Dennis O’Brien, CEO of InfoVest Inc. and an expert on the Chinese economy, delivered the keynote address at this year’s China Town Hall.

Culture in perspective

Confucius Institute fall programming promotes intercultural dialogue, understanding


8:39 a.m., Oct. 20, 2015--The University of Delaware’s Confucius Institute was one of more than 70 organizations across the nation to host the ninth annual China Town Hall on Oct. 5.

This event, organized each year by the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, brought together local keynote speaker Dennis O’Brien with a national webcast on the benefits and potential of Chinese Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the United States.

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The nationwide panel featured former treasury secreatry Robert Rubin, along with Daniel Rosen, founding partner of the Rhodium group, and Sheldon Day, mayor of Thomasville, Alabama.

“Arguably, the U.S.-China relationship is the single most important bilateral relationship of the 21st century as President Obama has repeatedly emphasized,” said Jianguo Chen, director of the Confucius Institute. “The objective of China Town Hall is to help people better understand the complexity of the U.S.-China relationship and get to know how countries in the world interact, what the future holds for us and whether or not the international community will compete or collaborate in seeking global solutions to many of the urgent issues that confront us.”

According to Rosen, $54 billion of Chinese FDI have been invested in the United States this year, with some 80 percent of congressional districts hosting these businesses. And with Chinese investment on the rise, the jobs associated with these dollars could be “exciting from a broader American perspective.” 

But beyond the fiscal benefits, it emerged that FDI is also a powerful vehicle for intercultural dialogue and collaboration.  

Day said he and his town have experienced this first-hand. When a Chinese company, the Golden Dragon, invested in Thomasville, it not only rejuvenated the local economy but brought a new outlook on China and its culture to the town. This new perspective was a reciprocal one. 

The investors “really want to know more about the American economy, more about us, and more about the American tradition,” he said. “Our teachers embraced teaching [their children] English and within a year some of these children helped teachers tutor Mandarin.”

O’Brien, UD’s keynote speaker and CEO of InfoVest Inc., noted that while Chinese businesses have expanded globally, their own economy is also undergoing transition.

This cultural exposure fostered by FDI, according to the speakers, will encourage Americans to look past popular rhetoric to understand the real Chinese identity.

“China is in the middle of a hard landing,” said O’Brien, adding that during the transition to a more heavily regulated economy, “China needs a friend like us. We need to be empathetic, sympathetic, and informed.” 

Delaware Diplomat and sophomore Chinese major Evangelista Barylski enjoyed hearing about the real impact of Chinese FDI beyond the economic realm. “I am really interested… and am trying to learn more about China so that I can successfully study abroad, and communicate with my Chinese friends.”

The Confucius Institute, a partner with Hanban/Confucius Institute Headquarters and Xiamen University, sponsors programming each semester with the goal of creating these kinds of conversations and a greater awareness of Chinese culture and tradition.  

On Oct. 24, the institute will celebrate its fifth anniversary with a Chinese Opera Concert featuring world-class professional opera artists and performances of classic excerpts from Peking Opera, Kunqu Opera, Sichuan Opera, and other art forms. The event will begin at 8 p.m. in the Gore Recital Hall of UD’s Roselle Center for the Arts.  All are welcome to attend a reception beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Registration is limited.  To reserve seats, visit the event page

Confucius Institute welcomes new co-director

This fall, Xiaoyan Xiao joined the Confucius Institute as its co-director. Xiao brings over 20 years of experience in language and culture-related research to the institute, and is an expert in the interpretation of both spoken and signed languages. 

As a part of the Confucius Institute, she hopes to foster increased understanding of China and promote the institute as a forum for bridging cultural barriers.  

To learn more about the Confucius Institute and its programming, visit the website or contact

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