Sreenu Dandamudi on interacting with Chinese officials
Today’s post comes from China/Taiwan 2012 delegate Sreenu Dandamudi. Currently, they’re in Taipei, but he wrote this a few days back when they were still in Ningbo, China.
In mainland China, we’ve gotten several mixed signals from government officials and our hosts in mainland China. Our two hosts, who I now consider good friends, kept instructing our delegation to ask “tough” questions of government officials. However, when we did ask tough questions, government officials became upset and verbally reprimanded us. The most memorable reprimand came from Ma Wenpu, the Vice-Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress. We asked a series of questions from China’s stance on UN intervention in Syria to the Chinese people’s reverence of Mao Zedong. These questions would be considered easy, softball questions in the United States. However, near the end of these questions, Vice-Chairman Ma became angry and went on a lengthy verbal reprimand of our delegation that lasted several minutes. His response was typical of the non-responsive answers we received from Chinese officials and reinforced the apprehensions I felt about about a Communist government before coming to China. These apprehensions were further compounded by our next visit to Dun Shixin, the Deputy Director-General of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council for the People’s Republic of China. Deputy Director Dun began our visit by stating that he welcomed questions but did not want our meeting to turn into a press conference. I got the feeling that he had already been brief on our visit with Vice-Chairman Ma and didn’t understand who we can ask questions without turning into what he considered a press conference. This reinforced my apprehensions and fears of a Communist government and felt it was best to not speak more than necessary in these meetings.
However, after leaving Beijing for Ningbo, the atmosphere changed dramatically. While people in Ningbo were still defensive and unresponsive to our questions, they were warm and friendly. I felt more at home in Ningbo than Beijing and it demonstrates that mainland China has the same differences between its capital and the rest of the country as we do in the United States. I’d like to thank ACYPL for setting up these meetings with government officials. Without these meetings, I would not have been able to learn and formulate my current opinions on the government in China. Basically, we can be friends with anyone as individuals, but don’t expect any honesty or sincerity from the answers of government officials.