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Posts Tagged ‘University of Chicago’

Can China rise peacefully?

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

John Mearsheimer, Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, gave a talk on China last week at an event organized by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. He predicts that China’s economic growth will lead to its military growth, which in turn, will result in conflicts between the U.S. and China in the future, be it 20 or 30 years from now.

“It’s a myth that many China scholars and policy makers think China is different from the U.S. and other European great powers,” said Mearsheimer.

He argued that when China grows more powerful economically, it will translate that economic might into military might and will try to dominate Asia, and meanwhile, the U.S., the hegemony in the West Hemisphere, “will go great length to prevent China from becoming a regional hegemony in Asia.”

Mearsheimer said his theory on the power of states in international politics is based on the following five assumptions:

  • principal actors in international politics are states;
  • all states have military offensive capacity;
  • the intentions of the states are hard to predict and measure;
  • principal goal for every state is to survive; and
  • states will maximize their chance for survival.

He said these assumptions lead states to three forms of behavior, namely

  • states fear each other;
  • the best way for a state to survive is to protect itself; and
  • the best way to do the prection is to be very powerful.

“China has been a highly aggressive country in history, just like other great powers in the world,” Mearsheimer said.

The international forum is an anarchy system, he emphasized, citing that the fittest survives.

“When China was weak, the other great powers took advantage of it,” he said. “It’s that experience of humiliation that makes it perfectly clear to China that it can’t let it happen again.”

He said the best way to ensure that is for China to be very powerful.

“To put it in slightly different terms, it’s for China to dominate Asia.”

But the U.S. and other countries in Asia will try to prevent China from dominating Asia, he said.

He stated that in its effort to maintain its hegemony, the U.S. succeeded in dismantling other great powers in history, including the Imperial Germany, the Nazi Germany, the Imperial Japan and Russia. It will try to contain China as well.

As China continues to grow and become stronger, the competition between the U.S. and China will be more intense. It will eventually escalate to conflicts, he concluded.

“Anything the U.S. does to defend itself will be offensive to China, and vice versa,” he said.

Mearsheimer disputed the theories of co-relation balancing, the importance of economic ties, and the “myth” that Confucian ideology deems China a peace loving country. He said at time of conflicts, politics trumpets everything.

“I’m not anti China or anti America,” he declared. “If I were an advisor of national security to the President of China, I would tell him to get the U.S. out of Asia. By the same token, if I were an advisor to the President of the United States, I would advise him to keep China out as well.”

He warned that “If China continues to grow as it did in the past 30 years and becomes a giant Hong Kong, it’s going to be unstoppable.”

“I hope China will stop growing,” he said to me when I interviewed him, and several times during his speech.  That sounded quite anti China to me.

For more information on his theories, check out his book The Tragedy of Great Power Politics.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Golden Globe Winner Jacqueline Bisset. Visit for more information.

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James Joyce’s “The Dead” at the Court Theatre

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

A scene from “The Dead” at the Court Theatre

I read James Joyce‘s story “The Dead” years ago when my daughter was reading it for her English class in high school. I must admit that I don’t remember much of the details. So at our last reading group’s gathering when one member suggested we watch the show, I volunteered to get the tickets. Last Sunday, a group of us went to the Court Theater in Hyde Park.

What a delightful treat it was for a holiday season despite the title.

I passed the Court Theater on a weekly basis on my way to the racquetball court at the gym of the University of Chicago, but never made a stop at the small theatre. It felt like discovering a hidden jewel—the theatre was cozy, neat, and open. And equally important, the show was superb.

I was thrilled by the beautiful songs and performance. The small group brought the theatre to life and engaged the audience the entire time. Norm, one of our group, said he watched the show ten years ago when it was first performed at the Court Theater. He said it was different, but both show “pulled off nicely and worked!”

The show focused on ordinary people’s life, which was revealed via the gathering of an extended family and friends over a holiday dinner. It was revealing and intimate. We got to know each of the characters on stage via a narrator’s voice (Gabriel, performed by Phillip Earl Johnson) and a number of songs.

