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Mayor: America influences China

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

The Chinese can dress like they live in the West, they can eat at fast-food joints and drink coffee from Starbucks, but they do not live in a Western-style democracy and they do not enjoy the freedoms of the U.S.

That from Park City Mayor Dana Williams, who recently visited China with a group of students from Park City High School as part of an exchange program with a high school in the Chinese capital of Beijing.

Williams spent the last half of October touring China with the students, visiting four cities, including Beijing and Shanghai. He returned enthused with American freedoms.

"The basic principles, the founding of our country in terms of a democratic society, is more advanced. Democracy is more advanced here," Williams says, describing Americans as having more liberty, the American economy as being more advanced but the Chinese as honoring family, history and culture more so than Americans.

Williams and the others toured famous sites like the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square in Beijing, and they visited the Great Wall, an ancient mosque and the famous terra cotta soldiers in a place called Xian.

He says Chinese want to become more Western, and during the trip, he says, he met just a few members of the Chinese Communist Party. The Chinese strive to be middle class, and they want to own homes.

"Part of it is the freedom that we have," Williams says of the American influence on China, adding, "In order for people to achieve that, the country has to be more democratic."

Williams says China is undergoing industrial, technological and financial revolutions at the same time, and city dwellers are leading those changes. The rural areas of China are not as aware of the new China as the cities.

The mayor says he did not broach issues like China’s human-rights record, saying he was a guest in the country, and the Parkites were careful as they spoke to the Chinese about Tibet and minorities.

Williams, whose administration strives to make Park City environmentally friendly, says green efforts are widespread in China. Recycling bins are all over, including on the Great Wall, he says, and the country has huge solar-power collectors. He describes solar arrays on new buildings in Shanghai.

Some of his observations of China include:

( The high school the Parkites spent time at has a rock ‘n’ roll club as well as students who play traditional Chinese instruments. Williams, who plays in a rock band, says the Chinese like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a California band that once played a concert at Park City Mountain Resort.

( Williams heard from a Chinese student who said he wants to invent a car that does not run on gasoline. China’s environmental record is sketchy, and the student’s comments were likely intriguing to Williams. In Park City, Williams and others have advanced alternative fuels like biodiesel, a cleaner-burning energy.

( Young Chinese want to learn English, and Williams says he heard groups of kids practicing.

"The strive to learn English is a national past time," he says.


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