On the surface it’s a beautifully innocent sight — smiling children from two countries at different corners of the world coming together to learn about each other’s cultures and enjoy the experience of meeting new people.
Such was the case with a recent visit by a delegation of 10 youths from China to Mount Airy, the latest in a series of student-exchange trips back and forth between the two.
I think traveling, whether to China or most any other foreign country, is one of the most-educational activities a person of any age can undertake, and I wholeheartedly applaud the idea of children from vastly varying cultures interacting in these ways.
Yet when weighing the visits against the backdrop of present U.S.-Chinese relations and the government now in place in China, I must admit that I am somewhat concerned about the end game of all this.
I would hope that along with the laughs and joy and celebration of the Chinese New Year with their counterparts from afar last week, our kids also are being taught about the darker side of that nation by local educators in order to balance the equation.
It is a cold hard fact that China is led by a communist government that is one of the most-oppressive regimes in the history of the world, which jails political dissidents right and left and restricts Internet use by its citizens. And for years, it limited families to only one birth, among other restrictions on freedoms we here in the States take for granted.
And oh, by the way, it wasn’t so long ago (1989 to be exact) that Chinese leaders brutally ordered hundreds of Chinese students shot to death in Beijing, with thousands more injured and/or arrested. Their crime: holding protests seeking a democratic, less-oppressive government.
It almost goes without saying that those students who were killed once were fresh-faced innocent youngsters of the kind Mount Airy has embraced so warmly, and in a well-intended manner, I might add.
The average citizens of China, most of whom suffer from the poverty of a Third World existence, are not to blame for all this. Nor is the Chinese culture itself, an ancient civilization dating back thousands of years which can be credited with such inventions as movable type, acupuncture, gunpowder and more.
Not to mention its heritage of fine artwork, food and technical expertise as illustrated by the construction of the Great Wall of China.
Unfortunately, these great people and their country have been subjugated by a cut-throat communistic government that historically has undermined their potential.
So, yes, I would be more comfortable as an average citizen and taxpayer if cultural exchanges were occurring between our local kids and nations such as England, Australia, Tanzania, wherever.
But, of course, it is no accident that China has been selected as the country Mount Airy is choosing to have exchanges with, which is where that end game I mentioned comes into play.
The U.S. is now heavily indebted to China, which has lured away many American manufacturers of furniture and other goods through unfair trade advantages. This has been partly accomplished through the paying of slave wages to its long-suffering people, and currency manipulations that artificially create demand for Chinese products.
So the conspiracy theorist in me says the reason behind all these student visits is the notion that these people will take us over one day — so we might as well get used to the idea by learning to speak Mandarin Chinese, etc.
I suspect that much of this kind of thinking is due to a trend toward globalization which escalated during the Obama years — one I hope will be reversed during the Trump presidency as other of Obama’s “accomplishments” have been.
You certainly can argue, based on the results of the recent election, that the people who put Donald Trump in the White House are not ready to concede world control to China and play second fiddle to it just yet.
On the other hand, we need to find ways to reverse the present economic trend that has given China a non-competitive trade advantage, so America can get back into the driver’s seat for a change. I am confident this will occur over the next several years.
In the meantime, those hitting the streets for violent protests against the Trump administration and its earliest actions — who probably are some of the same ones who think China is so great — should just remember how it treats such political dissidents.
Can you say “Tiananmen Square?”
Tom Joyce is a staff writer for The Mount Airy News. He may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.