A recent comment from Albina in Korea asked, ‘Are you not exaggerating the importance of China in today’s world?’
I clarified my thoughts on that question when reading the introduction to ‘China and the Irish’ by its editor, Jerusha McCormack.
Her theme is our need to encounter ‘another’ in order to compare and understand ourselves. China might be a lot bigger than Ireland, and a long distance away, but the two peoples have important issues in common. By comparing how China is dealing with these questions, and using China as in a mirror, we can see ourselves more objectively.
What do the two countries have in common? Jerusha points out the following.
Both are struggling to clarify what it is to be Irish or Chinese in the world today. Both are escaping from an uncomfortable past, moving from a traditional to a post-modern world while trying to save something of their ancient heritage.
Today there are people from 150 countries, speaking 170 different languages, living in Ireland. China has a huge populations and 55 recognised minorities living within its borders so both face the challenge of bringing people together while recognising their differences.
So this blog is about investigating what we can learn from each other. But why China? For me the answer is that I have been there, was impressed and saw enough to know that the basic hopes and needs of both peoples are the same while the richness of their differences are a spur to innovative thinking.
Besides, China is already one of the most powerful countries in the world and can Ireland, one of the smallest, afford to ignore it?