Ana Lloyd-Damnjanovic (class of 2017) reflected on her time in Beijing in an email to Schwarzman Scholars’ founder, Steve Schwarzman. We’ve published her note below.
Happy New Year to you too! Thank you for making my 2016 so rewarding. As someone passionate about international security, I have spent the last five months here enriching my perspective on Sino-American relations through lively debate with my fellow Scholars. These conversations have shown me that Americans and mainland Chinese see the security challenges of East Asia—and more important, each other’s intentions—in starkly different terms.
Regional behavior my American friends often decry as Chinese “assertiveness” is, from my mainland friends’ perspective, a justifiable reaction to the United States’ “pivot” to Asia. Cross-strait relations are undeniably sensitive, provoking impassioned defenses of Taiwanese self-determination and the Chinese mainland’s sovereignty, depending on whom you ask. I am deeply grateful for the atmosphere of mutual respect within Schwarzman College that has made such conversations possible.
Indeed, I’m amazed by how much even simple things—like sharing a meal or going out for a show together—help me better understand my Chinese classmates’ cultural frames of reference. Cultivating mutual understanding through shared experiences like these reminds us, on the most basic level, of our common humanity. If I succeed in my ambition to work in diplomacy someday, I will certainly keep this in mind.
Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2017,