U.S.-China Institute at Bryant University

China Experience Blog: Summer Internship 2011

Jason Fortin

June 6-12

Rice, the Military and Cycling

This past week began on the ideal note—a national holiday called the Dragon Boat festival (duān wǔ jié or 端午节). As a result, I had the day off from work and was able to explore a bit more of Chinese culture and dine on some zòng zǐ (粽子). The Dragon Boat Fesitval celebrates the life of Qu Yuan (qū yuán or 屈原), a Chinese poet, and is highlighted by the Dragon Boat Race. Qu Yuan was a minister to the Chu emperor during the Warring States Period (475 – 221 BC) and was outspoken against corruption within the imperial court. He was eventually banished and branded as a traitor while still holding onto his patriotic love for his emperor. When Qu Yuan learned that Qin warriors overthrew the Chu and had sacked his capital city he fell into a fit of despair and committed suicide by throwing himself into the Miluo River. 

The legend has it that local townspeople paddled their boats out in attempts to save him and threw rice dumplings into the water to prevent fish from eating his body. Simultaneously, they beat drums to keep the evil spirits away. As a result, the 5 th day of the 5 th lunar month is now celebrated by eating zòng zi (rice dumplings), racing dragon boats, and wearing talismans to ward off evil spirits. Although some Chinese newspaper articles argued that the holiday has lost its historical roots, boats were still raced, drums were still beaten and the rice dumplings were abundantly available. Rice dumplings are pockets of rice with either pork, beans, or chicken wrapped inside a leaf and boiled. The leaf preserves and adds flavor to the rice, which is sticky in texture. I sampled both a pork and bean rice dumpling and was fully satisfied with my experience.

粽子, fully wrapped 粽子, unwrapped! This one had pork stuffed inside the rice .

The Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy had four prominent guests and lectures this week.  The first speaker was Roy D. Kamphausen, who is a Senior Associate for Political Security Affairs at the National Bureau of Asian Research. Prior to joining NBR, Mr. Kamphausen served as a U.S. Army officer—a career that culminated in an assignment in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) as Country Director for China-Taiwan-Mongolia Affairs. His lecture engaged prospects for a cooperative defense relationship in 2012 and beyond between the People’s Liberation Army and the U.S. Department of Defense. Mr. Kamphausen highlighted reasons for delicate security relations and made the following five recommendations moving forward: change the tone of a relatively coarse and mistrusting security relations; build on priorities of defense concerns; find and develop areas of collaboration, such as joint efforts against terrorism and the nuclear criminal system; engage each other in a multilateral setting; and develop a ‘big vision’ for U.S. security relations.

The second speaker was Shi Yinhong, a professor at Renmin University, who spoke on the international security environment. He touched on the impact of U.S.-China security relations following U.S. intervention in Libya, the developing importance of Pakistan and the unresolved issue of nuclear proliferation in North Korea. During this talk Thomas J. Christensen, Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University, brought up a uniquely Chinese complications to international relations—the word for ‘nation’ in Chinese is the exact same word for ‘state.’ He stressed that the lack of distinction between these two words will serve as a huge roadblock for Sino-American relations because of the giant philosophical gap that it presents.

The third speaker I had the pleasure of viewing was Andrew Oros, a Professor at Washington College and a specialist on the international and comparative politics of East Asia and the advanced industrial democracies, with an emphasis on contending approaches to managing security.  Professor Oros contended that U.S.-China-Japan security cooperation and their trilateral relations was the most important relationship for Asian security. He argued that Japan is a potential military spoiler for regional security and that any temptation to bypass Japan when engaging China would represent a policy failure. His illuminating presentation transformed my perspective on Asian security issues and brought out the importance of contemporary Sino-Japan and U.S.-Japan relations for dialogue between China and the U.S.

The final event hosted by Carnegie-Tsinghua was a lecture by Professor Rosemary Foot talking on the subject of her new co-authored book, “China, the United State and Global Order.” Rosemary Foot is Professor of International Relations, and the John Swire Senior Research Fellow at St Antony's College, Oxford University. She has been a Fellow of the College since 1990, and was Senior Tutor from 2003-2005. Professor Foot’s talk truly captured my perspective of the U.S.-China relationship and I fully encourage all of you to pick up a copy of her new book. Her talk touched on the behavioral outcomes of U.S and Chinese foreign policy against five normative frameworks: use of force, Macroeconomic policy surveillance, nuclear non-proliferation, climate change, and financial regulation. She then addressed how the domestic agenda of the two states and the current power structure impacts their foreign policy visions. Her talk concluded with comments on the relationship’s implications for global order, the effects of China’s emerging conservative incrementalism and viable platforms for future cooperation. This event included a little taste of home because it was catered by Subway!

Subway, a taste of home (but they do have locations in 98 countries!)  First bowl of Chinese delivery

Now it is time to dive into my non-professional activities of this past week. I ordered Chinese delivery for the first time and it was incredibly straight forward. There is no tax on top of the menu price, no extra tipping needed and no wait time longer than ten minutes. The bowl of rice, onions and meat cost about 12 RMB (almost two dollars). This sounds really cheap, but it is smaller than it looks, and I eventually ordered a second one.

The Birds Nest

This past Saturday I travelled to the Olympic venues (or Olympic village) which is essentially the giant area housing the main stadiums for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Just outside the main entrance aside the famous Water Cube (where Michael Phelps won eight gold medals) is a McDonald’s. It is the only restaurant on the same side of the road as the venues. Just inside the gate to the right is the Water Cube which has now been turned into a water park! I did not have my bathing suit with me so I could not see any of the rides/slides on the inside, but I will definitely make a trip there before the summer ends.
McDonald's has its own landmark at the Olympic Venues The Cube
Two other prominent buildings in this area are the famous Birds Nest and the Press Tower. The Birds Nest is still used for concerts and various performances, but was empty on the day that I visited. Juxtaposed next to the Nest is a giant concession tent. After riding my bike to the venues (it was not a short trip) I had to go inside and grab some food. Most anywhere in Beijing you can grab skewers of meat or vegetables right off the local street vendor, but finding a fried potato on a skewer was a new and delightful discovery. I have been told they have the same kind of food in Florida (and I assume other places), but it was delicious nonetheless.

After eating some skewers, potato and drinking some coconut juice, I biked on down to Hou Hai Lake, which is just inside the 2 nd ring. Beijing currently has six rings, which are simply roads that encircle the city. The first ring is the outer wall of the Forbidden City and new rings have been added over time to account for the growth and expansion of the city.

Hou Hai Lake is a great place to go in the late afternoon or at night. The lake is encircled by a variety of restaurants, bars and clubs. I ate dinner at the same restaurant that I dined at when I was in Beijing last summer! Quite frankly, I was surprised I had remembered where it was, but after locating it I had to eat there. I walked around a bit after dinner and ducked into a few of the other places around the lake (which is just beautiful at night). I then hopped on my bike and headed back towards Tsinghua to meet some friends.  I hope to break up next week’s post into two sections because these are starting to get a little long; so look forward to that! 谢谢您的阅读 (I think this translates correctly…)

Two potatoes wrapped around a
stick and friend, then decorated
with spices and ketchup
Lamb skewers and coconut juice


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