I went to Beijing on 4/16/2015 and back on 5/4, Monday morning around 2 AM, then back to office at 7 that morning. It’s been three days since I got back. As always, I still feel tired and weak now.
I didn’t sleep well yesterday. In fact, I went to bed around 10 PM and was still awake around 2 AM this morning. Something kept me awake until I couldn’t hold up. I was thinking about doing this or that, in backyard, on the computer, at the office, with my daughter, my research paper, etc. The more I piled up to my task list, harder it was for me to fall asleep. You can imagine how exhausted I was at office today.
Yes, there are plenty of things that I have in mind, that I can’t wait to get my hand into. Here’s part of my to-do list.
1. Clean the house for my daughter’s homecoming on 5/12.
2. Make appointments with eye doctor and the dentist for my daughter.
3. See Chad to open an annuity account
4. Clean the newly grown weeds in my backyard. If possible, plant some vegetables
5. Pay property tax which is soon due.
6. Get ready seriously for a research paper, plan to finish it before the end of June.
7. Go to library to check some books
8. Resume exercises and yoga.
9. Get ready the book for my daughter — change your brain before 25.
10. Keep looking for meaningful things to do so that I can retire this year.
I left Kansas for Beijing on 4/12/2014 and arrived in Beijing on 4/14, having spent nearly 18 hours on the way.
4/12 3:48 pm departure from Kansas
5:55 pm arrival in Houston, TX
4/13 1:00 am departure from Houston
4/14 4:50 am arrival in Beijing
Back from Beijing, I departed at 3 pm on 4/29 and arrived in Houston at 3:40 pm local time on 4/29, nearly 14 hours long. I had to rush through border and luggage checks in the short transfer time as I needed to catch the transfer at 5:47 pm for Kansas. It took unusually long time for the border check at Houston airport. I was told it was a new international airport where people were not used to doing this. I got back to Kansas at 7:50 pm.
I had a wonderful time in Beijing this year for three reasons.
(1) My son came on 4/23 and left on 4/27. He went to a friend’s wedding in Hong Kong, from there to Thailand, Shanghai, Suzhou, then Beijing. It’s over 10 years when my son and I were both in Beijing. Of course, I was overjoyed to see him in Beijing.
(2) I met up with a high school, also college classmate, a good friend of mine whom I had not seen for over 30 years. To my surprise, she didn’t change much in terms of personality, the way she talks, etc. Of course, we all have aged physically.
(3) I had a great reunion with two boys of my middle and high school years for the first time since I left Tianjin in 1974. Of course, these four decades have left remarkable prints on all of us. I was too full to put into words when I saw them. One of the most handsome boys in the class has been transformed into what he himself called “a fat old man.” Actually, the other one is more so than this one. Still, we are what we used to be, though more relaxing and comfortable in our own skin. We talked, eagerly exchanging our life stories and the stories of our youth years. Like old friends, we felt nothing in between us, as if we hadn’t been separated for that long. Amazing!
The Xi-Obama summit held in Sunnylands, California, 6/7-8/2013 has far-reaching significance than most people care to know. It is not only the meeting between the heads of a rising and a declining world power, but also hold potential key to the peace and stability in Asia.
For more on this topic, see this article by Stephen Harner, a former US State Department official, How We Should Measure Success from the Obama-Xi Summit.
Today I will pay a visit to China, like last year, except my daughter will go with me this year. Because of this, we will need to make a trip down south to see her grandmother.
Most Americans have some vague idea about China’s political system. Honestly, I don’t think many Chinese have a clear idea on this either.
Last weekend, I talked to my mother about the twin meetings in China. I asked her if China’s National People’s Congress (NPC or quan-guo-ren-da) functions like U.S. Congress or European parliament, like establishing laws. My mother said yes.
Then, I asked her the relationship between Chinese Communist Party and National People’s Congress. She said party was still above NPC. “Does it mean party is also above the law, if it is above law-making body?” I asked her. Of course, she did not have the answer. Here’s a quote from China’s latest constitution on the function of NPC, in theory at least.
According to the 1982 Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, “All power in the People’s Republic of China belongs to the people. The organs through which the people exercise state power are the National People’s Congress and the local people’s congresses at different levels.” chpt1, article2.
On 11/3, Saturday evening, we went to a friend’s house for a dinner gathering. Present were some Chinese professionals. One of them was going to China next week. She said her relatives in China asked for coach bags.
Many of them knew where people could get genuine good price coach bag. I had to admit that I had never heard of coach bag. One of the ladies showed me one through her iphone.
Honestly, I don’t see any difference between these bags and those sold at Walmart, other than the coach sign and the price difference. I learned that people would starve themselves in order to save enough money for this coach sign as it is seen as a status symbol.
Does it matter that much to have this status symbol? Is there a real status or do real status need a symbol? I have never thought of that.
On the 4th of July holiday, I read an article on BBC, “China: The world’s cleverest country?” by Sean Coughlan BBC News education correspondent.
The article talks about the remarkable achievements in education in China as demonstrated in the highly-influential Pisa tests, the Programme for International Student Assessment, held every three years by the OECD.
The test results in China showed the “resilience” of pupils to succeed despite tough backgrounds – and the “high levels of equity” between rich and poor pupils.
It also shows strong commitment and investment individually and collectively in education, “investing in its future, rather than in current consumption.”
