If you want to understand another culture, you have to put yourself in the other people’s shoes. It’s this idea that fellows of the Robert Bosch Lectureship Program had in mind when they simulated government consultations between China and Germany with students from both countries. How does a Chinese student feel as a German chancellor?
Young Chinese woman Dai Xinyi is a student at Beijing Foreign Studies University, but she spent four days playing the role of one of the most influential leaders in the Western world: German Chancellor Angela Merkel. At the inaugural simulation of talks between the Chinese and German governments, she conducted negotiations with 40 Chinese and German students. Playing government ministers, lobbyists, and journalists, they represented each other’s countries and agreed on a framework for action for future relations between them.
"This kind of conflict of identity creates empathy and results in everyone finding out more about the situation in each other’s countries," says Dai, talking about the preparation for the simulation exercise, which was held from June 16 to 19 at the Sino-German Center for Research Promotion in Beijing.
What It’s Like to Play the Role of Chancellor
"On the first day in particular, it struck me that, wherever there was disagreement, both the German and Chinese sides did their best to further their own aims in the final framework for action. The negotiations ran much more smoothly on the second and third days; both sides still pursued their own interests, of course, but they trusted each other more.
Our presence of mind was tested by the need for crisis management at the simulated press conference. Angela Merkel really does have a tough job. We and the Chinese leadership were responsible for managing the signing of the framework for action. I only found out shortly beforehand that I had to issue a summary of the framework from the agendas drawn up in the three areas. But I managed to stay calm in all the commotion and quickly coordinate all my ministers, especially as I had gradually gotten used to the stressful and demanding work schedule of politicians.
Thanks to a preparatory e-learning course and constant support from the organizers, I was easily able to get into the role of German Chancellor, even as a nonnative speaker. I not only enjoyed the experience, but it also further strengthened my resolve to get involved in foreign policy. Intercultural understanding is key to Sino-German relations, which is why the simulation is a great opportunity for young people to strengthen their mutual understanding and hold open dialogs with each other. A superb experience."