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Talking Points: January 28 - February 11, 2009

The USC U.S.-China Institute's weekly e-newsletter

Release Date: 01/28/2009

USC U.S.-China Institute Weekly Newsletter

Talking Points
January 28 -  February 11, 2009

What was the short-term impact and what is likely to be the long-term importance of the Beijing Olympics? A major USC conference takes on these questions and others this Friday. We hope you can join us. Details about the conference are below and at our website. The conference (including lunch) is free, but email registration is required.

In March 2008, after violence erupted in and near Tibet, but ahead of protests associated with the Olympic Torch Relay, virtually all Chinese (96%) questioned by pollsters hired by the Pew Research Center said they expected the Olympics to be a success and most (56%) expected them to be very successful. Four out of five of those polled said the Games were important to them as individuals. At that time, 77% of those asked said that foreigners already had a positive view of China. Virtually all (93%) were sure that the Olympics would further improve China’s image abroad.

“Foreigners” is a broad category of course. In the case of Americans, a Gallup survey in February 2008 found 55% held an unfavorable view of China. This represented a sharp increase in the share of the public with an unfavorable impression of China. The ensuing crackdown in Tibet and protests over the torch relay did not improve this view. In April 2008, a Pew survey found that 43% of Americans thought that awarding the 2008 Games to Beijing was a mistake. Just 41% thought it was a good decision to hold the Games there.

The May 12 earthquake in Sichuan killed more than 80,000 people, left millions homeless, and necessitated a massive and ongoing relief and reconstruction effort. Across China as well as in the U.S. and elsewhere, people and organizations donated money, supplies, and labor to aid in this. The scale of the disaster and the dramatic response dominated media coverage for weeks. Eventually, though, amazement over Beijing’s $43 billion investment in the event, worries about air pollution, concerns about the fairness of efforts to clear Beijing of migrant workers and to divert water and electricity from neighboring provinces to Beijing, and ongoing reports about the stifling of dissenting views were again the lead stories outside of China.

Huge television audiences in China and elsewhere tuned in to watch the Olympics. Nielson reported that 94% of those in China watched some portion of the Games. Most Americans tuned in as well, though Pew found that only one in four Americans said they were following the Games closely (a typical share for a non-U.S. hosted Olympics). Of those following the Games closely, 66% said that awarding the Games to Beijing was a good decision. Overall, 52% of the Americans surveyed now thought it was a good idea to hold the Games in Beijing.

Not all of the attention generated by the Games was positive (minor matters of image, larger matters of adherence to competition rules, and designated protest zones when no protests would be permitted), but on the whole, these were remarkably successful Games. Air pollution levels dropped, the logistics were well coordinated, the huge crew of volunteers was consistently helpful and cheerful, and the athletes and the legion of dancers and others involved in the ceremonies delivered memorable performances.

Enough time has passed for us to get a sense of what these Games mean for the Chinese and what they mean for China’s image in the world. Friday’s conference will look at this from many dimensions and features presentations by top scholars, officials, businesspeople, and athletes. Register now to hold your space.


It is a week of conferences. In Washington and New York, there are explorations of cross-strait ties, security issues, human rights, and efforts to halt North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. In California, there are conferences on U.S.-China ties and urban development in China. Next Thursday, Feb. 5, we are pleased to offer a talk by Shen Dingli, director of the Fudan University Center for American Studies. He'll be talking about "China-U.S. Relations in the Obama Era." Information about these events and others is below and at the calendar section of our website.

Also at our website are videos of the presentations offered at our conference on the making of American policy toward China. The Thomas Christensen keynote address “Shaping China’s Choices: Some Lessons for the Next Administration” has been available for some time, but we have added all the other panel presentations on security, economics and trade, and climate change. Please click here to begin watching.

Thanks to the many readers who forwarded our new year’s message to others. We hope your year of the ox is off to a great start.

Best wishes,
The USC U.S.-China Institute


01/30/2009: The 2008 Beijing Olympic Games: Public Diplomacy Triumph or Public Relations Spectacle?
Town and Gown
University of Southern California
Time: 8am - 7pm
The symposium will bring together scholars and practitioners to share research insights on China's public diplomacy strategies and the impact of these games on perceptions of China's soft power resources and global attitudes towards a rising China.

02/05/2009: China-U.S. Relations during the Obama Era
USC Leavey Library, Los Angeles, CA 90089
Cost: Free
Time: 4:00PM - 5:30PM
Shen Dingli, director of Fudan University's Center for American Studies, visits USC to discuss U.S.- China relations.


