China in Chicago: Friendship Wins Out

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by NATALIE DABKOWSKI
The US-China Strong Foundation's mission is to increase the number of Americans studying Mandarin and studying abroad in China.

This article is a part of the East-West Center - US-China Strong Foundation Guest Contributor Program, which shares the experiences of American students currently or previously studying in China.

First debuting in Toronto in 2009, the “Cultures of China: Festival of Spring” concert performance continues its 2018 world tour for the Chinese New Year season, with its most recent and final North American showing taking place in Chicago. Occurring against the background of international tensions over tariff agreements and the disintegration of Chinese investment talks in the Chicago Stock Exchange, the performance is a much needed reminder of the historic foundations of US-China relations and continuous multi-leveled cultural exchange.

The Chicago performance opened in the Cadillac Palace Theatre, showcasing a variety of traditional Chinese songs, musical compilations and dances. Most notable were fan favorites, performed by singer Yan Weiwen, with the assistance of the Chinese Consul General in Chicago, Hong Lei, and exciting numbers drawing on Peking Opera and traditional ethnic performances.

In attendance were Bruce Rauner, Governor of Illinois, as well as cultural representatives, like Gail Baumgartner-Brown, daughter to a member of the “Flying Tigers” American volunteer group recognized for its assistance to China during World War II. The event provided an exciting opportunity for both American and Chinese individuals to celebrate the Chinese New Year, discover new traditions and cultural treasures, and enjoy one another’s company in an atmosphere of community and warmth.

“Cultures of China: Festival of Spring” brings this unique experience to all of its destination cities, connecting modernity and history, catering to a distinctly international audience, and reaffirming the strong cultural ties and shared values that are at the core of China’s relationship with both the United States and the world. Despite current obstacles in the broader path of the US-China relationship, the performance sends a strong message: communication, cultural exchange, and the US-China partnership are an integral part of international interaction and will continue to positively influence young minds both domestically and overseas. It is only through initiatives like “Cultures of China,” that the US-China relationship can advance on a strong, grounded level that extends both to the individual and the larger international community.

Natalie Dabkowski is part of the US-China Strong Foundation Student Ambassador Program.