The show will continue to run till Dec. 9—only a few more days left. A segment of the performance—the singing of the song “Wake the Dead” is available on the website. Check it out. You won’t regret.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning feature-length documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset.

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Swinging Shanghai Gala

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

By Jian Ping

Bill Spence (left) and Steve Fisher and Lisa Xia, co-chair of the event, speaking at the Gala

The Swinging Shanghai Gala, an annual fundraising event organized by the China Committee, Chicago Sister Cities International, was held at Maxim’s last Wednesday, May 25. It was an evening of fun and networking. Many Committee members and their guests attended the gathering.

The China Committee gave recognition and honor to the University of Chicago for its “wisdom of establishing the Beijing Center.”

“University of Chicago is a major Chicago institution,” Bill Spence, Co-Chair of the China Committee, said at the Gala. “The Beijing Center not only serves as a center for scholars, but it can also be used for business and cultural exchange programs and meetings.”

Louis, Lisa and Jennifer posing for a snap shot at the Gala

Spence praised University of Chicago’s (UChicago) long history of involvement with China. He pointed out that the reputation of UChicago would help draw renowned scholars around the world to the Center and also attract Chinese policy makers and scholars to Chicago.

Judith Farguhar, Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology, received the plaque of recognition on behalf of UChicago.

“University of Chicago has rich and deep connections with China for many years,” she said. “The Beijing Center is a wonderful conduit to widening and deepening these connections and exchange programs.”

The annual gala was a great success. Many members and local businesses donated items for auction, which include luxury hotel stays in Shanghai and Chicago; tickets to concerts, sports events, and golf outings; classes for language and cultural studies, including a 10-week, 3-hour/week course from the Asian

Members and guests enjoying an evening of wine, beer (including Tsingtao Beer from China), and delicious food at Maxim's

Classics Program at the Graham School, UChicago. Proceeds from the auction will support the Committee’s activities in “strengthening the partnerships among business, government, cultural and educational institutions” between Chicago and its two China sister cities, Shanghai and Shenyang.

Tabitha Mui played Gu Zeng (古筝), a traditional Chinese music instrument, throughout the evening. Artists from the Hip Hop ChicaGO, organized by the Center for Asian Arts and Media at Columbia College, also entertained the guests with their performance.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. The book has been developed into a feature-length documentary film by award-winning director Susan Morgan Cooper and will be released in 2011. Visit, for more information.

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Eve Ensler, Woman Warrior

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

By Jian Ping

Ensler read from her book at U of C

Last Sunday, Eve Ensler came to the University of Chicago to give a talk about her latest book I’m an Emotional Creature—the Secret Life of Girls Around the World. Ensler is the author of The Vagina Monologue and founder of V-Day, a non-for-profit organization advocating against violence against women. The talk was open to the public, so I made my way there.

The theater in the International House was packed, with an audience largely being consisted of students from U of C and women. Ensler, true to her reputation, immediately commanded the attention of the entire group the moment she stepped onto the stage. She was provocative and passionate about the voices and sufferings of young girls around the world. And she talked about V-Day’s work in Congo and other countries where they had changed many women’s lives.

Ensler's latest book: I'm an emotional creature...

She then proceeded to read three sections from I’m an Emotional Creature. She was such a dynamic performer—her stories, fictionalized according to her interviews with 200 girls, were read with such sincerity and feelings that she completely captivated the audience. I heard the sniffing and sobbing around me and found tears surging to my eyes.

But the moment that touched everyone came when people lined up in front of the microphone to make comments or ask questions.

A middle aged woman who volunteers to help abused women praised Ensler for her contribution. She also acknowledged how hard it was to fight the battle.

Ensler at book signing at U of C

A 14-year-old girl, a victim of rape, announced in tears how Ensler’s books and talk had given her the courage to find her own footing; and how she would stop the tears and join the fight to prevent others from becoming rape victims.

