Xin Jiao Liu Magazine

Learn about America by reading — in Chinese — what Americans are saying about their own culture, society, government and lifestyle. Xinjiaoliu excerpts from major U.S. publications to provide a comprehensive snapshot of all aspects of life in America.

Letter from the Editor  

Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections gives Americans a chance to shape national politics for the next four years. It is an important civic duty and I am sure that most Americans recall their first time voting for a presidential nominee. My experience was a bit atypical, but exciting nevertheless.

I first voted during the 2004 Bush vs. Kerry presidential race. As a teenager, I looked forward to going to my college polling station and casting my vote in person. However, this didn’t end up happening until four years later as from 2003-2004 I took a gap year to live in Europe and therefore voted “absentee.” Voting in this way was very different from what I had anticipated.

Absentee ballots arrive several months in advance and voters are required to make their decisions and submit the ballots before Election Day.  I remember showing my ballot to my host family before sending it back across the Atlantic to my home town.

As Election Day drew near, the anticipation built. It was a bit strange knowing that my decision had already been made. Although this is not how most Americans vote, for me it was a special experience.  Being far away from home, the opportunity to express my opinion by voting was unforgettable and made me proud to be American.

This issue of XJL Exchange Magazine dives deep into the presidential election process.  It covers the rollercoaster campaign journey, Election Day traditions, administration transitions, and much more. Additionally, the embassy’s own U.S. Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China Max Baucus, former senior U.S. Senator from Montana and the state’s longest serving U.S. Senator, reflects on his time as an elected official. Make sure to visit our blog site to see expanded content and interview videos.

This will be my last issue as Editor of XJL Exchange Magazine. Working on the magazine has been such a wonderful and unique experience! Our team will continue to produce this informative magazine that shares U.S. culture with our Chinese audience. Thank you to all of our readers and I hope that you continue to enjoy the magazine for years to come.

Letter from the Editor 

“We recycle, we don’t just throw it away; we recycle, so we can use it once again someday!” Every time I think about conservation, these childhood song lyrics immediately pop into my head. The 90’s were a big decade for the environmental movement in the United States. Environmental efforts were pushed to the mainstream, with science revealing more about our changing planet and government policy guiding the way towards more conservation measures. The media landscape at the time reflected this attention. As a result, my childhood was chock-full of environmentally-themed influences.

Movies and television shows were the most memorable. There was FernGully, the fairy tale film about saving the rainforest; Free Willy, a film highlighting the struggles of marine life; and my personal favorite, Captain Planet, a television show featuring a blue-skinned, green haired superhero that “was fighting on the Planet’s side.” Commercials aired between children’s programing advertised collectible animal encyclopedias. I begged my parents to sign me up and I fondly remember waiting each month for my subscription of new animal cards. On the day I received the bald eagle card and saw it listed as an endangered species, I thought to myself: “Wow, our wildlife is in desperate need of help if our national animal is near extinction!”

Despite the fact that today we better understand the consequences of our actions, environmental issues remain a significant concern. This issue of Xin Jiaoliu looks at several themes related to the environment and conservation in the United States. We address current conservation efforts and technological innovations to help safeguard our environment. We explore some of the country’s wildlife refuges and examine the byproducts of ocean pollution. In this issue’s feature section, we discuss alternative energy and energy innovation. We also assess how Americans adapt to climate change challenges, and we share environmental activism stories that reveal the continued commitments of those who wish to create a cleaner and greener planet.

Looking back, a childhood filled with environmentally-themed songs, shows and collectibles taught me valuable lessons about community, stewardship, and discovery.  These values continue to be pillars of the conservation movement in the U.S. and hopefully will be for generations to come.

