Author: Blending of cultures benefits world

Updated: 2014-12-04 05:02

By MAY ZHOU in Houston(China Daily USA)

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Author: Blending of cultures benefits world
Author Eric Liu discusses his book with local journalist Claudia Kolker in Houston. MAY ZHOU / CHINA DAILY

What does it mean to be a Chinese American at a time when China is rising on the world stage? Chinese-American author and former presidential speech writer Eric Liu has the answer: Be a bridge-builder, and blend Chinese and American values.

Liu discussed his recently published book, A Chinaman's Chance: One Family's Journey and the Chinese American Dream, at the Asia Society Texas Center in Houston on Tuesday.

"There are basically two stories woven together in this book," he said. "One is my own family; how we made the journey to create the identity as Chinese American. And the other story is more broadly looking at the present day and history of Chinese Americans; how this central geopolitical relationship between China and the US shape both opportunities and perceptions of Chinese Americans."

Liu said Chinese Americans are living in an exciting age, when China is rising: "The Chinese Americans are viewed as bridge-builders, have more connections and power in a way.

"However, the downside is that some Americans feel that China's rise is a threat and is connected to America's relative decline," he said. "There is more anxiety in the air, and there is more hostility toward both Chinese in China and the US. Both danger and opportunity are part of this historical moment."

Liu worries that the US may close its borders, mind and heart when facing China's rise and perceived "threat". That would undermine America's strength, which is its openness to people from all over the world, he said.

"This is the great opportunity for the US to show the world that no matter how strong China becomes, the US does retain one advantage: America makes Chinese American, China does not make Americans Chinese."

Born to immigrant parents, Liu inherited Chinese culture from his parents while assimilating into American culture, He calls his cultural hybrid "the Chinese-American way" — a blend of American individualism and Chinese collective responsibility; a mix of American rights and autonomy and Chinese responsibility and obligation; and a blend of the American focus on the brand new; and the Chinese sense of context, history and tradition.

"Pure individualism or pure collectivism produces an unhealthy society and community," Liu said. "The blend will bring the best of both worlds. Chinese Americans have the great opportunity to embody this blend of values, [build] a bridge between the US and China, make sure there is more understanding and empathy between the two societies. If we could do that, that will be beneficial to the world."