War money could have been bet­ter spent

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

The IraqWar, which has come back to haunt Amer­i­cans, Iraqis and the world these days, cost people in the United States some $2 tril­lion. It has been the worst re­flec­tion of US might. Yet a jour­nal­ism fel­low­ship that has won enor­mous hearts and minds for the US has for years been strug­gling to raise sev­eral hun­dred thou­sand US dol­lars a year.

As the­World Press In­sti­tute marked its 50th an­niver­sary last weekend, it drew jour­nal­ists from around the world to St Paul, Min­nesota. Jour­nal­ists, many well-es­tab­lished in their coun­try, came all the way from Brazil, Spain, China, In­dia, Ja­pan, Bangladesh, Ro­ma­nia, Bri­tain, Swe­den and Aus­tralia, demon­strat­ing the power of the pro­gram.

Chi­nese jour­nal­istHu Shuli, now edi­tor-in-chief of Caix­inMe­dia and a 1987 fel­low, was among them. This in­spir­ing jour­nal­ist has writ­ten in a book about the in­flu­ence the WPI ex­pe­ri­ence had on her ca­reer.

The WPI gath­ers 10 jour­nal­ists a year from dif­fer­ent coun­tries around the world and im­merses them in gov­er­nance, pol­i­tics, busi­ness, me­dia and cul­ture at ev­ery level of US so­ci­ety, with ex­ten­sive travel.

When I was there in 1998, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor JohnHodowanic, an in­tel­li­gent and hu­mor­ous man, stated at the be­gin­ning of the pro­gram that WPI let the jour­nal­ists see the good and bad in the US, and “then you make your own de­ci­sions”.

Vis­its and meet­ings at some 125 in­sti­tu­tions, from AIDS and home­less shel­ters to a Chicago pub­lic school and Capi­tolHill, were fas­ci­nat­ing and helped me bet­ter un­der­stand this di­verse coun­try.

And there was a hid­den gem. Liv­ing with host fam­i­lies – whether an African Amer­i­can fam­ily in Detroit, farm­ers in­Min­neota, Min­nesota, or mu­si­cians in Ely, Min­nesota – re­mains a mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence and one in which I made life­long friends.

Even amongmy fel­low fel­lows, the WPI wasmy first time to get to know and be­friend people from Nigeria, Ghana, Ar­gentina, Fin­land, Pak­istan, the for­mer Yu­goslavia, and Ge­or­gia, as we trav­eled to­gether for weeks in a big Ford van. As fel­lows shared their ex­pe­ri­ences last weekend, I won­dered what kind of dif­fer­ent power the US would project if that $2 tril­lion spent in Iraq had been turned into a mil­lion pro­grams like the WPI. It could be fel­low­ships not just for jour­nal­ists, but for people across a wide spec­trum, such as stu­dents, teach­ers, govern­ment of­fi­cials, doc­tors and other pro­fes­sion­als and even people in the mil­i­tary.

Many of to­day’s con­flicts and con­fronta­tions are caused by an es­ca­la­tion of hos­til­i­ties due to a lack of un­der­stand­ing and trust. And fel­low­ships like the WPI cer­tainly play a role in re­duc­ing the mis­un­der­stand­ing be­tween dif­fer­ent peo­ples.

Al­though people might be dif­fer­ent, they can get along just fine by re­spect­ing each other and their dif­fer­ences.

China should es­tab­lish some­thing like the WPI so jour­nal­ists from around the world can see both the good and bad things in China and then make their own judg­ments.

US in­vestor Stephen Sch­warz­man has al­ready en­gaged in such an en­deavor by cre­at­ing a $300 mil­lion Sch­warz­man Schol­ar­ship at Ts­inghua Univer­sity in Bei­jing to bring stu­dents around the world to China.

Both the US and China should sim­ply spend more on such ex­change and less on their mil­i­taries. The up­com­ing sixth ses­sion of China-US Strate­gic and Eco­nomic Di­a­logue and the sub­se­quent Fifth China-US High-Level Con­sul­ta­tion on People-to-People Ex­changes are the per­fect plat­form to ad­vance the cause of ex­changes be­tween the two na­tions and two peo­ples to re­duce the deep mis­un­der­stand­ing and a lack of un­der­stand­ing be­tween them. The au­thor, based in­Wash­ing­ton DC, is deputy edi­tor of China Daily USA. chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

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