2015 Winter Edition (PDF 5 MB)

Letter from the Editor

As a child of the eighties and nineties in the Midwest, I started out eating pretty boring food. We ate potato salad, tuna noodle casserole and fruit fluff. When I was in middle school, we gave my father a year’s subscription to the New York Times and our stomachs/pallets would never be the same.  The newspaper published daily recipes from across the country and around the world. My father began experimenting in the kitchen and we couldn’t wait to try the dishes he prepared with new spices, vegetables and proteins. Delicious salads, roasts and pastas, we could not get enough.

Early into high school, my family hosted a French exchange student, David, who declared that he only wanted to eat “American food” for his first month living in the States. My family humored him for his first week, eating stereotypical American food like pizza, hamburgers, corn-on-the-cob and chocolate chip cookies. By his second week, my parents declared that we would go back to eating our “diverse menu.” I could tell that he was a bit disappointed, but he never complained and soon began complimenting my parents cooking.

That summer David went on a tour of the U.S. On his return to our hometown, he told us, “Thank you for severing me real American food. It wasn’t until I traveled around the country that I discovered you introduced me to what Americans like to eat, everything.” His comment made me think, there really isn’t one kind of American food. Of course burgers and fries are ironically American, but so are fish tacos and clam chowder. The culinary identity of the U.S. is incredibly diverse, as varied as our population.

In this issue of the Xin Jiao Liu Exchange Magazine, we will highlight the diversity associated with food and drink in the U.S. We will explore current developments in farming and agriculture, discuss trends in preparation of food and drink presentation, and share stories about where and what people are eating. This issue’s feature section examines media’s role in the food world. Form television to twitter, food clearly has found a prominent niche in entertainment and social media.

Speaking of social media, we are happy to announce the launch of the Xin Jiao Liu blog site: blogs.usembassy.gov/xinjiaoliu. This site features content from the magazine as well as additional stories and multimedia extras. An archive of past issues can also be found on the blog site. We would love to hear you input. We encourage you to visit the site and leave a comment or two.

Food and drink is a topic that appeals to us all. We are happy to share these stories with you and hope that you will share some with us on our new blog site.

2015 Summer Edition (PDF 7 MB)

Letter from the Editor

Selecting the theme of “U.S. higher education” for this issue of Xin Jiao Liu was an easy decision.  It is a topic that plays a major role in the lives of many Americans and is clearly of interest to our readers based on the growing number of Chinese students studying in the U.S.  As I began my research, I knew it would be important to keep in mind the legacy of this magazine and consider its future direction. I also found myself thinking back to my own college days with each article I read.  All of these thoughts led me to draw several parallels between the production of this magazine and higher education.  I know, this sounds like a stretch, but hear me out.

Universities and colleges expand students’ way of thinking through both academic study and lived experiences. Similarly, Xin Jiao Liu shares informative and engaging content that broadens its readers’ understanding of U.S. culture.  We strived to present readers with a wide variety of illuminating content. In creating this issue, we offer readers an accurate and informative collection of articles that cover topics from life before college to the post-graduation situation.

Higher education institutions celebrate their heritage and make a point of preserving traditions. Published since 1979, Xin Jiao Liu has a rich and well-respected history.  We remain committed to the tradition of sharing the magazine with our long-time subscribers and hope to introduce it to new readers.  Just as U.S. schools are evolving constantly to meet the needs of students, Xin Jiao Liu must also adapt to keep up with the times.  Loyal readers may notice new design features as well as a wider diversity of personal stories and useful insights.  We are also happy to announce the launch of the new Xin Jiao Liu website: blogs.usembassy.gov/xinjiaoliu. We encourage you to visit the site to explore further stories and multimedia extras.

As most college grads would attest, college educators have a major impact on their students’ development. And teachers and administrators take pride in the success of their students.  Recently, I met my undergraduate advisor and Chinese professor, Bai Laoshi for a dinner of 宫保鸡丁 (my favorite). When I told him his encouragement and guidance brought me to where I am today he replied, “The smile on my face reflects the success I see in my students’ lives.” Like an instructor, this issue aims to inform and inspirer readers with a unique look into higher education in the U.S. And as Editor, it has put a smile on my face and hopefully will leave one on yours.

