For many Americans, China, officially the People’s Republic of China, represents an enigmatic country that is viewed in a multiplicity of ways. On one hand, some Americans equate China with the deadly 1989 pro-democratic protests involving thousands of students in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square which ultimately resulted in the death of hundreds of innocent Chinese civilians
But other Americans recognize China’s quantum leap in human rights, as well as its political and economic evolution over the past few decades that has transformed the country into the world’s most populous nation (more than 1.35 billion people), the world’s fastest growing major economy, the globe’s largest exporter and importer of goods, and host of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.
For Hiram E. Jackson, CEO of Detroit-based Real Times Media, China represented a country of mystique that offered more complex questions than answers about its government, people, culture, education system and religious beliefs. Further intrigued by the growing world status of China, Jackson embarked on a media, business and cultural fact-finding trip to the East Asia country several months ago to experience the People’s Republic of China up close and personal.
“I have always been interested in learning more about China’s long history, people and culture,” said Jackson, whose company publishes the Michigan Chronicle, Chicago Defender, Pittsburgh Courier and Atlanta Daily World, as well as annual Who’s Who publications that salute African-American achievements in 25 U.S. markets. “Therefore, I was excited by the opportunity to travel to China on a business and cultural mission.”
Jackson was one of several Black media professionals to make the trip. He was chosen because of his executive acumen in overseeing the massive reach of his company’s print and electronic media platforms to African-Americans throughout the United States.
Other members of the delegation traveling with Jackson, under the banner of the African-American Media Leadership Visit to China, included Cloves C. Campbell, Jr., delegation leader and chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA); Warren Ballentine III, former host of “The Warren Ballentine Show,” a nationally syndicated radio program; George E. Curry, editor-in-chief, National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service; Kierna Mayo, editorial director, Ebony Magazine (digital); and Elizabeth Ragland, chief photographer, George Curry Media, LLC.
The China trip was organized and coordinated by Julia A. Wilson through her Washington, DC-based company, Wilson Global Communications. Wilson, an international social entrepreneur who also made the trip, served as the liaison between the China travelers and sponsor and host, China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF), a China-based organization dedicated to strengthening and improving relationships between China and the United States. Tung Chee Hwa is CUSEF’s founding chairman.
The other sponsor and host was the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs (CPIFA), a Chinese organization founded 64 years ago by the late Premier Zhou Enlai. The organization was created to study world issues and facilitate exchanges with statesmen, scholars and other noted individuals representing various countries in order to better understand each other and form friendships. Yang Wenchang serves as the organization’s president.
After several months of planning, the media delegation visited three cities in China: Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai.
Beijing (four days)
Following a long flight from Chicago, Jackson and the delegation landed in Beijing, which is located in the northeast sector of China.
The city is home to approximately 19 million people. To put the 3,000-year-old city in perspective, its population is twice that of New York, America’s most populated city.
“Beijing was everything that I thought it was and nothing like I thought it would be,” said Jackson with a laugh. “You see a lot of Eestern images as soon as you land in Beijing. You see billboards for General Motors, the largest importer of cars to China. You also see fast-food establishments that are recognizable, such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Starbucks and KFC.”
The group’s first stop in Beijing was to the office of China Daily, the nation’s premier newspaper that is printed in English. The publication reaches more than 400,000 readers worldwide. The group was welcomed by the publication’s Mr. Qu, deputy chief editor, as well as Mr. Zhu, the newspaper’s former editor-in-chief.
Over the ensuing days in Beijing, the delegation was immersed with tours and visits in their quest to learn more about the city and China. The group visited the China International Cooperation Association of Small and Medium Enterprises and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
They also visited the Translation and Compilation Bureau, the State Ethnic Affairs Commission of the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs, where they had lunch and was welcomed by Director He and Director Wang.
No trip to Beijing would be complete without seeing and walking the Great Wall of China.
