Great Barrington, Massachusetts—On Friday, 22 October 2010, Berkshire Publishing Group joins the Trustees of Reservations in hosting a first “China in the Berkshires” event at which Ambassador Nicholas Platt will take us back to the early days of renewed U.S.-China relations. This program provides insight into the challenges of engagement and mutual understanding, which are as important in 2010 as they were the late 1960s and early 1970s.
In those days, a Republican administration wanted China’s help in controlling the power of the U.S.S.R. and decided that friendship with China was in our national interest. They then had to convince the American public.
Other, more populous parts of Massachusetts may have more extensive claims to the early U.S.-China trade, but even the rural Berkshire Hills have had China connections over the years. Ambassador Platt will discuss his new book China Boys: How U.S. Relations with the PRC Began and Grew at Naumkeag, a property owned and managed by the Trustees of Reservations, in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Stockbridge is the small town made famous by the iconic American illustrator Norman Rockwell. It’s a few miles north of Great Barrington, where Berkshire Publishing Group is based. Ambassador Platt spent part of his childhood at Naumkeag and after speaking will lead a tour of the Chinese garden that his great aunt, Mabel Choate, created there.
The Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts are known for arts and cultural activities and for outdoor beauty, especially at this time of year when the “leaf peepers” pack the roads and restaurants. But the Berkshires have also been a favorite retreat of intellectuals and writers with a global perspective. They range from Great Barrington’s native son, W.E.B. DuBois, one of the 20th century’s leading thinkers and civil rights activists, who returned to the town throughout his life, to modern authors including Benjamin Barber, Simon Winchester, and Fareed Zakaria.
The days of ping-pong diplomacy and secret missions to China might seem like ancient history, but China is again being portrayed in the popular media as a threat to the United States and even as a potential military invader. China is blamed for our trade imbalance and American job losses. Human rights and the rule of law continue to be major issues for China in its relations with the international community. Meanwhile, the threat of military confrontation over Taiwan, which was for decades the most prominent worry for China watchers, has almost vanished from general discussion.
Today, policy experts insist that we need to work with China to face a range of global challenges: the economic crisis, climate change, transborder pollution, energy security, pandemics, terrorism, rogue and failed states, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Ambassador Platt’s story of another time, not really so long ago, when a wide and diverse group of Americans and Chinese were finding ways to resolve conflicts (and to educate voters) is particularly timely and will be both informative and inspiring.
The event takes place from 3.00-4.45pm on Friday, 22 October 2010. Seats are limited and must be reserved online here. There is no charge.
This is the first “China in the Berkshires” event organized by Berkshire Publishing Group, as part of its effort to “think globally, act locally.” Based in Great Barrington, the company has become known throughout the world as a leader in China-focused and international resources for schools, universities, and corporations.
Ambassador Nicholas (Nick) Platt explains the title China Boys: just after signing the Shanghai Communique, President Nixon told him “you China Boys are going to have a lot more to do from now on.” He studied Mandarin at the Foreign Service Institute in Washington and then in Taiwan before being posted to Hong Kong in 1964. His career at the State Department included involvement in the preparations and negotiations that went into Nixon’s 1972 trip to China. Fourteen months later he helped to set up the first American diplomatic office in the People’s Republic. Later he served as ambassador to Zambia, the Philippines, and Pakistan. He was also president of the Asia Society for 12 years.