Citizen diplomacy has never attracted so much media attention in China before. Now it’s all over the news. It is covered in many biggest newspapers, biggest web portals and the biggest national radio station. This whirlwind of Citizen diplomacy all started from President Obama’s letter reply to a Chinese economics teacher–Mr Dee Woo–about currency war and American Economy.
Two years ago, after studying and living in UK for many years, Woo returned to China to teach economics at Beijing Huijia private school. Because of his economics-teaching work, Woo maintained his habit of reading the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times and other western financial Medias. In September this year, Woo noticed a big trend in these mainstream Medias, which was blaming China’s trade and exchange rate policy for low employment and other economic problems in the US. The situation really worried Woo. When asked about his motivation to write to President Obama, he said: “I love my country. Many of my countrymen will lose their jobs if currency war breaks out. Their children will be forced to drop out of schools. I will feel very sad as both a teacher and a Chinese. People working in export-focused factories are of the lowest income bracket. They can’t sustain such huge shock. I also care about America very much. Because lots of the knowledge I learned about economics, philosophy, psychology and humanitarian literature all originated from this great nation. Many great economists I idolized are from the US. I don’t want such two great nations have a collision with one another at such a critical moment of recovery.”
At this point, Dee Woo started wondering what he could do. He decided to use his own knowledge of the economy to prove that blaming China for America’s economic problems is wrong, and he planned to tell President Obama about the findings of his research.
Woo logged onto the websites of the US Department of Commerce, Department of the Treasury and other government agencies, looking for the data and reports that he needed. In 20 days, he used his spare time to analyze this data. At the beginning of October, Woo’s research saw results. Through analysis, he found three things: Number one, the US economy has problems not because of any single country’s trade and currency exchange rate, but low saving rates year in year out; number two, growth in employment in the US came from the production of capital products and service products, but these products are mainly fed into China’s manufacturing industries. If China increases the Yuan exchange rate drastically, and the manufacturing industry is destroyed, the US employment will be hindered; number three, the world currency status of the dollar has caused a serious imbalance between wealth creation and job creation in the US. That imbalance could trigger a Greek-style debt crisis.
Therefore, Dee Woo suggested a currency war between the US and China would have devastating implications to both countries. And he submitted this result to President on 6th Oct.
On the evening of December 15, Woo arrived in his apartment after work, and opened his email inbox. An email with the subject line “Presidential Correspondence” immediately grabbed his attention. When he opened the email, he saw that it was from Barack Obama. Dee Woo knew then that he had finally received a reply for his letter to the American president.
When asked about whether he expects such a response from president Obama, he said “no. President is very busy. He has more than enough on his plate. That’s why I also submit my letter to Secretary of the United States Department of the Treasury, Secretary of the United States Department of the Commerce and the assistant to presidential economic advisors. I asked them to deliver my research results to Mr. President. I also submitted my article to Wall Street journal because in democratic America Medias has huge supervision over government’s policy making. Wall street journal is almost a core institution of American values. The government must answer to the voters the medias represent. Mr. Robert L. Pollock, the Editorial Features Editor of Wall Street journal, saw the merits of my reports “The U.S. Will Lose a China Trade War” and published it on the A19 section on 8th Oct. He is a true journalist of highest integrity. It is with extraordinary bravery that he plucked my article out of obscurity to publish it at odds with the populist sentiment against China.”
When asked about how he feels about president’s response, he said” Mr. Obama is a great leader. I am only a grassroots citizen. He took out his precious time to explain to me in such details about American economic recovery and job creation and I am deeply moved and honored. He is truly devoted to turning America around. I just hope we can give him more time and patience because this crisis is unprecedently devastating and the country needs time to structurally adapt.”
“In the past, I thought that I was only a grassroots citizen, and that my views would not affect the world at all. Even though it’s impossible to take the burden off one’s country, one should try one’s best.” Dee Woo sees the letter exchange as a kind of citizen diplomacy. When Asked about how he feel about the citizen diplomacy, he said:” citizen diplomacy can say and do things that official diplomacy cannot or fails to say and do. And therefor compensate the information deficit between official channels with its flexibility, variety and unofficialness. Citizen Diplomacy is also different from NGO diplomacy because it’s grassroots, Spontaneous, and voluntary.”
MR Woo hope that more and more people can take part in citizen diplomacy and reach out to each other from both sides. “Seek communication and not confrontation. Chinese and American people have a lot of culture and ideology differences. Citizen diplomacy is a great way to bridge that gap. In the age of free trade and globalization, citizen diplomacy can facilitate a country’s trade, culture exchange and many other things. I think this grassroots movement is good for China’s democracy and communication with the West. It can evolve into something that can make really positive change to Chinese conscience structure. The US has US Center for Citizen Diplomacy. But China has nothing concrete like that. America can help china develop its citizen diplomacy. Without the interaction and exchange with the US, China’s Citizen Diplomacy will probably fade away before it becomes a movement and deep-rooted awareness” Mr. Woo said. “I will come to the US in late January. Hopefully I can get in touch with US Center for Citizen Diplomacy or even Mr. President and bring some much needed help for our own Citizen Diplomacy back to China.”
The values presented in Mr. Woo’s concept of citizen diplomacy have resonated with many ordinary Chinese citizens. That’s why his letter exchange with President Obama has attracted such a huge media interest in China.
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