Title: The Art of Dialogue and International Exchange: Vice director of the Communication and Culture Research Center at Peking University, Jing Xu, reflects on learning about China and other countries around the world
Interviewed and co-written by Mirabelle Morah and Oscar Tollast
Originally published by Salzburg Global Seminar.
“When I was a student, I met a very good professor… In her classroom, she told us that if you want to do some research, the first thing you’ll need to do is [learn] where China was, where China is, [and] where China will be.” said Jing Xu, speaking at the Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA). “I need to know more about China.”
Why would someone wanting to learn about China come to an American Studies symposium? Xu is the vice director of the Communication and Culture Research Center and a professor at the School of Journalism at Peking University, in China, and the latest SSASA symposium was titled The Changing Role of the Media in American Life and Culture: Emerging Trends.
For Xu, learning about other countries and other cultures is just as important as learning more about China. She has spent more than 34 years at Peking University, first arriving as an undergraduate student. She earned a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. at the School of International Studies before transferring to the School of Journalism & Communication. Much of her research has focused on Chinese media, politics, public opinion, media governance, and health communication.
In Salzburg, Xu was able to provide a unique perspective as the sole participant from China. But she could also reflect on her experiences in Japan, the UK, Sweden, Hong Kong, Belgium, and Italy. Xu is a firm believer in international exchange, having founded the Europe-China Dialogue in Media and Communications Summer School in 2013.
The program is now in its seventh year, having held its latest meeting in Beijing, China in July 2019. It aims to provide a platform linking scholars from Europe and China to foster the generation of new ideas for a better global communication exchange. Xu says they want to broaden students’ perspectives.
At the program, both professors and students present their own research. “After the presentation, professors – one Chinese professor [and] another European professor – will give [the students] comments to tell them how to modify, how to craft their thesis. That’s very helpful. We call it dialogue,” explains Xu.
“In some conferences, the students have a rare chance to get more feedback from professors – maybe several sentences. But in our… program each one will do [a] 15-minute presentation and get feedback from different professors. So, [it] almost lasts one hour.”
Xu says last year’s program received more than 60 proposals, more than double the number of places available. It was “the biggest success” for the program to date, according to Xu. Changes were made to the program as it sought to provide more theoretical and methodological guidance for Ph.D. students, with a greater focus on scientific training. Xu is clearly proud of how the program has progressed. “I feel happy. [This is] the first time that people hear my story about the summer school.”
Xu has attended a number of different international events in her career, including those where thousands of people come together. Events like this, however, make it difficult to have real dialogue, according to Xu. Thankfully, it is a different story in Salzburg.
“People are encouraged to speak, have different in-depth dialogue and conversation,” she explains. “So, that’s very, very interesting and [a] benefit for me… I also have a chance to put forward my ideas… To some extent, I’m timid. I don’t want to speak too much, but here, I feel more and more optimistic [and] confident with my English… I think when I say something, people are really interested in that.”
The Changing Role of the Media in American Life and Culture: Emerging Trends features as part of the Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA) multi-year series. You can capture highlights on social media using the hashtag #SSASA.