When Deng Xiaoping took control of China in the late 1970s, a few years after Mao Zedong’s death, a quarter of all poor people in the world lived in China. By the time Deng died in 1997 only a tenth of the world’s poor lived in that country. No major nation has ever seen such rapid development sustained for so long. This development has brought increasing ties with the rest of the world, as well as dramatic increases in living standards and the development of a growing middle class, but also many challenges, including pollution, growing gaps in income and in access to education and health care, and political uncertainties.
“This is a critical transition period for China and its place in the world, as well as for American’s understanding of China. It is no longer a very poor country, but it is not yet rich,” says Timothy George, an associate professor of history and a co-coordinator of the public series. “China is still run by the Chinese Communist Party, but it has one of the world’s most dynamic capitalist economies. Its global importance in everything from stock markets to fashion design to military strategy is growing.”
Yan Ma, a professor in URI’s Graduate School of Library and Information Studies, and a co-coordinator of the series who directs URI’s Confucius Institute, asks people to consider: “Is China’s growth from a sleeping dragon to a walking one a threat to the United States? How much of a threat and how fast of a threat? By learning about China, its people and its culture, America will be better able to understand China as well as its own position.”
Speakers in the 12-lecture series will examine issues including labor, government, business, security, the environment, dissidents, education and the arts. Included in the fall lineup is David Sanger, New York Times senior writer and White House correspondent; Orville Schell, author of numerous books on China and one of America’s leading sinologists; Xu Lin, general director of China’s Office of Chinese Language Council International, one of the highest ranking women in the Chinese government; Peng Xiaolian, one of China’s leading woman filmmakers and winner of a 2004 Golden Rooster Award (China’s Oscar); and Lien Chan, former vice president of Taiwan and chairman of the Kuomintang party, and the leading figure in breaking the 50-year silence between Taiwan and the mainland.
A number of art events, free and open to the public, will be held in tandem with the series including a photography exhibit CHINA seen by…on display in the Main Gallery of the Fine Arts Center; an exhibit of historical photos, China: Exploring the Interior, 1903-1904, at the URI Feinstein Providence Campus; and a textile exhibition, The Power of Design: Chinese Textiles from URI’s Historic Textile and Costume Collection.
In addition, there are two other related events that have an admission charge. Music from China, the acclaimed New York-based ensemble of Chinese musicians will perform as part of URI’s Great Performances series. The dazzling Chinese opera, Butterfly Lovers, will be presented by the Ningbo Yue Opera Troupe to celebrate the opening of the Confucius Institute at URI. The opera will be presented in Veterans Auditorium in Providence. For a detailed and updated schedule of events, go to www.uri.edu/hc
Colloquium sponsors are husband and wife Shannon Chandley and Thomas Silvia, both URI 1983 graduates; URI 1964 Alumnus Mark Ross and his wife Donna who was awarded an honorary degree from URI in 2002. Other sponsors include URI’s Honors Program, Office of the President, Office of the Provost, Confucius Institute at URI, College of Business Administration, College of Engineering, Division of University Advancement, and Women’s Studies Program.
For more information call Deb Gardiner at 401-874-2381. For the most up-to-date detailed scehdule of events, go to www.uri.edu/hc.