Solving international confrontation with interpersonal communication | Duke Kunshan University

Solving international confrontation with interpersonal communication

At DKU, students are encouraged to improve communication on interesting but tough subjects by engaging their peers

By Xiaoxi Zhu ’22
Contributing writer

In the days leading up to Election Day in the United States, the presidential race between Republican incumbent Donald Trump and Democrat candidate Joe Biden appeared to be a dead heat.

As has become normal in the run-up to a U.S. presidential election, both candidates described China as a competitive rival that threatens the U.S. in terms of military and economics. In speeches, Trump suggested that China “would own our country if Joe Biden got elected.” Biden also delivered similar tough talk on China’s rise.

What’s more, according to the Pew Research Center, public opinion toward China in the U.S. has turned increasingly negative since Trump’s election in 2016. So as the American people headed to polls this November, many likely viewed China, the Chinese government and even the Chinese people as a potential danger.

Right now, it feels almost impossible to change such a hostile relationship at the international level, as both nations make legitimate attempts for global influence and take adversarial positions in areas such as global governance and economics.

However, as individuals studying at a Chinese-American university, I feel it’s possible we can improve the relationship between these two countries on an interpersonal level based on similarities. For instance, students can build bonds through food, music and films. These common things contain emotions that are widely shared. No matter what political stance a person holds, we are able to touch each other by expressing preferences about art and literature.

In a practical sense, it’s not always easy for someone to connect with people from different places, even when they live and study together. From my observation, most students are likely to communicate and interact with those who share similar backgrounds, as they may feel more comfortable. It’s human nature, but it can block interpersonal and intercultural communication.

Though DKU provides a good opportunity to students from nations around the world, how to take advantage of this opportunity and interact with others regardless of differences is still a great challenge, especially for freshmen.

We should recognize that integrating students is an ambitious goal. DKU has made efforts to achieve this goal; for instance, the university offers a course called Global China to freshmen, which allows them to engage in deep discussions on specific international topics. In late October, the Office of Academic Affairs also held a debate in which we heard experts from the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy exchange their views, aligned and opposing, on how China-U.S. relations can be reconciled. It was a thought-provoking dialogue.

Further, through daily interactions, DKU expects students to enhance their communication on interesting but tough discussion topics.

In four years’ time, I highly expect to see more “China-bashing” advertisements in the run-up to the next U.S. presidential election, but it’s worth thinking about what we as individuals can do in our daily lives in the meantime to change this hostile relationship for the better.