July 14, 2023

Volume 3, Issue 14 

Dear Friends,

We received very positive feedback on the balanced view presented in our recent Teachers Workshop titled “U.S.-China Relations: Coexistence In A Changing World” and thank our renowned panel of experts and all who took the time to attend. Both the U.S. and China have competing interests, but there are common issues and bilateral economical benefits. You can watch the recording of this event on YouTube. 

Do you play mahjong? The familiar clack of shuffling mahjong tiles resonates in Asian neighborhoods and has spread far beyond them worldwide. See our new video called “Beyond the Tiles: Making Connections Through Mahjong,” which explores the history of mahjong and how it acts as a unifying force among diverse groups today. 

We are thrilled to announce the winners of the 1990 Institute Prize for our annual essay contest, held in collaboration with our partners. Scroll down to the Spotlight section for more information. 

And if you love our resources and content, please donate to help us continue, and please share this newsletter with your friends and family and encourage them to subscribe.


Mahjong is a social game of luck and strategy that connects Asian diaspora and families across generations and has grown in popularity to unite many diverse groups in America. Our new video explores mahjong’s history and impact – watch “Beyond the Tiles: Making Connections Through Mahjong.”


How do we learn and read strategy, from games of strategy to real-life stakes?

By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

I finally learned to play mahjong! 

My grandmother loved to play mahjong, but my mother did not like the game because she was always the one left to babysit her six little siblings whenever her mother, my grandmother, went out to play. So my mother never learned how to play, and she never taught me how to play. Still, there is something about the click of the tiles that feels very familiar.

My children all learned how to play mahjong from their Chinese school and college friends, and they are teaching me how to play an easy, basic version. No strategy nor keeping score. That would be too hard for this first round. Little Brother jokes that he does not know how to shuffle the tiles properly because he has only ever played at his friend’s parents’ fancy electric self-shuffling mahjong table.

Sandra Pan, co-executive producer and director of the 1990 Institute’s latest video, “Beyond the Tiles: Making Connections Through Mahjong,” recalled her memories of the game while working on the video. “During my upbringing, mahjong held a forbidden law, something I could only observe from a distance. Every Saturday afternoon, my grandfather would gather a group of male friends in the living room. Amidst a cloud of cigarette smoke, they would engage in this game, clicking together bone tiles, laughing, and enjoying themselves. But during the breaks between rounds, I would stealthily approach the table, grab some snacks, and dare to touch those forbidden tiles. 

“Only years later, I came to understand that mahjong is truly a delightful, social, and culturally unifying game. The game can be very time-consuming and it now has truly caught on among the new generation. A lot of Gen Zers have made it a staple of game nights, using it as an opportunity to meet new people and dive into a game that is all about strategy, mental math, and observation skills. It is incredible to witness how much mahjong has experienced this new surge in popularity, breathing fresh life into this traditional game.”

As I play mahjong with my children, the jokes fly and I realize this both is and is not the same game my grandmother used to play. But one thing is for certain, this game draws four people into conversations and connections with one another that otherwise is lost in our fast-paced lifestyle. I wonder how different this game must look with stakes and strategy?

U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen was in China this week for talks – all stakes and strategy, but not in a game.

Janet Yellen's visit to China followed Secretary of State Anthony Blinkin's trip in June. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, is scheduled to visit Beijing from July 16 to 19 to discuss climate issues. 

“We believe that the world is big enough for both of our countries to thrive. Both nations have an obligation to responsibly manage this relationship: to find a way to live together and share in global prosperity,” Yellen said.

She also met with a group of Chinese women economists and told them, “Our people share many things in common, far more than our differences.”

“These high level visits are the Biden Administration's effort to stabilize U.S.-China relations,” said 1990 Institute Board Chair Grace Yu. “Although these meetings have yet to yield concrete improvements, they mark a resumption of in-person communication that ceased resulting from the pandemic and geopolitical tensions. There remain deep differences between the two countries but as both Secretary Yellen and Blinkin have said, both sides agreed to develop principles to guide the bilateral relationship, manage areas of competition responsibly, and resume talks on addressing climate issues. We are encouraged by the efforts to seek common ground and bridge differences."



The U.S.-China relationship requires a new framework reflecting the countries’ evolving interests. See the recording of “U.S.-China Relations: Coexistence In A Changing World” to better understand the countries’ complex history and a path forward.


Curated News

How second-generation owners of 99 Ranch are turning the Asian supermarket into a national powerhouse | Los Angeles Times  The first 99 Ranch was opened in 1984 by a Taiwanese immigrant. Now with 58 stores in 11 states, it is one of the largest Asian supermarket chains in America.

“A Great Divide” is a Compelling Exploration of anti-Asian Racism that Deserves More Time | Reappropriate  A new film named “A Great Divide” is an earnest, serious-minded examination of the ways systemic racism shapes and damages lives, offering a vision of hope and resilience for the future.