 01/28/2009: Chinese Posters: Art from the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution
IEAS Conference Room
Address: 2223 Fulton Street, 6th Floor, Berkeley, CA
Cost: Free
Phone: (510) 643-6321
Time: 5:00PM - 6:30PM
A presentation of Chinese posters by Lincoln Cushing, Archivist, art historian, former UC librarian and Ann Tompkins, Co-author, with Lincoln Cushing, of "Chinese Posters: Art from the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution"  

01/30/2009: Two Systems, One World: US-China Relations under the Obama Administration
UCLA Faculty Center , Los Angeles, California 90095-1487
Time: 8:30AM - 3:00PM
A one-day conference sponsored by the UCLA Center for Chinese Studies and the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations.
02/02/2009: Religion and the Public Good in Taiwan
UCLA 10383 Bunche Hall, Los Angeles, CA
Cost: Free
Phone: (310) 825-8683
Time: 4:00PM - 5:30PM
A talk by Robert P. Weller, in the series New Directions in Taiwan Studies 

02/09/2009: China's Place in the Global Financial Crisis
UCLA 10383 Bunche Hall
Time: 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
Cost: Free
Calla Wiemer, a visiting scholar at the UCLA Center for Chinese Studies, will examine China's role in the global financial crisis. 

02/09/2009: The Power of the Internet in China: Citizen Activism Online
UCLA 10383 Bunche Hall, Los Angeles, CA
Time: 4:30PM - 6:00PM
Cost: Free
Guobin Yang (Barnard College)will explore how online activism has become one of the most important new forms of popular contention in China since the student movement in 1989. 

North America: 

01/29/2009: Asia Pacific Security Seminar
East-West Center in Washington Conference Room, Washington, D.C.
Cost: This event is free and open to the public.
Time: 12:30-2:00 PM
American Enterprise Institute's Nicholas Eberstadt will discuss the projected demographic changes in the region and explore the implications for economic progress, political interactions, and international security. 
01/29/2009: New Actors and Factors in Cross Strait Relations
State Room, The Elliott School of International Affairs
The George Washington University, 7th Floor, 1957 E Street, NW
Time: 9am -2pm
Please RSVP with your name, email address and GW affiliation/organization to
The Sigur Center for Asian Studies presents a panel discussion on Cross Strait Relations.  

01/29/2009: Strategic Persistence
Center for American Progress,
1333 H St. NW, 10th Floor, Washington, DC
Time: 12:00PM - 1:30PM
Cost: Free
The Center for American Progress presents a panel on how the United States can help improve human rights in China. 
01/29/2009: "My Beijing Birthday" - Screening and Discussion
Asia Society and Museum
Auditorium, 725 Park Avenue, New York
Cost: $7 members/seniors/students; $11 nonmembers
Phone: 212-517-ASIA
Time: 7:00PM - 9:00PM
Asia Society presents the screening of comedy "My Beijing Birthday" followed with a discussion with filmmaker Howie Snyder. 
01/30/2009: Music from China -Performed by the Arts Faculty, Xiamen University
EWC Imin Center-Jefferson Hall, (opposite UHM Kennedy Theatre), Honolulu, Hawaii
Cost: Free
Phone: 808-944-7584
A diverse program featuring traditional and contemporary works for voice, erhu, hulusi, shougu, xiao, xun, yangqin, zheng, and piano. 

02/07/2009 - 02/08/2009: Situ Panchen: Creation and Cultural Engagement in 18th Century Tibet
Rubin Museum of Art
150 17th Street at Seventh Avenue, New York
A panel of scholars will discuss the different aspects of the life of Situ Panchen Chokyi Jungne, an individual that greatly influenced 18th century Tibet. 

02/10/2009: Better Ombudsmen for China: A Risk of Real Democracy?
John A. Burns Hall, 3012 (Third Floor), Honolulu, Hawaii
Time: 12:00PM - 1:00PM
Cost: Free
Politics, Governance, and Security Seminar by Michael H. Sommer, Visiting Scholar, Institute of Governmental Studies, UC, Berkeley. 


08/23/2008 - 02/22/2009: Guests of the Hills: Travelers and Recluses in Chinese Landscape Painting
Freer Gallery of Art/ Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Smithsonian Institution P.O. Box 37012, MRC 707, Washington DC 20013-7012
Phone: 202.633.1000
Freer Gallery of Art presents an exhibition on the depictions of recluses and recreational travelers in Chinese landscape painting. 

11/03/2008 - 11/03/2009: Ancient Arts of China: A 5000 Year Legacy
Bowers Museum
2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana, California 92706
Bowers Museum presents a collection that portrays the evolution of Chinese technology, art and culture.  

11/14/2008 - 11/14/2009: Chinese Art: A Seattle Perspective
Seatle Asian Art Museum
Address: 1400 East Prospect Street , Volunteer Park , Seattle, WA 98112–3303
Phone: 206.654.3100
The Seattle Asian Art Museum presents an opportunity to see a collection with representative works from each dynastic period.

11/15/2008 - 11/15/2009: Masters of Adornment: The Miao People of China
Bowers Museum
2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana, California 92706
The Bowers Museum presents a collection of exquisite textiles and silver jewelry that highlights the beauty and wealth of the Miao peoples of southwest China.


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