More than 600 turn out to hear Gifford

Celebrating Chinese new year and 30 years with a speech at U of M China Center by Rob Gifford and book signing.

Ashley Goetz

01-24-08 Celebrating Chinese new year and 30 years with a speech at U of M China Center by Rob Gifford and book signing.

On a cold Minnesota Saturday, former National Public Radio China Correspondent Rob Gifford gave more than 600 people a glimpse of another nation at Ted Mann Concert Hall . The China Center invited Gifford for the annual âÄúBob and Kim Griffin Building U.S.-China Bridges Lecture,âÄù where he discussed his 2005 two-month journey traveling across China. Gifford said he wanted to raise awareness about the political and economic problems China currently faces and introduce the audience to the âÄúrealâÄù China. âÄúIâÄôm trying to get across what China is really like away from the sometimes overly emotional and sometimes rather outdated stereotypes you see in the press in the West,âÄù he said. While China has recently grown into an economic superpower, he said it will soon run into problems from the âÄúoutdatedâÄù government system. Gifford described China as a 21st century mobile economic society with a 1950s communist government. He suggested adopting an independent judiciary might be the best way to deal with the nationâÄôs many problems. âÄúIt has not been settled yet what kind of country China is going to be,âÄù Gifford said. âÄúIt canâÄôt go on, I donâÄôt think, as it is now.âÄù Gifford first decided to study Chinese in college at Durham University in England and later received his masterâÄôs degree in East Asia Regional Studies from Harvard University. After six years, he left his position in China to return to England to write a book and serve as NPRâÄôs London Bureau Chief, a position he has held since 2005. Thanks to a $500,000 endowment from Bob and Kim Griffin in 2004, the annual lecture was free to the public. âÄúWe were worried that when our children got to be adults that the biggest problem that may exist between Eastern and Western society is an understanding of the two cultures,âÄù Griffin International Companies President Bob Griffin said. Although Gifford was originally scheduled to speak in the fall, he delayed the lecture due to an injury, which prevented him from traveling, China Center spokeswoman Kate Sophia said. After the delay, the China Center decided to organize the speech for its Chinese New Year celebration. The year of the Ox begins Monday. âÄúI think they were hoping to draw more students and more people that deal with other parts of China because itâÄôs not just about business,âÄù Sophia said, adding that past speakers focused on economic issues. âÄúItâÄôs about cultural understanding and learning otherâÄôs perspectives.âÄù The China Center was hoping for about 400 people to attend, Sophia said, but between the New Year and the lecture being delivered on a weekend the turnout exceeded expectations. Griffin said the New YearâÄôs timeframe may become the norm because it helped make the lecture a celebration of China and helped bring a record turnout. After the lecture, Gifford signed his recently published book, âÄúChina Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power,âÄù for the audience. Two University of Minnesota Bookstores employees came to sell the book and sold more than 100 copies at the event. Chinese and history first-year Jon Schmig said he attended the lecture because he is interested in China and plans to study there. Schmig said people should take more of an interest in foreign affairs and become better informed about global issues. âÄúOnce they get that sort of understanding, then good things can happen,âÄù he said.