2015 Spring Edition (PDF 12 MB)

Xin Jiao Liu 2014 Fall

Letter from the Editor

Many Americans are familiar with the phrase “1,000 points of light.”  These are the words that former President George Herbert Walker Bush famously used at the beginning of his 1988 bid for presidency, describing the non-governmental, community organizations and volunteer groups that work toward a better society in the United States as “a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.”

These non-governmental organizations – which, in the U.S., are more commonly referred to as “nonprofit organizations” – exist to serve just about any purpose where there is a need.  Whether it be helping Americans who live in poverty, creating opportunities for young people to explore their own interests constructively, or rescuing mistreated animals – there are no doubt many nonprofit organizations throughout the US working toward a solution.   In many cases, nonprofits are founded by ordinary Americans, from every walk of life, who are passionate about and committed to alleviating a particular problem.

Nations the world over face challenges – the United States is no exception.  Government policies that support the growth of a nonprofit sector provide a means for ordinary people who are inclined to help to become important players in creating a society in which nobody is likely to fall underfoot.  Nonprofits have a complex relationship with government: According to the Aspen Institute (itself a nonprofit research forum), “Government and the nonprofit sector are involved in a wide array of relationships—some cooperative, others adversarial, and still others complementary—but all of them important to the effective functioning of a vital democracy and the successful promotion of the public good.”  Where localized, chronic problems exist, often nonprofit organizations that operate “close to the ground” are better equipped than government to make a diagnosis, develop expertise quickly, and mobilize available resources nimbly toward solutions.  In doing so, some nonprofits may enter into contracts with local, state or federal governments to provide services to the public; others may accept government funding.  But good organizations don’t allow such government support to influence their fundamental mission, nor whatever advocacy efforts they undertake.

This issue of Xin Jiao Liu tells the stories of some of these nonprofit organizations and the people behind them.  In our first section, we take a look at what, in general, makes a nonprofit a nonprofit and how a successful nonprofit organization conducts its business.  In the second section, you’ll read profiles of a number of different organizations.  We hope that it will give you an idea of the wide variety that has developed in the United States.  Some of these organizations are large and well-established; others are small and loosely organized.  But all of them share a common purpose: to make people’s lives better in various ways.  The third section focuses on the people: the staff, the board members and, particularly, the volunteers.  Indeed, without the efforts of volunteers, many nonprofits would simply not be able to function.  You’ll read some firsthand stories from Americans who have volunteered with and worked for a variety of nonprofit organizations, and we hope that we’ll give you a sense of what drives us to serve.  The last section highlights some of the provisions made by our government to support and encourage the activities of nonprofits and volunteerism at large.

I was proud to be of service to one of those “points of light” at my most recent job prior to coming to live in Beijing.  I worked as the public relations coordinator for Just Harvest, a local advocacy organization in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA that worked to end hunger and poverty in our region.

Ours was an interesting organization: On one hand, we cooperated with our state government to help poor people with the often difficult process of enrolling in public benefit programs.  On the other, we often found ourselves lobbying the government – local, state, and federal – for continued and improved support of public welfare programs designed to help poor people in America.  Our staff was small and the hours were often long; like many organizations of our size, we were forced to figure out ways to do quite a lot with few resources.  Though I was hired as the “media expert,” I soon found what many nonprofit staffers do – that “no employee is an island.”  As our boss often joked, my job consisted of “public relations – but mostly other duties as assigned!”  Frequently, I was called upon to help with everything from managing the mailing of thousands of donation requests to representing our organization (and the poor people for whose benefit we worked) at public meetings with local elected officials.  One of my most memorable non-PR experiences was helping to pack up hundreds of handcrafted bowls that were made by local artisans and sold to guests at the annual “Empty Bowls” fundraising dinner.  This was a popular family event that we organized in partnership with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.  In return for an admission donation, guests received a simple meal of soup and bread – to remind us of those who deal with hunger daily.

