Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Fallows tells capacity crowd to remain optimistic about China

There are 10 things Americans should know about China, James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, told a capacity crowd of 1,000 gathered Sept. 21 for the first Bridges to the Future event of the 2009–10 academic year.

Fallows, who’s lived in China for the past three years, shared his observations during his speech, “China’s Way Forward.” Fallows said the speech was his first opportunity to talk about China since returning to the United States.

For example, Fallows said, while all laptops are made in southern China, only $60 of the $1,000 stays in China; the rest goes to large American companies.
“China has more to worry about on both accounts [jobs and money] than the U.S. does,” Fallows said.

Fallows also said he was struck by the problems China faces from poverty to environmental issues. For instance, Fallows called on University students to look for solutions to the environmental challenges that face China and the world.

“One billion people want to have electricity,” he said. “Unless we can find a way to blunt the effect of environmental growth, we are all in serious trouble.”

Fallows said Americans think material progress will lead to democratization in China. While he believes materialization will lead to a demand for liberties, it does not equate with democracy.

In addition, Fallows said Americans need to be aware of how China sees itself.

“China’s image of itself is of the relatively harmonious, pacific, as in pacifist, culture,” he said. But, the Chinese believe the country has “not been given its proper due by outside world, especially the Western world.”

Fallows said this is one factor that would unite the diverse population of China; if they feel disrespected by outsiders, they will unite as one power.

Overall, Fallows recommends the U.S. act towards China with active optimism. He said we have far more to gain from the relationship than to lose.

The journalist, who has worked for the magazine for more than 25 years, recently published Postcards from Tomorrow Square: Reports from China (Knopf 2009). In it, he talks about how Americans perceive China.

Bridges to the Future was created in 2002 to build a framework of programs that stimulate civic dialog and discussion among Colorado communities. Events are scheduled in each of DU’s three academic quarters (fall, winter and spring).
For information about the winter Bridges to the Future event, visit

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