“The wall is incredible,” said Jackson. “It’s very difficult to describe just how massive the wall really is. It is thousands of miles long. It was built to keep China’s enemies out.”
The delegation’s stay in Beijing was highlighted during a luncheon hosted by Tung Chee Hwa, founding chairman of the China-United States Exchange Foundation and former chief executive of Hong Kong. He currently serves as vice chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
“I admire his wisdom to start the China-United States Exchange Foundation,” said Jackson. “He saw a tremendous need for the people of China and the people of the United States to build and maintain better relationships by having a better understanding of each other.”
The group later attended a dinner hosted by Alex Tzang, special advisor to the China-United States Exchange Foundation.
Xi’an (one day)
After a two-hour flight from Beijing, the delegation landed in Xi’an, a city of about nine million people. Located in central-northwest China, Xi’an is one of the original birthplaces of ancient Chinese civilization. The city is more than 3,000 years old.
“I was amazed by Xi’an’s historic heritage,” said Jackson. “I really enjoyed touring a community in Xia Yang County where we visited the homes of several Chinese people. We were well received by everyone.”
While Jackson saw many fascinating sites in this ancient city, he was most impressed by his visit to the Qin Shi Huang Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum where he saw the original underground sites of more than 7,000 life-sized pottery figures of the Terracotta army warriors and horses.
The figures were buried more than 2,100 years ago, but were unearthed in 1974 by peasants digging a well.
“I was told that the clay pottery figures of soldiers, archers and horses were made and buried to protect the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, who at the age of only 13 ruled ancient China more than 2,100 years ago,” said Jackson.
“Each soldier is holding a weapon, ready to protect the tomb of Qin Shi Huang. It’s amazing how detailed the figures are after being made and buried more than 2,100 years ago.”
Shanghai (two days)
Flying from Xi’an to Shanghai, a two-hour flight, Jackson and the group continued their cultural excursion. Jackson was spellbound by Shanghai and learned that it is China’s largest city and has a strong economic, commercial and financial core.
“Shanghai is like New York City on steroids,” said Jackson. “It is very futuristic, very contemporary and very metropolitan, yet it has a great blend of cultures and features of modern and traditional China, with some Western influences. The city has some of the most breathtaking skyscrapers that I have ever seen.”
While in Shanghai the delegation visited the China Executive Leadership Academy Pudong, an elite education center for top Chinese leaders to gain needed skills to compete in the 21st Century.
The group also visited Huawei Showroom, a company that provides next-generation telecommunications network solutions. The day concluded with a cruise on the Huang Pu River, which gave the delegation an incredible view of Shanghai’s stunning downtown skyline.
Jackson has gained a new perspective of the People’s Republic of China. He was appreciative of Julia A. Wilson and her company, Wilson Global Communications, for the outstanding planning and coordination of the seven-day trip.
“We would have never accessed China on the high level that we did without Julia,” said Jackson. “She made sure that even before we traveled to China that we were educated in Chinese culture, protocol and etiquette.
“She is an incredible, intelligent and internationally astute African-American woman who has been doing these types of international tours and cultural exchange trips with China and other countries around the world for almost 20 years.
“The main reason for the trip to China was to help remove the stereotypes that many Americans have about the country,” said Wilson, who has led several other African-American groups on cultural, business, and educational trips to the People’s Republic of China.
“I believe the best way to remove the stereotypes of China is to go there and see it for yourself.”
For Jackson, Wilson’s advice paid off.
“My impression of China before the trip was that it was a closed, almost monolithic society with limited political freedom,” Jackson said.
“Although much of that does exist, I saw that China was developing and had more freedom than I thought. There’s music, there’s fashion, there’s nightlife in China!
“Before going to China, I wasn’t sure what the Chinese people thought about African-Americans,” he said. “However, I found that Chinese people have a great curiosity about the African-American community.
“While there is a great hunger for China to do business in the United States, the country views African-Americans as possible allies in doing future business in the People’s Republic of China.