Asia Society Visit to China Underscores Need for Further Cultural Exchange

Meryl Streep talks about her craft with fellow actor Ge You (葛优) during a panel discussion "On Film and Performing: The Actors’ Perspectives". The discussion was part of the U.S.-China Forum on the Arts and Culture organized by Asia Society and the Aspen Institute. (Dong Lin/Asia Society)

A group of prominent American artists traveled to Beijing last week for the U.S.-China Forum on the Arts and Culture, a festival organized by Asia Society's Center on U.S.-China Relations and the Aspen Institute in order to promote cross-cultural ties. Participants such as the Academy Award-winning actress Meryl Streep, Chinese-American cellist Yo-Yo Ma and authors Amy Tan and Michael Pollan engaged with a receptive Chinese audience that even included Chinese politician Liu Yandong.

The New York Times reported that the event provided a rare example of cultural exchange between the two countries, whose political and economic ties are seen as central to contemporary international relations. For a large part of the Chinese population, the only available exposure to American culture is through pirated films, often conveying an unrealistic and sensationalistic impression of the country. The U.S-China Forum aimed to foment a far more intimate understanding between American cultural producers and their Chinese audience.

By all accounts, the forum was successful. Festival organizer Orville Schell, the Arthur Ross Director of Asia Society's Center for U.S.-China Relations, said that the "cultural confection of ours really did some good and set the wheels spinning in the heads of the Chinese organizers." Future exchanges are thought to be likely.

Meanwhile, Xinhua profiles Asia Society New York Museum Director Melissa Chiu, who has high hopes for the contemporary Asian art scene. (Chiu spoke to Asia Blog about the Forum earlier in November.)

About the Author

Profile picture for user Matt Schiavenza

Matt Schiavenza is the Senior Content Manager at Asia Society. Previously, he worked as an associate editor at The Atlantic, where he helped launch and then oversee the China Channel.