Lt. Governor Andre Bauer met in Columbia Thursday with Minister Guangyuan Liu the second-highest ranking person at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Bauer says experts believe that the structure of China is changing a lot and it will be different in a generation or two. “They are slowly getting people in their political system that are not members of the party, because of capitalism,” he says. “It’s going to change that country. It’s creating more of a middle class and that will change the demographics and who is in control, as the middle class is becoming more educated and financially well off. And they will become more vocal and expect more rights, as we have come to expect in the western world.”
Bauer had some background to prepare him for the meeting. He has been to China. “I went with the Aspen Institute,” he says. “They pick 20 political leaders from around the country. I was the only one from South Carolina, but a professor at Wofford College was our teacher. We went to India and China, to see how government works, how politics are different there, and to try to build some relationships along the way that will be mutually beneficial.”
Bauer says the Chinese have a strong emphasis on higher education, and send their students to American universities including some in South Carolina. But he says the emphasis on education in some South Carolina communities needs to change.
“And it forces us to look in the mirror and ask why we have students in this state who can’t seem to get an education,” he says. “And it’s generational. It’s the same family every time. And how come the Chinese send students over here and they excel? It’s not about the school, not about a lot of the things we blame it on. It’s about priorities in the parents lives, and in the children’s lives. And in China they have prioritized education as the most important. We have areas of the state where education is not the most important.”
Bauer says he’s not referring to the attitude of taxpayers, but the attitude of students and their families, so that they might get more out of education.
China ranks in South Carolina’s top five export markets, with $790 million shipped there in 2008. Currently, South Carolina is the home of China’s first foreign manufacturing investment in the U.S.–Haier, located in Camden, which employees 225 people making refrigeration equipment and home appliances.