I am honoured to be nominated by the Department of Politics and Public Affairs as a delegate to the Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference 2007, held in the Naval Academy of the United States, Annapolis, Maryland, USA. The Conference has attracted about 200 delegates of over 20 ethnicities, from military schools and universities in various countries. The five-day conference has hosted many dynamic discussions surrounding the theme of NAFAC 2007 – “Asia at the Crossroad”. An immense interest in China was expressed in every corner of the Conference.
Of the 14 panels hosted in NAFAC 2007, I have chosen to take part in the discussion on environmental challenges facing China and India, and submitted a 3000-word paper on this topic before the Conference. As expected, the discussion was focused on China. Despite their statistical knowledge, many non-Chinese delegates do not understand the governance principles of the PRC Government. It took some effort to explain to the western delegates the Five-year Plan concept and why the Communist Party leaders would pay every effort to meet the planned goals, although a full electoral democracy is yet to emerge in China.
Apart from panel discussions, there are keynote speeches given by many distinguished speakers, including Dr. Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State of the USA, and Adm. Gary Roughead, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet (currently Commander of the U.S. Fleet Forces Command). Their speeches have reflected an American view towards China, among other Asian countries, which sees it as both a threat and an opportunity, but falls more on the threat side.
There were, of course, the relaxing bit after a hectic day of panel discussions and speeches. The evenings are just as enjoyable as the daytime events, as we had dinners, evening drinks and parties hosted by the midshipmen (equivalent to undergraduate students) of the Naval Academy. Through the exchanges with the military delegates, I also had a glimpse of how modern military schools equip to-be-militants with not only physical training and combating skills, but also academic training just like any civilian schools. Every midshipman has to choose a major, such as foreign affairs, international relations, and even English. Not surprisingly, they are very interested in everything about China – from people to places, from economics to culture.
I am honoured to be a part of NAFAC 2007, and to give my two penny’s worth in presenting to the world how China is like, from the view of a person being exposed to both the Chinese and the Western world. I sincerely recommend NAFAC to anyone interested in the current issues surrounding the foreign affairs field, and a chance to meet military delegates from all over the world – these people’s minds may change the international relations landscape in a few decades.