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A Conversation with Wyclef Jean A Conversation with Lang Lang

by Dorinda Elliott | Published July 2008 | See more Condé Nast Traveler articles

CNT: What should Americans do when they visit China to understand the country better?

Lang Lang: They should spend time, with a translator, talking to Chinese people who don't speak English and experiencing traditional life in the hutongs, or alleys. Ordinary Chinese are not globalized at all. Americans have to realize that, overall, China is changing fast, but it's still a very poor country.

CNT: When you first returned to China in 2001, you faced jealousy. Has that changed?

Lang Lang: Before, people admired what America did, but they didn't like the fact that America is such a powerful country. So if you were trained in the United States, it made them uncomfortable. Now I'm a national hero. China has become much more confident.

CNT: You have described nasty politics and corruption in China's music academies. Has the world of music changed too?

Lang Lang: Before, it was like a secret society, but the Internet has really opened things up. Now anyone can go on the Internet and criticize their teacher.

CNT: Is that democracy?

Lang Lang: Yes, I think it is. The government can't control the Internet. Now you see all kinds of free discussion.

CNT: Do you ever tire of travel?

Lang Lang: I need to travel. It's a musician's responsibility to share his music.

CNT: Has your work with UNICEF changed you?

Lang Lang: When I traveled to Tanzania to visit children with AIDS, one kid told me, "Sometimes my friends disappear." I realized that he meant they die. It was a great education for me. It made me think more about helping others.

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