Diana Greer: Some­times the small­est things mat­ter the most

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By HUA SHENGDUN in Wash­ing­ton

Diana Greer, pres­i­dent of the US China Peo­ple’s Friend­ship As­so­ci­a­tion (USCPFA), was re­cently able to re­unite with some old friends from the other side of the world. It’s all part of her job, af­ter all.

“We just re­cently re­ceived a won­der­ful del­e­ga­tion a cou­ple weeks ago from Zhengzhou in He­nan prov­ince,” said Greer. “We hadn’t seen them in years, and they were so ex­cited to come. We were able to meet with them and talk with them, and get our friend­ship ties go­ing again. And they in­vited us to their shaolin wushu fes­ti­val in the fall.”

Zhengzhou is tied to Greer’s hometown of Rich­mond, Vir­ginia, through the Sis­ter Cities pro­gram, a net­work used to pro­mote friend­ship and un­der­stand­ing be­tween cities by en­cour­ag­ing trade and tourism.

Such sub-na­tional-level re­la­tions, while not as pub­li­cized as the gov­ern­men­tal re­la­tion­ships be­tween na­tions, paint a much brighter pic­ture for the fu­ture of co­op­er­a­tion be­tween China and the US, ac­cord­ing to Greer.

“It’s the per­son-to-per­son re­la­tion­ships that make this ex­cit­ing,” said Greer. “It’s just all of us work­ing to­gether, and shar­ing our ex­pe­ri­ences.”

Greer has been pres­i­dent of the USCPFA since 2011, and a mem­ber for longer. Her and her or­ga­ni­za­tion’s ap­proach to diplo­macy hap­pens at a per­son-to-per­son level, al­low­ing for greater un­der­stand­ing of the dif­fer­ences and sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the two cul­tures.

“Over the years, it’s been an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” Greer said.

USCPFA events range from sem­i­nars where schol­ars and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials from China and the US give lec­tures on China-US re­la­tions, to more in­for­mal events like tak­ing vis­it­ing Chi­nese del­e­ga­tions on per­sonal tours of the US Capi­tol build­ing.

Greer fre­quently trav­els back and forth be­tween China and the US to pro­mote friend­ship diplo­macy and has made ties with some high-pro­file peo­ple along the way.

In 2014, she and a for­mer pres­i­dent of USCPFA were in­vited to hear Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s speech at The Great Hall of the Peo­ple in Bei­jing in cel­e­bra­tion of the 60th an­niver­sary of the Chi­nese Peo­ple’s As­so­ci­a­tion for Friend­ship with For­eign Coun­tries (CPAFFC), her or­ga­ni­za­tion’s Chi­nese coun­ter­part and 20 year se­nior, founded in 1954.

“Pres­i­dent Xi was very ap­pre­cia­tive of the work that Madame Li Xiaolin has done,” said Greer, re­fer­ring to the pres­i­dent of the CPAFFC who fre­quently vis­its the US to pro­mote friend­ship diplo­macy.

Greer has also rubbed el­bows with po­lit­i­cal fig­ures from the US and fondly re­calls meet­ing for­mer Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter.

“When we went to Shang­hai, and Pres­i­dent Carter was giv­ing open­ing re­marks at the friend­ship con­fer­ence, we pre­sented him with the USCPFA friend­ship medal­lion. So that was a high point,” said Greer.

Above all else, Greer cher­ishes the in­ter­per­sonal cul­tural in­ter­ac­tions she gets to par­take in on a daily ba­sis.

“Just the day-to-day events are amaz­ing,” she said. “Our Rich­mond chap­ter meets all the time dur­ing the year, for our an­nual ban­quet, and a fall event around Moon Fes­ti­val time. Over the years, we’ve in­vited peo­ple from the em­bassy to our events, and we ask them ques­tions about is­sues of the day, and have great calm con­ver­sa­tions about tough is­sues.”

De­spite the sig­nif­i­cance of her or­ga­ni­za­tion’s work in pro­mot­ing China-US re­la­tions, Greer re­grets that the sub-na­tional di­a­logues do not re­ceive more media at­ten­tion.

“These won­der­ful things and events of friend­ship re­ally don’t be­come a part of the every­day con­ver­sa­tion, and peo­ple don’t re­al­ize how hard we’re all work­ing to make good things hap­pen be­tween our two coun­tries,” said Greer.

“It’s a shame that all we hear is this aw­ful, ter­ri­ble rhetoric com­ing from our politi­cians. And we just don’t get a chance to shout over the noise,” she said.

To in­crease aware­ness of the op­por­tu­ni­ties for co­op­er­a­tion be­tween China and the US, USCPFA has been try­ing to ex­pand its reach, tar­get­ing young Amer­i­cans who are in­ter­ested in US-China diplo­macy.

What­ever the fu­ture may hold for USCPFA, Greer sees tremen­dous value in what it brings to the table.

“Some­times it’s just the small­est things, like get­ting to­gether with your Chi­nese and Amer­i­can friends at pic­nics, or get­ting in a big cir­cle and talk­ing about what’s hap­pen­ing in China now. It’s just the small­est, friendly sit­u­a­tions that are just as im­por­tant as the huge events that we get a chance to do,” said Greer.

Al­lan Fong in Wash­ing­ton con­trib­uted to this story

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Diana Greer, pres­i­dent of USCPFA, in front of the China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion Build­ing in Bei­jing in 2014.

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