The work was rewarding in so many ways above and beyond a paycheck.  Aside from the satisfaction of knowing that I was helping to make sure that low-income people in our community could continue to put food on their tables, I came to really enjoy the kind of unexpected variety that came with each day.  In speaking with others who have done nonprofit work or engaged in volunteerism of any kind both in the past and in preparation for this issue of Xin Jiao Liu, I’ve found that the common attitudes of cooperation, commitment and helping one’s neighbor prevail.  The expression of those values through freely given, positive works is part of an American story that we are proud to share.

We’d like to take a moment to acknowledge – and apologize for – the delay since the last issue of Xin Jiao Liu.  Inevitable changes in staffing here at our home office contributed to the wait; and, moving forward, we hope to deliver accounts of life in the United States to our loyal readership on a more-timely basis.  As new editor, I’d also like to thank Mr. Gengqi Yang, who retired in July, 2014 after many years of service to our publication.  Mr. Yang’s assistance and guidance was essential in keeping Xin Jiao Liu in production, and we will certainly miss his patient commitment to our magazine.

We hope you enjoy the issue!

2014 Fall: NPOs in the US (PDF 6 MB)

When I learned I would edit an edition of Xin Jiao Liu and the topic would be “Travel: the Great American Outdoors”, I was thrilled.  Like many people in China and around the world, I have spent much of my adult life in larger cities than my home town.  And, like so many of us, I have grown to love and miss the natural beauty of my home town: my “laojia.”

For me, one of the challenges of life in Beijing has been learning the language, which has sometimes left me feeling disconnected from the people around me.  But this connection I have to my home town is also a connection to many, many people I see living and working in Beijing.  So many people here are, like me, also far from their home towns.  And, like many people around all the cities in China, I am sure much of what they miss is the natural beauty and simple traditions they knew as children.

Aside from the great outdoors, this edition will also explore outdoor sports, which were an enormous part of my childhood in the U.S.A. In addition to skating, skiing, biking and swimming, hiking outdoors was a thrill for me. In the picture above, you will see a young woman leaping across a brook near my home town.  This is how I played as a child. I was lucky enough to live across the street from a nature preserve so I would explore it like Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn; it always gave me a sense of freedom, confidence and joy.  Sometimes I would run through the ravine with my brother or with friends; sometimes I would explore the forest and brooks alone.  These are some of my fondest memories of life as a child in the U.S.A.  Anyone visiting China is inevitably impressed by how actively people here, of all ages, enjoy sports around the parks in China.  Personally, I find it inspiring to observe how lively people are here!  I hope those of you reading this will enjoy the commonalities between the way Chinese people play outside and the way we do in the U.S.A.

Another part of this edition explores the road trip experience, which is a common way many in the U.S.A. spend their vacations because it is an affordable way to visit family and explore our landscape.   As a child, my family went on many road trips; these voyages are the source of some of my funniest, most frustrating and fondest memories.

Through the road trip, visitors from overseas can observe life in small town America.  It is here that much of our traditions and culture are preserved in their simplest and purest form.  The interviews with embassy employees in this edition offer a glimpse at this small town life and these traditions.   They are also a testament to how far these employees have come from their home towns (and how similar their lives have been to their Chinese neighbors and co-workers!).

In the last portion of this magazine, you will hear from a Chinese student about her visit to the U.S.A.  In addition, you will also read about the visa application process and find other practical travel advice. I hope you will feel free and welcome to visit the U.S.A. someday.

My favorite experiences here in China have been exploring small towns and parks in and outside of Beijing.  Similarly, I hope you will enjoy this brief peek into the many things I love and miss about America.  As a guest here in China, I thank you for sharing your culture and landscape with me; and I thank you very much for this brief opportunity to share my culture and landscape with you.

2013 Fall Edition (PDF 8 MB)