The Top 5 was very excited to be able to speak with Orville Schell, one of the country’s leading authorities on China. (You’ve seen him on 60 Minutes.) Orville is coming to speak at Rollins College tomorrow night, Thursday, November 11.
Special note from the editor: Yes, I did a bit of reading to sound intelligent when speaking with Orville–I tried!– but he was kind enough to explain why relations with China matter to you and me as average Central Floridians.
And, after this conversation, I do realize how important his message is to all of us: from the products we buy and the jobs we may or may not have, to the money we can or can’t borrow from the bank to even preventing future apocalyptic wars. Pretty important stuff, no? Here’s what he had to say…
The Top 5 Concerns Central Florida Should Have about China
Have you been to a Walmart recently? Come on, even if you haven’t surely you have seen these three words over and over: Made In China.
Confession: I heard about a local school who had a Veteran’s Day Assembly, where several worthy veterans were honored. The students proudly waved tiny American flags to show their patriotism. (The flags were flown on sticks that read “Made in China.” Ugh!)
2) Almost $2 trillion in Debt
Yep, China holds 20% of the U.S. government’s debt, and we seem headed towards going even deeper into their pockets.
Now, my hubby doesn’t let me handle our own bills, because I’m not much with economics, but even I can see the MAJOR problems with this much foreign ownership. It seems to put us in a rather poor negotiating stance, doesn’t it?
3) Climate Change
Although my older brother used to tell me that I could only get to China by digging a hole through the middle of the Earth, the world is apparently much, much smaller than he thought. If ash from an Indonesian volcano can drift across the Pacific to pollute the western coast of America, then certainly the coal China and America burn affects each other. We pollute the same air, melt the same glaciers, and destroy the same environment. Think about this: even if all of America switched to electric cars, there would still be 27 million cars in China to deal with!
“China is the fastest-growing contributor of global warming emissions,” says Douglas Ogden, director of the China Sustainable Energy Program, “with its carbon dioxide output on track to surpass that of the U.S. by 2025.”
So the lesson in all this? America must be on good terms with China to be able to work together to reduce the carbon emissions and slow the effects of global warming. Yeah, our very survival as a race depends upon this!
4) Nuclear Weapons
Okay, just Orville saying those two words kind of freaks me out!
There are a lot of countries that have (or soon may have) nuclear weapons, and North Korea and Iran are two that are not so friendly to the United States and our policies. China, however, seems to have a much better working relationship with these two countries, and so it is imperative we learn to cooperate with China to reduce any and all nuclear threats. (That or we need to dig more fall out shelters here in Florida!)
5) Global Financial System
Here in Central Florida we have all felt the effects of the slow economy. Thousands of jobs lost, hundreds of stores closed, and far too many people out of their homes. And in a global market dominated by both the U.S. and China, we will need to work together not only to keep the system from breaking down altogether, but to also figure out how to rebuild it.
As Orville pointed out, “We are joined at the hip with China whether we like it or not. It is an illusion to think we can separate ourselves.”
Of course, the teacher in me asked Orville whether he thought today’s schools were preparing tomorrow’s generation to deal with this massive gorilla on our back (metaphorically speaking, of course), and he said no. He pointed out that schools are not teaching students the history, culture, language, or politics to be able to deal with China. So, I would like to give some kudos to Lake Highland Preparatory School for offering Mandarin Chinese as one of their foreign languages options. At least it’s a start!
I would also like to congratulate the Central Florida city of Tavares, whose mayor Robert Wolfe is currently on a trip to Taiwan to explore a sister-city relationship. By taking the initiative, perhaps we Central Floridians can have a greater influence on international relations than we realize, and this can only be for the good of all!
Go Hear Orville Schell in Person: 2 Chances
Tomorrow night at Rollins College, Bush Auditorium, 7 pm:
Climate Change and the Melting Glaciers of the Himalayas: Why it Matters
Friday morning at Rollins College, Bush Auditorium, 9 am:
What’s Happening in China and Why It Matters: Q & A with Orville Schell