Vail forum asks: ‘China: Friend of foe?’ |

Vail forum asks: ‘China: Friend of foe?’

Daily Staff ReportVail CO, Colorado

VAIL, Colorado With China commanding daily headlines, theres been no better time to ask whether China is a friend or foe? The Vail Valley Institute takes on this timely topic in its 17th annual seminar, China: Friend or Foe? that begins today at the Lodge at Vail.Leading scholars, a life-long journalist and a retired career diplomat will lead a series of discussions among a group of 60 to 80 interested seminar participants from around the country. Orville Schell, a journalist and author with over 30 years of experience in making the written word sing about his experiences in modern China, will lead off the event with a keynote speech this evening. Schell, author of 10 books about China, an Emmy-winning television producer and a regular contributor to Harpers, Time and The New York Review of Books, honed his craft at William Shawns New Yorker. While conversant in all aspects of Chinas astounding rise, Schell writes with particular urgency about Chinas current environmental nightmare and its impact on the worlds climate.Schell recently stepped down from more than a decade as the Dean of Berkeleys Graduate School of Journalism to head the Asia Societys newly-created Center on U.S.-China Relations.The Institutes cast of experts is rounded out by the Carnegie Endowments Minxin Pei, former Ambassador Stapleton (Stape) Roy, and leading Yale historian Jonathan Spence. Pei, Director of the China Program at Washington, D.C.s Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, is a cautious pessimist as to whether Chinas communist regime is up to the challenges of creating a sustainable future for its people.Ambassador Roy, born of American missionary parents in Nanjing, China, brings the perspective of a native-born China Hand and the intimate familiarity borne of 45 years at the highest levels of the State Department, including his turns as top U.S. envoy in Singapore (1984-86), China (1991-95) and Indonesia (1996-99).Spence is not only the leading scholar on modern Chinese history, but also makes this complex country accessible enough to fill Yales largest undergraduate halls to capacity for his intro course year after year.The Institutes weekend discussions are facilitated by former Colorado Governor Richard D. Lamm, and Michael C. Johnston, a Vail native who is now a principal in Denver.What makes the Institute unique is the remarkable access seminar participants have to great thinkers. Wondering whether the Chinese economic boom is sustainable? Or how a nation of nearly 1.7 billion people can weather disasters like the recent earthquake in Sichuan Province that has left as many as 5 million people homeless? The Institute lets people ask experts this and more in a casual setting.Founded in 1989, the Institute is the brain-child of a group of locals and second-home owners who like to grapple with timely and fascinating topics. While independent reading is a great way to learn, the Institutes founders went one step further, and decided to host an event where locals could learn about a new topic each year with the help of four world-class experts. Past topics of inquiry have included such weighty topics as Islam & democracy, the culture wars (red states versus blue states), and immigration. Big thinkers like Retired General William E. Odom, Gary Hart, Arianna Huffington, David Brooks, Ed Meese, Alan Simpson, George Mitchell, David Gergen, Carl Bernstein and Leslie Stahl have headlined past seminar weekends.The Institute also prides itself on offering scholarships for local honor students and high school teachers to attend its long-weekend event for free. This year, three Battle Mountain High School students, three Vail Mountain School students, and four local teachers will be joining the Institute to learn more about China.While this years seminar is already full and underway, its not too late to get involved with future Institute events. To learn more, check out the Institutes website at or give the Institutes Director, Melissa Decker, a call at 970-476-6608 to be informed about future Institute events.

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