China isn't to be feared; it is to be respected as a potential ally, Lionel Jensen says.
The professor at Notre Dame's history and Asian languages and cultures departments is giving a free lecture about the country tonight. He calls the People's Republic one of the grandest civilizations in history.
Jensen's talk, "Today's China: the Stories Behind the Headlines," will give those in the audience a peek inside the country.
The lecture is part of the Hesburgh Lecture Series and is hosted by the Notre Dame Club of Hilton Head. It will be at 6:30 p.m. at St. Francis By the Sea Catholic Church, 45 Beach City Road, Hilton Head Island.
Jensen will address modern Chinese life, including religion, pop culture and everyday life.
"What I'm doing is giving people the opportunity to learn more by drilling down below the surfaces of what they have learned," he said.
For example, about a quarter of a billion people in China are "constantly on the move," he said. They've left their rural homes to seek out the prosperity of city life.
China's population records are based on its people's hometowns -- not where they actually live -- and that's created confusion.
"The household registration system has now collapsed," Jensen said. "Now the government can't figure out where they all are."
Jensen also plans to discuss current events, including the controversy surrounding Bo Xilai, a once high-ranking member of the Communist Party whose wife is accused of killing a British businessman.
"That certainly is opening a real window into the pretty horrendous dimensions of what party life is like for people with influence or power," he said.
Jensen has studied China since the 1970s and said he is drawn to the country by stories of its historical significance and contemporary push to modernize.
He has written or edited several books about the county, and said he feels a duty to educate people not to fear China, but to look at it with interest and respect.
"I want the public to be able to understand more reliably what China is about today," he said. "I do everything I can to make sure that happens."