Building gateways to China, Asia and the global community 

Observations from the Whistler Forum's Harmony Tour II to Shanghai, Kunming and Shangri-La

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Reading about this year's Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Chinese political dissident Liu Xiaobo, I felt cognitive dissonance. How Mr. Liu's experience must differ so drastically from the freedom of expression we saw and participated in last month in Shanghai.

Come on a misty Monday afternoon for a walk from the landmark Shanghai Museum with its immense treasure trove of Chinese history, inventions and culture, out through the expansiveness of People's Square. Turn left and meander through green parks, soft ponds with the biggest water lilies you will ever see, and go to the Shanghai Art Museum. On the way you will see modern street art with the gorgeous and the grotesque, bizarre phalluses and sweeping sculptures. Get lost and wander into MOCA Shanghai (Museum of Contemporary Art) for its "ReFlections of Minds" exhibit. Find your way to the Art Museum itself. In its old architectural splendour are preparations for the eighth Shanghai Biennale, the largest culture, art and design event in Asia, corporate sponsors and all.

At Kathleen's Rooftop Restaurant and Lounge above the Art Museum, a few of us from the Whistler Forum's Harmony Tour II group met. With gin and tonics, overlooking this "Jewel on the Sea" and Shanghai surprises, the constant refrain was "This is China?" It is land of silk and money, full of cultural, political, economic and social contradictions. It's a people, now more than 1.3 billion, that for centuries have been invaded, walled off and for whom "face" is everything. Canadians without a history of empire, imperialism and hegemony, are 40-year-long friends with China - with MOCA Shanghai and with Liu Xiaobo. From the Sea to Sky we came to listen, learn and share our stories and life here.

But what to do with cognitive dissonance? Take sides, shut down, retreat to a simpler place? Or ask questions, seek understanding and engage more deeply? We decided that as Whistlerites in China, with the international community gathered for the Shanghai World Expo, engagement is the path to the 21 st century future. What follows from our experience are 10 lessons learned from China and 10 things China can learn from us. Then, looking forward are five strategic considerations for our "Gateway to China, Asia and the Global Community" turning around us.

 

Lessons we can learn from China

1) Delicious Food, Creative Cuisine, Healthy Eating

There are many cuisine cultures the world over. In Vancouver and Whistler we delight in many of them. But the food in China and the restaurants we ate at in Shanghai, Kunming and Shangri-la are uniquely creative, delicious and nutritious. At Ye Shanghai, South Beauty, Three on the Bund, sample a few of the thousands of dishes served up from the many diverse regions of China.

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