The following is an interview between Web Coordinator of the Sapiens Tribune, Felicia Appenteng, and Professor of Chinese Studies at IE School of Arts & Humanities, Taciana Fisac.


FA:  What initially attracted you to China? 

TF:  I began to learn Chinese when I was young, because my father, an architect, decided that China was going to be an important country in the future.  In the beginning, I was not very interested in learning Chinese, because in Spain, at that time, nobody was learning Chinese, and  it was not easy.  It was many years later, in 1978, that I went to China for the first time, and I met very compelling people there.  I found the relationships that I formed with some Chinese people were really very interesting.  After this experience, I decided to study the Chinese language in University and focus on Chinese society and culture.  I think it’s very inviting when you have a good experience with the Chinese people, because they are wonderful people.   I still have many good Chinese friends, and they have given me a very interesting experience not only for my professional life, but for my personal life as well. 

FA:  What economic lessons could China teach the West? 

TF:  I think that China can give us a lot of life lessons, actually, as I previously mentioned, when I met interesting people in China, I realized that during the Maoist period, they had a very hard time and even with such a difficult period and despite great obstacles, they managed to have hope and a will to try to improve their life.  I think in our society, we need to give value to the life experience, not only to money.  And for me, I think that the Chinese can give us a different perspective on life, and there are many things that we can learn from them, as well as from their culture.


FA:  You will be teaching a class about Chinese society and culture?  What is your aim for the course? 

TF:  My aim for the course is to try to get to the get the students interested in Chinese culture and Chinese society, and understand that China is not only a big enterprise and the World’s Factory, but that in fact China has a very rich culture and it is a culture that can provide us with many insights for our own life, and for our own happiness.  Simply, to open their minds to another culture, which is certainly worth studying.  To try to tell them that to have relationships with the Chinese Market or a Partner in an enterprise would be easier if they knew something about the culture because the Chinese appreciate an interest in their culture, which is very normal, because we also think that the others should know about us, but sometimes we do not try to understand others.   

FA:  A lot has been said recently about the value of humanities, as many people find disciplines such as economics and medicine to be more valuable.  This discussion became even more prominent after Anthony Kronman published, “Education’s End.”  How would you describe the value of the humanities? 

TF:  Well, I think in our society, economics have become the only value and measure for anything but when you look at the past and you look at compelling figures in history, you see that they have benefitted from a knowledge of the humanities.  I think a person without knowledge of humanities is missing an important part of life.   The Humanities are an integral part of acquiring wisdom.


FA:  In a New York Times piece, published on January 4th, Paul Krugman asserted that the foreign policy discussion that is currently happening is too focused on the Middle East, and that a more important discussion needed to be had about the Far East.  How do you think that China’s economic growth will affect American and European foreign policy? 

TF:  I think China has become a major player in the international political arena.   For the United States, and also for Europeans, China is already an important partner, even though there are some tensions with the United States, the Chinese have shown to be very pragmatic until now.  My only concern is that if China has internal problems, it could affect their foreign policy.  In this sense, it is good that China continues to grow at home and try to take action against social inequality.  I do not believe that national and international problems are separate, and that often times they are related.  So let’s hope that China continues its growth, and will solve the internal problems they have which are quite difficult and quite serious.  Secondly, for example, in the case of United States, they have somehow broken with international law with places like Guantanamo Bay; this has provided the Chinese with a very good example on how some democratic countries say one thing and behave in another.  So, I don’t think it’s very easy to claim that the Chinese are guilty of this or for that, because in the international arena it’s not that simple.  My third concern would be about nationalism, as the Chinese communist party continues to promote Chinese nationalism and I think nationalism is always dangerous, because it views the Other as an enemy.   Nationalism has been promoted in China, so I think that’s a danger, and a problem for the future.  The Chinese still consider the Europeans as not a major player in the international arena.  So, I am concerned about nationalism, and internal problems.   Regarding the Unites States and Europe, they have quite different problems in their relationship with China.  Right now, The Unites States has a big economic dependence on China.   If you read the last article published in Atlantic Monthly, it is an article worth reading, because you can see how complicated the relationship is between the United States and China right now.  In European terms, there is no one policy towards China.  Every country has a different approach.


FA:  On January 16th, Michael J. Gerson, the Roger Gertog Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations published an article, entitled, “The Prosperity Dilemma.”  In the article he writes that the crisis of the future will be one of prosperity.  While it is often reported that the United States is over-consuming in terms of energy, that in fact the rest of the world has been under-consuming.  This is now a problem as places such as India and China are beginning to grow, and are criticized by Western countries for their excessive pollution in the context of global climate change.  Gerson also writes that this is somewhat unfair to the Indians and the Chinese, as European countries and the United States had generations of unmonitored development.  He describes the obvious harm to the planet and also the right of poorer countries to grow, a dilemma that needs to be resolved.  What do you think? 

TF:  This is one of the main arguments of the Chinese people.  They say, “Other countries have grown, why can’t we?”  Perhaps the problem is that now the situation is more serious.  It is also possible that, it is a problem of growth, but rather of population.  The Chinese people have several times the number of our population.  It is a very complex problem.  The Chinese say that they are polluting for you (Western Countries), because it is people in the developed countries that are using their products, and they are cheaper because the Chinese pollute and produce them in such a way that wealthy countries don’t want to.  It’s true that the Chinese and the Indians deserve a better life, and it should be a common aim to solve all of the world’s problems.   Politics always have a double morality, and they talk one way to their citizens and another way to other countries.  I’m not very optimistic about this problem; a wider consensus would be needed to solve it.  The fact remains that if you were to take a picture of the earth and see the lights over Unites States and the lights over Asia the difference in the number of lights is striking.  The United States just has so much more.  I don’t know the answers, the problem is real, and it doesn’t seem that the politicians are solving the problem, and that they are more concerned with staying in power. 


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