China. In the next week, many people right here in Central Kentucky will be packing their bags to head to Beijing for the Olympics, be they athletes like Tyson Gay; broadcasters like Tom Hammond and Kenny Rice, or that Asbury College of Communications crew that always films the games; journalists like our own Mark Maloney; and others.
But there are many more people who have been to China, maybe travel there regularly and have developed first-hand impressions of the People's Republic.
Buck Ryan, a University of Kentucky Journalism professor and director of UK's Scripps Howard First Amendment Center, gathered some of those folks together for a conversation that airs at 10:30 tonight on KET: Citizen Kentucky/Citizen China: Hope for a New Century. It's a show that sort of makes you wish you'd been in the Niles Gallery at UK's Fine Arts Library where this was filmed to get a stronger sense of what the flow of the conversation was like and just to hear more. To say you want to hear more is saying something for a show that was essentially a room full of people talking.
But they touched on interesting ideas and observations about the relationships between China and the Bluegrass, from attorney Robert E. Rich's observation that the economic and cultural differences between the coastal Chinese cities and the interior is akin to Louisville and Eastern Kentucky to graduate student Chaoxun Zhao observing that part of the reason Kentucky is so well know in China is The Colonel -- KFC.
The participants in the conversation range from business people who primarily work in China, to people who have visited the country as tourists, to Chinese citizens or natives who now reside in the Bluegrass State. And there are diversities of opinion on some subjects, such as religious freedom in China, whether more American students should be learning Chinese and to what extent there is conflict between China and the United States.
Maggi Davidson, an adjunct professor at Bluegrass Community and Technical College, observes, "If you know people, you're not nearly so apt to wage war on people." So, she said, it is important people who can make these communications possible do so. And that is the thesis of the program, that next century of U.S.-China relations will probably take place between the nations' citizens as much, if not more, than the governments. Some of the current opportunities are in adoptions and China's quickly expanding business community.
Another opportunity, of course, is getting started, and this KET-UK production gives us something to think about as we watch the Olympics.