CCCC Chinese instructor impressed with U.S. elections

Jan. 14, 2013 @ 03:40 PM

The 2012 American election season was like nothing Ling Huang, Central Carolina Community College’s Confucius Classroom instructor, had ever seen.

Americans refer to their political campaigns as “rough-and-tumble” and 2012 had plenty of that with the raucous­ — sometimes acrimonious — comments by candidates, their parties and their supporters about political opponents; the intense competitive atmosphere; and the exultation or despair when one’s candidate won or lost.

Then, suddenly, the election was over and everything settled down (relatively speaking) as elected officials began to face the realities of city, county, state or national problems.

The whole campaign season fascinated Huang, whose hometown is Nanjing, the People’s Republic of China. She is fluent in English and teaches it at Nanjing Normal University.

Huang is living in Sanford during the 2011-13 school years, teaching Mandarin Chinese and Chinese cultures to students at the college. She also does presentations for area schools, organizations and companies who want to learn more about China.

She learned a lot about the American political process in the past year.

”I followed the election season on TV, in the newspaper and on the Web,” Huang said. “At first, it seemed funny, like a drama. Then, it became interesting and exciting. There were things I didn’t understand, like the electoral vote. I had to find out what that meant.”

The more she followed the campaigns, the more interesting they became — and the more she admired the way Americans chose their leaders.

“People here are involved in elections at different levels,” she said. “That’s good because the candidates realize that if they want to win they have to serve the people. That’s a good thing.”

The campaign also had its confusing moments.

“Obama and Romney — they attacked each other, then at the end, they were so friendly. Are they friends or enemies?” she wondered.

She was also surprised that the barrage of attack ads and disparaging remarks ended when the results of the election were announced.

“Americans trust their voting procedures, so they accept the results,” she said, very impressed.

The Chinese people find the American election process intensely interesting, according to Huang.

“We watch the American election very closely,” she said. “It’s the No. 1 election that Chinese watch, more than any other country’s. In our eyes, America has a very mature, democratic system, with power going from the bottom up. The Chinese people want to learn from your system.”

Huang is hopeful about the increasing democratization of her homeland. She looks to the younger generation as possibly being able to have a great influence.

“The election system in America influences the young people greatly,” she said. “It’s interesting that in Chinese schools the students elect their leaders. They campaign for positions in the Student Union with signs and speeches.”

Her son, Fan, spent part of the 2011-12 school year at East Lee Middle School. He is back in China, attending the Nanjing Foreign Language School, the biggest and best in Nanjing, Huang said.

“The students are very open to foreign culture,” she said. “Their campaigns are exactly as I see here, with posters and speeches. Maybe the future of the Chinese election system will be changed by these young people — who knows?”

For information about Central Carolina Community College’s Confucius Classroom, visit www.cccc.edu/confucius.