Wǒmen | Conclusion by Caleb Huffman at the Closing Ceremony of 2019 Yenching Global Symposium

On behalf of the entire YGS Executive Committee, we thank you for attending this year's 2019 Yenching Global Symposium, Wǒmen: Retelling the China Stories. YGS exists because and for its delegates – you. Below are some concluding thoughts on the symposium for reflection.

The past three days, we have told and retold the stories of China through a gendered perspective. Emerging leaders and established practitioners have interacted here at Yenching Academy, with the goal of not only asking the pressing questions about China today, but to shape the questions that will be asked about China tomorrow.


Toward that end, on Friday, we opened with discussion on economics and development of China, exploring correspondences between gender and material resource distribution, asking how this perpetuates gender-related phenomena across various levels of Chinese and international society. Many of us listened to Danit Gal and Gu Xi, on the Gender and the Evolution of Technology in China panel, debate the impact of technology on improving the status and working conditions of women in society. Two distant but well-thought out perspectives were provided. What is the relationship between women and technology in Chinese society? Does it substantially differ than in other countries? Will technology be good for women and society? We urge all who attended to continue this conversation.


The Sinica Podcast recorded a discussion focusing on the perception of women and their role in Chinese film. Wang Fan and Teng Jimeng, hosted by Dean Moser, highlighted the difference between 5th generation movie makers that placed women protagonists as a true representation of Chinese society as a whole, yet, pointed out how women are beginning to be seen as, to quote Wang Fan directly, “real woman, a real person which is different from Chinese traditional culture.”


On Saturday, engaging in politics and law, we examined the interactions of gender, legal dynamics, and political structures. We heard from Susan Shirk, retelling her story as an influential woman in U.S.-China affairs. Susan Finder discussed the progress made in gender parity within China’s Supreme People’s Court while also demonstrating through her own research that there is room for improvement. Julia Qian’s gendered perspective on leadership after serving as the first Chinese person to be Student Body President of Barnard College, a university outside of China, demonstrated how gender, cross-cultural interactions, and stories of China are considered in practical, interpersonal interactions. And, of course, we all explored Beijing's famous hutongs, vying for the best selfie.


Finally, the last day, we enjoyed learning about society and culture in ways which gender is represented in China's art, culture, and public sphere. Professor Rosenlee and Professor Chenyang reexamined Confucianism, discussing the disparity of the term’s meaning in English versus Mandarin, and how the two terms can interact with academic feminist theory. Jin In's workshop discussed the imperative need, both normatively and economically, for the empowerment of women and the building of a movement, while equipping us with tools we can use daily in any country around the globe. Together, we moved beyond the Chinese context to view the implications of such gender-society linkages for our global society. We concluded with various cultural activities and presentations from our very own delegates.


With the world at a crossroads and China's undeniably prominent role in it, the 2019 Yenching Global Symposium has explored contemporary changes in China with gender at its nexus, retelling the China stories.


If we can help you take away just one thing from YGS, let it be this: There is more than one China story. From Dean Yuan Ming's passion for educating women, inspired by the resilience of her grandmother, to Lily Lee Chen's devotion to political advocacy, every voice given a platform the past three days has provided a lens to view China.


We've been asking every delegate we've had a chance the following question: Tell us one thing about your country. The answer? Always a lengthy pause. How can someone tell one thing? Our reality, truth, is far too complex to be revealed or understood in a mere one point. This is true of your country, and this is true of China.


If we the Executive Committee have achieved our goals, during YGS you have been exposed to stories that you greatly disagree with the accuracy of, stories that resonate with you as true, and stories that have changed your perspective on yourself, your country, the world and, of course, China.


We hope you will also remember one more thing from YGS: Gender is a premise, not a conclusion. Our attempt has been to tell and retell the China stories through a gendered lens, to bring the gendered lens to the center stage of public discourse on China. Reflect on what you’ve seen, who you’ve talked to, and why you attended YGS. Let this short experience change your story. We want you to take advantage of everything we here at YGS and Yenching Academy can provide. Please stay in touch with those you have met, stay in touch with the broader YGS community, and, once again, welcome to the Yenching Academy. Let YGS act as a catalyst toward your goals.


Welcome to the Yenching Community,

Zoe, Caleb, Shriyam, Megan, Tatum, Trang, Carlisle, Kang, Andreas, Shirley, Ipek, Jay, Lema, Kate, Mingyao, Anastasia

2019 Yenching Global Symposium Executive Committee


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