Sunday, July 18, 2010

Summary of First Week in Beijing - 11 June 2008

**This is a never-before-published journal entry from June 2008.

Ni Hao!
Wow, five days in Beijing.  It's a totally different world.  I've found that I'm not able to send group emails from my Blackberry, but I hope you've been receiving the quick updates I've sent to my mom, which she so kindly agreed to pass on. 
This city of 17 million has much to offer.  I was a bit put off by all the pollution at first; coming from the clear blue skies of Australia this was a huge adjustment.  I'm slowing beginning to tolerate it a bit better. 
Our trip to the Great Wall the other day was very memorable.  Visiting this World Wonder has been one of my traveling dreams for a very long time.  I can remember the exact moment I was introduced to the Wall and its history in depth in 6th grade.  It was such a dream come true to walk it and climb it and look out from the top (of the segment we were on).  I called my parents while I was up there.  It was one of those moments that I wanted to share with my family.
We visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday morning.  The head of the North American Relations Department addressed us, and then we had time for questions and answers.   The CYLC's (Congressional Youth Leadership Council) policy on question and answer time is usually that students write down their questions ahead of time to have them okayed by an Advisor.  This is to avoid any inappropriate or offensive questions.  This being the only program they offer for university students, and with the knowledge that every student here is an alumni of a previous program, the faculty gave us the benefit of the doubt in this situation and did not request that questions be submitted beforehand.  I was disappointed to see this priveledge abused, especially by a young man in my Leadership Group.  Towards the end of the Q&A time he stood up and asked, "Is it true that your country has been selling automated weapons to Sudan?"  The minister was stunned and answered, "what?"  And the kid had the gall to repeat the question.  I was sitting directly behind him; my jaw was almost on the floor.  We had been specifically briefed on topics that were seen as confrontational-- this question didn't even pertain to the topic that was being discussed.  For the event we were seated in the Foreign Affairs building.  On the right hand side of the room there were windows near the ceiling.  Most students didn't notice, but hiding in the shadows behind the glass were Chinese military men closely watching our every move.  We were not allowed to, at any time, leave our seats or advance towards the front of the room.  As soon as that question was asked I was just waiting for the sniper to peek out and bring him down. 
The Minister was very diplomatic about it though and handled the situation as best as one could expect. 

The top-right corner of this photo shows the tinted windows behind which were stationed several fully-armed Chinese soldiers.

Later in the day we had Scholar-Led Debates.  My topic was the U.N.-- we debated the effectiveness of the structure of the institution and what role we believed it should play in the future.  The veto power of the 5 P's (USA, China, Britain, France, and Russia) was a hot topic.  We ended up running over time and about 12 of us who were really interested in the subject stayed after the audience had left and discussed it for a further half hour at least.  I was really impressed with the innovative ideas brought to the table and the diverse opinions and well-supported arguements. 
We're about to leave the hotel and head to the airport for our flight to Xi'an.
More about the Conference later!


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