Diana Greer: Sometimes the smallest things matter the most
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
Diana Greer, president of USCPFA, in front of the China Central Television Building in Beijing in 2014.