Bowdoin students may find that Brunswick is more interconnected with China than they initially thought after attending a talk or two from the two-week lecture series, "Concurrent Worlds: China in the Era of Globalization," which begins Saturday.
Presented by the Asian Studies Program and the Asian Students Association, the six speakers will touch on issues including the Chinese military, rural migration, globalization, and energy.
"We were talking about doing something to make students aware of the emerging questions on China," said Associate Professor of Asian Studies Shuqin Cui, who is a member of the five-person committee behind the event. "This is not just a Bowdoin issue. It's a global and national issue. The young generation of scholars should have the perspective that this here is not the only world."
Assistant Professor of Government and Asian Studies Lance Guo said he conceived the idea as a way of bridging a gap he saw in his students.
"On the one hand people are interested in China, but they know very little," Guo said. "China is perceived as a threat, but they can't really say how. There's a lack of understanding."
Cui said the series, which is sponsored by the Freeman and Luce foundations, focuses on political science and United States-China relations from multiple perspectives and diversified topics.
"The goal is to gain a picture of those different perspectives," she said. "This is an invaluable opportunity to make Bowdoin aware of China's role today."
The series, part of which corresponds with Asian Week, will begin Saturday with opening remarks from President Barry Mills, followed by "Elections and Chinese Understanding of Democracy," presented by Tianjian Shi of Duke University, and will close with back-to-back lectures on April 29 on "Dragon's Rise: Chinese Military Buildup and East Asian Security" by Jing-dong Yuan of the Institute of International Studies in Monterey, and "Labor, Mobility, and New Urban Citizenry: How Rural Migration Transforms Economic Boom Towns in South China" by Hong Zhang of Colby College.
Guo said he has noticed the increased interest surrounding China at other schools, especially in Chinese language, due in part to the developing business relations with China.
"At Bowdoin we are still yet to pay sufficient attention to this, and we hope with this lecture series to arise interest," said Guo. "If you want to deal with China effectively, you have to understand it."
For students who take Asian studies classes and acknowledge the importance of studying China, the series will be a constructive supplement to the work they already do.
"It's important for students and people in general to learn about China," said Z-Z Cowen '08, who is enrolled in Contemporary Chinese Society. "It's so easy for us to focus on the U.S., but in doing so, we're able to end up forgetting that our way isn't necessarily the only way or the right way."
Cui said that the series is important in its attempt to open up a forum to talk about the current issues in China.
"The rise of China and the emergence of China raise not only concerns but also inspire us to think about who we are, what our stance is in the United States," said Cui. "We need to have a global perspective to understand others and ourselves."
The Freeman Foundation, which granted Bowdoin $1.6 million in 2002 with the objective of strengthening and broadening Asian studies at Bowdoin, also provided the resources for Professor of Sociology Nancy Riley to take a group of 10 faculty members to China over Spring Break.
She will also take a group of 12 students to China over the summer for five to six weeks as part of her Contemporary Chinese Society course. The grant will pay all the expenses of the trip.
Riley, whose work focuses on family, gender, and population and China, noted that China is a hot topic right now, but that Bowdoin's apparent increase in interest in China might also have something to do with the Freeman grant running out.
"We're finally doing all these things we had planned on doing with the grant," Riley said.
"I don't know if there's been an overall increased interest in China for the entire Bowdoin community, but I think that among the people who study some aspect of China?in sociology, or language, or art history?there's a feeling that the studying is really worthwhile and eye-opening," said Cowen.
"That's why these lectures are great?they have the potential to reach people on campus who haven't been able to take courses or study China," she said.
Riley said she was unsure as to what exactly was behind the increased interest in China at Bowdoin.
"What's causing it? Are students demanding it? I'm not convinced of that," she said. "But there's more [interest] out there so it could reach Brunswick eventually."