Yellen’s latest trip helps set a new normal for the U.S.-China relationship | CNBC  “As long as there are talks and communication between China and the U.S., the market will get used to the new normal,” said UBS’ Yifan Hu.

How is extreme weather testing China's climate resilience? | Reuters  As high temperatures challenge power grids and water security, and as floods ruin crops and threaten urban populations, China's ability to cope with increasingly wild weather is tested.

European firms look for footing in China-U.S. spat, French execs say | Reuters  Rising trade tensions between the two superpowers are adding to the problems facing European politicians and executives as they face a European economy operating at close to standstill, and guessing how to prepare.

New laws criminalizing voter assistance has Asian Americans feeling targeted | PBS NewsHour  In a number of states, language barriers already hamper access to the ballot for AAPIs. The new laws in mostly Republican-led states are seen by many voting groups as another form of voter suppression.

A proposed English-speaking part for the revamped U.S. citizenship test raises concerns for some | NBC News  Proposed changes include a speaking part based on a picture prompt and a civics multiple-choice.

Asian American low-income, community college students feel unheard in affirmative action debate | NBC News  In California, 41% of Asian American freshmen in 2020 enrolled at community colleges.

How ‘Joy Ride’ centers Asian women’s desire in a refreshing way | NBC News  “In this movie, we’re the ones that are telling the jokes. Asian women and nonbinary folks are telling the jokes. People are laughing with us, not at us,” one scholar said. NPR calls 'Joy Ride' across China a raunchy romp.

Relatively few Asian Americans say they’re well-informed about Asian history in the U.S. | Pew Research  Only about one in four Asian Americans (24%) consider themselves extremely or very informed about the history of Asian people in the U.S. 

Student, 56, considers calling it quits after 27 attempts at college entrance exam | CNN  In China, a 56-year-old man has taken the grueling gaokao college entrance exam 27 times to try for admission to his dream university. He first took the exam in 1983.


Congratulations to the winners of the 1990 Institute Prize in the China Focus Essay Contest! Read more about our collaboration for the annual contest in Spotlight below.



  • WATCH “BEYOND THE TILES: MAKING CONNECTIONS THROUGH MAHJONG” TO EXPLORE HOW MAHJONG BRINGS CULTURES AND COMMUNITIES TOGETHER – Mahjong, the iconic tile game deeply woven into Asian culture, carries the sounds of tradition and togetherness. From its Chinese origins, it has spread across borders, embraced by different countries and ethnicities. Our new video, “Beyond the Tiles: Making Connections Through Mahjong,” covers the history of mahjong, how the game came to the U.S., and how it transcends boundaries of geography, ethnicity, gender, culture, and generation, acting as a unifying force among diverse groups today. Learning about mahjong is a fun way to discover other cultures, Asian American history, and even math! Head to YouTube to see this fun and informative video.
  • BETTER UNDERSTAND THE COMPLEX RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE U.S. AND CHINA WITH 1990 INSTITUTE’S TEACHERS WORKSHOP RECORDING – Discover the complexities of U.S.-China relations in our Teachers Workshop addressing the two countries’ history and a path towards a more constructive relationship. In case you missed it, you can watch the recording of “U.S.-China Relations: Coexistence In A Changing World” and hear from our esteemed experts on the historical influences and current tensions shaping this crucial relationship. Mary Kay Magistad (Deputy Director, Asia Society's Center on U.S.-China Relations), David Firestein (President and CEO, George H. W. Bush Foundation for U.S.-China Relations), and Robert Daly (Director, Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Wilson Center) shared their experiences on the similarities of life in China and the U.S. today, with a focus on humanity and the importance of factual information. This workshop was geared toward secondary teachers, but the discussion is valuable to all who are interested. Please visit our Reference Library for more information and resources. Our co-sponsor for this webinar was Asia Society's Center on U.S.-China Relations.
  • CONGRATULATIONS TO THE 1990 INSTITUTE PRIZE WINNERS OF THE CHINA FOCUS ESSAY CONTEST – We are honored to have partnered for th 2023 annual essay contest with the 21st Century China Center at UC San Diego, the Fudan-UC Center, the Carter Center, and China Focus magazine. We received a record number of high-quality submissions and chose one essay to receive the 1990 Institute Prize of $2,000. We congratulate Katerina Yang and Ann-Alice Tichá from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies for their essay entitled “Politics Out the Way! Towards a Deeper U.S.-China Green Cooperation.” This essay will soon be published by China Focus and we are planning to collaborate with the winners on interesting events and/or classroom materials related to their essay. Stay tuned for more information and learn about all of the China Focus Essay Contest winners.

Dim Sum - A Little Bit of Heart


1990 Institute
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