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Art and Culture Help Define Other Relationships

With several thousand miles of the Pacific Ocean separating the U.S. from China, it is not necessarily an easy task to bring these two distinct cultures together. Yet, as the first- and second-largest economies in the world, what many might call the world's super powers, the idea of cultural understanding between these two nations is critically important.

China Daily reports that idea is what brought 20 notable figures from Chinese and American art, academia and news to a stage in Beijing in mid-November for the first of what will hopefully be an annual U.S.-China Forum on the Arts and Culture.

From famous musicians like the Chinese-American cellist Yo-Yo Ma and innovative Chinese rock musician Wu Tong to renowned journalist Mark Danner and Chinese historian Jonathan Spence, the event gathered a unique group of perspectives on both the U.S. and China.

Brought together by several cultural exchange organizations in the U.S. and China, the program was designed to encourage an exploration of how the different cultures of these two great nations have shaped their relationship.

"Cultural traditions play a role not only in arts and music, in pop and fashion, it plays a role in how a country acts on the world stage," Danner told "It's natural that people between the great powers always have commonality of interests and different interests. The trick is to identify the commonality of interests to maximize."

With talks such as "The Arts and the Marketplace," the event hoped to explore ways in which various aspects of a nation's culture influence its perceptions and practices in business, academia and life as a whole.

That very question of cultural impact on business hits upon one of the key benefits that many Americans have already found in working abroad. As the U.S. and the rest of the world march steadily toward a global economy, more and more businesses are working with companies around the globe. Having some common ground upon which to base these deals, particularly language, has always been important, which to an extent explains the strong business connections between countries like the U.S. and the U.K.

"For me, culture and arts are about imagination. We use all of our senses to think, dream and taste, which is the same in every culture," Ma told China Daily. "This forum is a good start to enrich the understanding between the two countries. It helps reduce misunderstanding. We've planted the seed today and I hope it will grow fast."