About the Author: Richard Buangan serves as the Deputy Press Spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.Updated: Watch the President's town hall with Chinese youth on Whitehouse.gov.
The town hall meeting is at the core of grassroots American democracy. It is a tradition that brings together members of a community -- both leaders and ordinary citizens -- to discuss and shape the direction of their futures. On November 16, President Obama brought that tradition to China -- a country with thousands of years of history, but a land where political and social values are different from ours. In Shanghai, he held an historic town hall meeting with China’s youth to talk directly with some of the young people who represent China’s future.
The planning stages leading up to the town hall were filled with months of negotiation and cooperation. Our Chinese hosts were committed to working with us to ensure a successful visit and were genuinely curious as to how an American town hall works. Together we created a unique event mixing American and Chinese elements - a first by an American president visiting China. Even the language showed the differences in political concept as the word “town hall” doesn’t exist in Mandarin. In English, this was President Obama’s town hall with China’s youth, but in Chinese, it was mian dui mian or a face-to-face dialogue.
The cultural differences are vast. The challenges of creating an event hosted by the President of the United States for China’s youth were numerous. But the popularity of this American President is high in China and shows that even young people look to U.S.-Chinese cooperation to solve global issues. This town hall meeting in Shanghai showed the youth of China that President Obama came not just to talk, but to listen.
Follow the President's trip to Asia on WhiteHouse.gov.