An American political tradition in the People’s Republic of China

Ed. Note: The town hall begins in three and a half hours at 11:45pm EST.  Be sure to tune in at

The town hall meeting is at the core of grassroots American democracy.  It is a tradition that brings together members of a community -- both leaders and ordinary citizens -- to discuss and shape the direction of their futures.   On Monday, November 16, President Obama will bring that tradition to China -- a country with thousands of years of history, but a land where political and social values are different from ours.  In Shanghai, he will hold an historic town hall meeting with China’s youth to talk directly with some of the young people who represent China’s future.

The planning stages leading up to the town hall have been filled with months of negotiation and cooperation.  Our Chinese hosts are committed to working with us to ensure a successful visit and are genuinely curious as to how an American town hall works.  Together we are creating a unique event mixing American and Chinese elements - a first by an American president visiting China.   Even the language showed the differences in political concept as the word “town hall” doesn’t exist in Mandarin.  In English, this is President Obama’s town hall with China’s youth, but in Chinese, it is mian dui mian or a face-to-face dialogue.

The cultural differences are vast.  The challenges of creating an event hosted by the President of the United States for China’s youth are numerous.  But the popularity of this American President is high in China and shows that even young people look to U.S.-Chinese cooperation to solve  global issues.  This town hall meeting in Shanghai will show the youth of China that President Obama has come not just to talk, but to listen.

Richard Buangan is the Deputy Press Spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing

Learn more about the President's trip to Asia.