While [US ambassador to China] Locke and other speakers worked Saturday night's crowd at the capital's Temple Theater like a pep-rally, online media expert Kaiser Kuo ended the event with a sense of urgency and concern.
"It wasn't long ago that encounters between the two countries were pretty much stage-managed," says Kuo, a New York-born rock musician and director of Baidu International Communications. "Sister cities were established, and trade delegations traveled back and forth."
Today, he says, the need for real people-to-people relations has become critical as China's rising power has become a topic of debate in US elections. While the US is experiencing a crisis of confidence, China is riding a surge of nationalism.
"Both nations have a great sense of destiny and a sense of exceptionalism," he says, and public opinion in both countries is more important than ever.
The Internet, he adds, is not always an asset in the relationship.
"The Internet was supposed to make us all hold hands and sing Kumbaya," he says, "but in reality the average citizen in each country knows just enough about the other to be dangerous."
Kuo recalls the events of May 1999 when US planes bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, an attack the White House said was a tragic mistake.
"At that time, there were 8 million people online in China," Kuo says, "and the outrage was immense".
"Imagine if that happened today, with 500 million Chinese online. The river of fire could overflow almost instantaneously, with people on both sides of the Pacific eager to think the worst of each other."More in the US edition of the China Daily.
More links on Kaiser Kuo and the Chinese internet at Storify.
Kaiser Kuo is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need him at your meeting or conference, do get in touch, or fill in our speakers' request form.
- 6 Myths Chinese Search Engine Baidu Would Rather Like To Correct (searchengineland.com)
- The final "Ich bin ein Beijinger" - Kaiser Kuo (chinaherald.net)
- Baidu: not a branch of the Chinese government - Kaiser Kuo (chinaspeakersbureau.info)
- Most sought-after speakers November 2011 (chinaspeakersbureau.info)