US-China Tensions in Class (C): Managing International Diversity in Turbulent Times
This four-part case series examines the numerous, often subtle ways in which international and interpersonal relations intersect. When an American MBA student types a controversial comment about China into the virtual chat box of an online class on emerging economies, he ignites a firestorm. Many Chinese students see the comment as racist; many American students see it as an example of free speech. From the Chinese students' perspective, the comment is one more in a long series of hurtful anti-Chinese statements made in the era of the US-China trade war, COVID-19, and a hostile US government. From the American students' perspective, the comment is little more than an isolated, passing incident-insensitive, perhaps, but hardly inflammatory. What actions-if any-should be taken in the comment's aftermath? Should the author of the comment be reprimanded? Should the Chinese students let go of their grievances? What can the class's professor do to mitigate the fallout from the comment and prevent future such problems from occurring? How should the dean and administration respond to the incident, and how can they assuage the hurt feelings of Chinese students and alumni? Taking the perspectives of a Chinese student; the Chinese-American professor in whose class the comment was made; and the dean of the business school, the four cases expose the complex web of stakeholders, motivations, cultural norms, diverse perceptions, and geopolitics present in today's international classrooms and work settings.