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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

SASASAAS: It’s all about Asia

By Andrea Vukcevic

About 50 members and guests of the Southern Atlantic States Association for Asian and African Studies (SASASAAS) descended on The University of North Carolina at Pembroke March 18-19 for their semi-annual meeting.

Political Science faculty members at conference – From left: Dr. Elizabeth Normandy, Dr. Kevin Freeman, Dr. Michael Hawthorne, Dr. William Albrecht, Dr. Robert Schneider and Dr. Ge Su, minister of the Chinese embassy.

Political Science faculty members at conference – From left: Dr. Elizabeth Normandy, Dr. Kevin Freeman, Dr. Michael Hawthorne, Dr. William Albrecht, Dr. Robert Schneider and Dr. Ge Su, minister of the Chinese embassy.

The featured topic was a “State of the Country” report on China. UNCP representative and sociology professor Dr. John Bowman organized the two-day event that featured speakers on current issues.

“It’s a good opportunity for our faculty and students to learn about China and Asia,” Dr. Bowman said.

Featured speaker was Dr. Ge Su, minister/counselor for the Office of Congressional and Bilateral Affairs at the Chinese Embassy. Dr. Su entertained an eager audience with anecdotes and Chinese proverbs, while discussing U.S.-China relations in the 21st century.

“China’s population is five times yours,” he told the audience. “But you have 10 times as many lawyers as we do!”

Dr. Su illustrated the Cold War as remembered by both camps and summarized today’s global interdependence by holding up his cell phone.

“Motorola,” he began. “Is this a Chinese product or an American one?”

“It may be assembled in China, but American genius designed it,” Dr. Su said. “The iron ore in the circuits probably came from Australia, the steel from South Korea and the motherboard is from Taiwan.”

He noted major similarities in the Asian policies of the two nations – opposition to the spread of weapons of mass destruction in Korea and the promotion of economic interdependence and educational exchange between the U.S. and China.

“There are 300,000 Chinese have been students at U.S. schools,” he said. “I was one of them.”

After the presentation, Chancellor Allen C. Meadors and Dr. Alex Chen, vice chancellor for International Programs, presented Dr. Su with a gift.

“We are very honored to host this conference and have Minister Counselor Su on our campus,” said Dr. Chen.

In an earlier session, geographer Dr. Yong Wang of East Carolina University presented research on the Three Gorges dam project in central China. Three dams will flood an area inhabited by 1.25 million people. It will destroy the ecosystem along the Chang Jiang River but will generate about five percent of the country’s power.

Also on Friday, Appalachian State University Professor Dorothea Martin presented “Punk Rock Music in China” and the changing mentalities surrounding film, “leisure time” and the growing anti-socialist counterculture.

On Saturday, medical geographer Dr. Melinda Meade discussed “Public Health Issues and the AIDS Epidemic in China.”

“The conference was very successful,” Dr. Bowman said afterward. “I think some of the dialogue about Taiwan between Minister Counselor Su and the audience was just fascinating. The people who attended mentioned specifically the quality of the presentations and how much they learned.”

The Southern Atlantic States Association for Asian and African Studies is a consortium of 23 colleges and universities in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia established to stimulate and enhance the study of Asia and Africa.

SASASAAS supports faculty instruction, funds international activities, provides audiovisual resources, organizes programs abroad for faculty and students and maintains linkages with other professional organizations as well as with the public schools and decision-makers in government and the private sector.

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