black man in China I found myself taken back by the significant cultural differences between where I was raised and a place that was the recipient of many stereotypes, many fabricated out of ignorance and a lack of information. On our first night here, we found ourselves in the heart of China's capital, Beijing and were instantly accepted by our host with love, curiosity, and open arms. This hospitality however was not limited while staying in the Aloft Hotel but spilled out everywhere. During our studies at Beijing Foreign Studies University we were met with a crash course in China's cultural identity as well as the interactions between Chinese and American society. Interestingly enough what was so profound about understanding the U.S-Chinese relations is that you begin to realize how significantly unaware of the international magnifying glass put over the U.S. A prime example of this is China's interest in our upcoming presidential election. As we dove deeper into the notion of China's economic growth, I found China's interest in this presidential election, fascinating. As Professor Xie eloquently puts it, "both China and America are at the verge of significant change, ushering in a new age of global change." By 2020, China's currency will surpass that of the U.S. But understanding China, this is well known but rarely spoken about. Understood nationally, as the "100 Year Marathon", America will be beaten economically.
Ultimately, as our time here in China progressed we dove deeper and deeper into the meaning of what it means to be members of a culture unlike our own. We were engulfed in the smells of China, both good and bad, and traveled back in time by going to places like the Great Wall and Forbidden City. For me, much like many of my friends that were part of the New York Delegation known as the Empire Innovators, being a black person in the heart of China was uncharted territory and was sometimes overwhelming. In my opinion each day, first in Beijing and then in Hangzhou, were adventures of a lifetime. Classes, where we learned about foreign relations, Chinese economic development, clean energy, and poverty on both a domestic and international level, provided a structural form of education. However it was not until I walked among the people of China that I understood what it meant to be a person of color on a grand stage. It was not until I saw firsthand how people in other places lived that I understood what poverty in another part of the world was. It was not until I saw the farmers tilling their fields in various provinces in China that I understood how little these people were given for their hard work. The average annual income of a farmer being 60 RMB's. As a black man traveling in China, I expected the true definition of brotherly love and acceptance. When you live in America as person of color you tend to grow up with internal duality, what W.E.B DuBois refers to as double consciousness. You are constantly grappling with being black within America and society not accepting you. But in China, this was not the case at all. In fact with the constant photos taken and the warm smiles, it was hard not to feel a sense of appreciation from and for the people.