A young man, a sophomore at U of C, spoke in shaking voice, asking what he, as a man, could do to help.

Two black women, both victims of sexual abuse, came forward to announce that they founded an organization called Dream Catcher to help sexually abused women and they had been working without pay for months. But with each call for help, they couldn’t quit …

Ensler listened and responded to each of them. When she heard the Dream Cather’s story, she immediately pledged $10,000 of her own money to help. She also asked the audience to donate whatever they could to help.

Tears flowed freely, so was loud applauses.

It was one of the most emotionally charged and inspirational talks I had ever attended!

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. For more information, visit, Mulberry Child is being developed into a feature-length documentary movie by award-winning director Susan Morgan Cooper and will be released in 2011.

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The Tale of Genji

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

By Jian Ping

We just finished our winter quarter at the University of Chicago.  This year, our focus of study is on Japan, mostly literature and Zen BuddhismThe Tale of Genji, an ancient classic describing the romance of court life in Heian Japan in the tenth and eleventh centuries, was of the books we covered in class. The book was attributed to a single writer, a court lady by the name of Murasaki Shikubu.

The Tale of Genji, a novel of more than a thousand pages, felt like a brick. I was not that keen in reading it at the beginning of the class. Romance and court life, not to mention the time distance, didn’t sound very interesting.

However, the first chapter grabbed my attention. I think it’s safe to say the attention of most of the people in my class—a group of professionals in their 40s and 50s who had been together in the Asian Classics program and meet every Saturday for three hours for nearly four years.

Asian Classics Program, U of C

Murasaki, the author of Genji, I soon came to realize, was not only a genius storyteller, but also a poet, a musician, a calligrapher, a gardener, and should I say, a psychologist! Her description of the characters’ inner world still resonate readily with our life and way of thinking today. We were amazed and mesmerized.

Our instructor, Marissa Love, who is an expert in the area, filled us in with the historical and cultural background and kept broadening our discussions and understanding. The parallels of relationships that she pointed out, the intricacies of political backing for the court women that she brought to our attention, and the unique and relatively influential positions of these elite women that she led us to discuss were all quite fascinating! The book became a window to the culture and life of Japan at the time, and Marissa’s passion and knowledge only made it a more exciting learning experience for us.

We didn’t have enough time to read the entire book in class. But I’m so intrigued that I intend to finish reading the entire book on my own.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Visit or for more information. Mulberry Child is being developed into a feature-length documentary film and will be released in 2011.

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Reading Chinese Classics (2) — Different Perspectives

Monday, April 12th, 2010

By Jian Ping

 When we started our class on Confucius’ Analects at the Asian Classics program, our instructor Alan suggested we follow three “rituals” in honor of Confucius.  

 “Number one,” he said, “we call Confucius Master Kong”. The romanization of the Chinese name Kong Zi didn’t reflect the proper respect for him. “Kong” is Confucius’ family name, and “Zi”, refers to a sage or master. We readily accepted the proposal.  

“Number two,” Alan continued, “We start our class with a formal greeting. I’ll say ‘Good morning, class’ and you’ll stand up and say ’Good morning, teacher.’” The 20 plus students discussed about it for a while and agreed to the practice.

It was the third ritual Alan proposed that threw us into dispute.

Alan taped a portrait of Master Kong on the blackboard and suggested we bow to the master at the beginning or ending of each class.

The word “bow” sounded like a bomb exploding in the classroom.

“Wait a minute,” one student said. “I have a problem with that.” He raised his voice: “We’ve been brought up questioning and challenging authorities in this country. We’d never blindly submit to a master or a government. I don’t feel comfortable bowing.”

“I can bow to knowledge, but not to a person,” another student chided in. “It’s not in our culture to bow, to be submissive.”

My friend Hong, my husband Francis and I were the only Chinese in our class. We looked at one another and were very surprised by our American classmates’ reactions.

