A Trip to a China Town Hall

Jake Sorensen

On a cold Thursday evening in the middle of October, a few Malvernians make the effort to see Jimmy Carter discuss China with the rest of America. 

Friars at China Town Hall

On October 16th, St. Joseph’s university held an open meeting at the Wolfington Auditorium in Mandeville fall.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going in, besides it being about China, with Jimmy Carter as a speaker on a live stream. If I had done more research, I would have learned that this conference was not some small lecture. Anyone, whether they were from St. Joe’s or not, was invited to listen to two very intelligent speakers talk about various topics involving China, its relationship to the United States, and the age-old conflicts between the two most populous countries in the world, China and India. Though I didn’t have the best background knowledge on the topics going into it, I learned a lot, and I’d definitely love to go to something like this in the future.
The set up for the conference was nicely done. With it only being a 15 minute walk from the train station, Mandeville Hall was not at all difficult to find, and the auditorium was comfortable. There seemed to be many experts on the topics there, but for the first hour, we all sat down to watch the webcast. Though it might sound like it was something that could’ve been done at home, the amount of people there that offered valuable insight, which included some of our own Malvernians, made it a trip worthwhile.

The host of the webcast was Stephen A. Orlins, the president of the National Committee on US-China Relations. Jimmy Carter answered the multitudes of Twitter questions directed to the town hall, which is fitting, since the NCUSCR is funded by the Carter Center. The topics ranged from the riots in Hong Kong to how China should manage its pollution. Although I’ve heard he didn’t have the most successful presidency, I could easily tell that he was one of the main reasons we have China as a valuable economic partner today. I would never have guessed that such an alliance would have started during one of America’s higher tension points with Communism in history.

For the second speaker, who was exclusive to the St. Joe’s Town Hall, we were honored to have Dr. Tansen Sen from Baruch College, City University of New York. He spoke about the seemingly perpetual animosity between India and China, who have continuous border disputes and ethnic tensions. I had no clue there was such a poor relationship, but the violent news stories that were shown about both Chinese in India and Indians in China quell any doubts I had beforehand.

I believe that it was during this part of the town hall that Malvern showed its best self. The students who attended were attentive and asked plenty of questions throughout the presentation. Although I don’t have exact statistics, I believe that we probably asked over half of the questions there.

The China Town Hall was a great experience. Though it was a little bit long for a school night (2 hours), I felt that what I got out of it was much more than what it took for me to get there. I would recommend anyone else interested in learning about the rest of the world to go to one. In my personal opinion, what I witnessed here was one of the best examples of 21st Century learning I’ve seen in my time at Malvern.