“Bowing in this context is an indication of respect,” Hong said. “It doesn’t mean being submissive to authority.”

 “We are not talking about bowing at 90 degrees,” I added. “A lowering of the head is just like tipping your hat.”

The discussion got heated. Our American friends wouldn’t budge. Despite Alan’s explanation that the ritual only bound us for the duration of the class and served to simulate the way the Master would have taught, they objected strongly. In the end, we comprised by agreeing to stand up at the end of the class and bow to the center—to knowledge and to one another for sharing knowledge, but not to anyone in particular.

I was amazed by my American classmates. Kong Zi is a philosopher, a sage and a famed teacher, not a dictator.

Throughout the entire quarter, we practiced these rituals. We stood up to greet Alan. We slipped from time to time by referring to the sage as Confucius instead of Master Kong and corrected ourselves. Alan placed Master Kong’s portrait on the blackboard at each class, but we never bowed to him. Instead, we dutifully bowed to the center of the class from our circular seating at the end of each session and said: “Thank you.” It reminded me of our cultural differences each time we practiced the ritual.  

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. For more information, please visit or

Reading Chinese Classics (1)

Monday, March 29th, 2010

by Jian Ping 

I’ve been taking classes at the Asian Classics program at the Graham School, University of Chicago. It’s a four-year program covering history, literature and religion in India, Middle East, China and Japan. We have about twenty people, our age ranging from the 40s to 70s and our background differing from lawyers, scientists, school teachers, retired business owners/executives, full-time mothers, and this spring semester, as we turn our studies to Buddhism, a Zen priest. It’s a wonderful group and we meet every Saturday in Hyde Park campus for two sessions, which last for three hours—truly an enlightening and fun experience.

This is our third year, focusing on China. My husband Francis and I are both in the program. Since it’s on China, we participate more in class discussions, bringing in our cultural perspective and understanding. During the winter semester when we were studying Confucius and Mencius in one session and Tang poetry in the other, Francis and I sometimes took turns to read the text in Cantonese and Mandarin respectively, to the amazement of our American classmates—the same text sounded so differently.

I grew up during the Cultural Revolution in China, therefore, never learned Confucius’ Analects. I very much enjoyed reading it. In addition to the English text, I also read the Chinese, and sometimes, compare them side by side. I have to say that it is much easier to read it in contemporary English than the classic Chinese.

This morning, I took out The Analects and thumbed through the first few pages. Once line immediately caught my attentions:


The English translation by Roger Ames goes: The Master (Confucius) said, “When your father and mother are alive, do not journey far, and when you do travel, be sure to have a specific destination.”

This is about filial piety. According to Confucius, a filial child who observes the right ritual, 礼, should stay close to his/her parents so as to take care of them and if he/she has to travel, to tell the parents specifics about the journey so the parents can be relieved of worrying.

I know I cannot qualify as a filial daughter since my mother lives in China and I am far, far away. I do call her every weekend, though. I chat with her and two of my older sisters—Yan has moved back to care for her since Father passed away in 2008, and Wen lives two flights up in the same building and spends every evening with Mother, tending to her needs. Filial children in its true sense!   

Is it because of my astray from the teaching or the next generation who grow up in the U.S. that the tradition is fading into history?

My daughter Lisa and I live in Chicago, in two apartments less than two miles away. But I seldom see her—she is either too busy with her work or her social life, or I, by the same token, too busy with my writing, reading or social activities. However, I think it’s fair to say that my longing to see her is much stronger than her desire to see me.

Last weekend, Lisa went to Florida to join a group of friends for a short vacation.

“Please drop in a line or two and let me know you are okay,” I wrote to her via email. I know she checks her BlackBerry and does texting constantly.

Four days passed, not a single word from her. I have to get on Facebook to check her postings to learn her whereabouts.  

I don’t know I should blame her or kick myself. I wonder when I can ask Lisa to read Confucius’ Analects.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. visit or for more information.