Asked about success, “In China, more than nine out of 10 children tell you: ‘It depends on the effort I invest and I can succeed if I study hard'” instead of luck or aptitude as we often hear in Western countries.
“They take on responsibility. They can overcome obstacles and say ‘I’m the owner of my own success’, rather than blaming it on the system,” as most low performers in America do.
“Education is a field dominated by beliefs and traditions, it’s inward looking. As a system you can find all kinds of excuses and explanations for not succeeding.” “It’s a terrible thing to take away the global perspective.”
On the question about “the rising stars in Asia, Mr Schleicher says it’s a philosophical difference – expecting all pupils to make the grade, rather than a “sorting mechanism” to find a chosen few.
On the year I left Sprint, I found a job owned by a Chinese man. He started a company a decade ago, serving as the middle agent between Chinese suppliers and an American store here. The store placed an order and he searched through his friends in China for the best price. He maintained a database of goods, suppliers, price and transaction history.
This is the first time that I worked for a Chinese and in this field. He reminded me so much of the boss in China, the very unpleasant side. Still, the job sounded interesting as I saw the working of database and the amount of information that needed to be organized and analyzed.
But I did not have the chance to stay there for long because of one of his employees who back-stabbed me. He had three female employees, one Chinese, two Americans. It is this Chinese who for some reason did not like me and eventually sent me home.
However, I had a good working relationship with two American colleagues. About a year after I left, I learned from one of the Amerian colleagues that the company was ruined by the Chinese employee who drove me out.
This Chinese woman sold the company’s database to the American store, thus making it unnecessary for them to have this middle agent company to get its goods. In return, she got a management position at this American store.
This was carried out while the owner of the company was in China planning his second marriage with his young wife. The whole thing was unpredicted, devious and ugly-done.
I felt bad for the company’s owner. When he was as old as half a century, he lost his company and had to start all over for his daughter of the first marriage and the child of the second marriage.
Early last month, a friend of mine emailed me a link to his son’s 8-day journey into a remote village in the southwestern corner of Sichuan, China, where Yi ethnic people live. As my daughter and I surfed through the pictures, both of us were appalled by the indigent scene of the school and children. Click twice to enlarge the image. I hope all of us could do something to bring some changes to their school and their lives.
The economic mess that the U.S. is enjoying now originated from (1) over consuming, under production, either in housing bubbles and credit card abuse, at individual and national level, like going to war with borrowed money; (2) Negative saving, that is deficit, again on both levels.
China is doing the opposite: (1) Under consumption, over production; (2) Over saving. Hence, China lends the surplus to the US so that US can keep importing from China, which will perpetuate the consumption in the U.S. and the running of factories in China.
Sometimes, I see China as hard-working parents who toil themselves to generate value and save them for their children (the dear Americans), while the US behaves like spoiled children who demand high-level consumption even running on empty purse. We would expect the US, with a mountain of debts, to save more and spend less and China does the opposite. It is not likely to happen this way, though. The children must be spoiled because of their dollar dominance in the world. Something will happen eventually. Let’s wait and see.
This time more than ever before I observed a heavy addiction to technologies in China. Nearly everywhere from airport to groceries stores, I noticed people either chatting on cell phone or something else on computers. I had to interrupt a salesgirl’s phone chat when I needed a service. I saw the annoyance on a guy’s face when his attention was forced to switch from computer to me at stores. At home, computer was the default place for anyone thus addicted, with very good books being left collecting dusts.
I feel sort of sad as I miss the days when our lives were free from these gadgets. We like these technologies, yet, like drugs and cigarette, we let ourselves become addicted to things we like and our addiction takes control of us.
This reminds me of the fable about a fly and a drop of honey. The fly enjoys the honey so much that its wings are glued to it so that it perishes amidst the wonderful honey it enjoys.
On 7/6, Wednesday noon, I went to have lunch with three old classmates, two of them back to kindergarden days.
One is now working in the ministry of foreign affairs; the other used to be there. While listening to their conversation, I was both bored and amazed by the intricacies of power struggle and the total submission of one’s individuality when working there. The one who left could not stand it.
It seems like serving a life sentence to work in that environment. I cannot imagine myself working in that place for long. I was a rebel in my bone when I was young but more inclined to seek peace with the outside world.
If I were put in that situation and had to learn the ropes and the tricks of surviving there, I might become adapted and adept at power struggle. Are we the products of our social and cultural environment or some intrinsic value of our own? I wish people could forever keep something of their own no matter where they are, without total adaptation.
On 7/5/2011, I went with my sister and her son to the embassy of the U.S.A in Beijing, where her son would apply for a student visa.
We left home a little after 6:30 in the morning and found a long line already formed outside the embassy. It was nearly 11 by the time we headed home.
Most of the visa applicants were young students. While they were inside the embassy, their parents were waiting outside for many hours, over three hours in our case. Seeing these anxious parents, I thought of this Chinese saying.
On 11/24/2010, the day before Thanksgiving, I had a nice chat with a young relative of mine in China. From the talk, I became once again keenly aware of some of the problems that many Chinese parents unfortunately share. That is, parents make decision for their children, especially their adult children, from college major to the children’s future job.
The direct consequence of this practice is this: the children never learn to take responsibility. Here’s a handy example, the parents of a young man decided that the man should go abroad for a few years study. Upon the completion of abroad study, it is up to the parents’ to find a job for the young man since it is initially parents’ decision.
I would think the parents have hurt their child much more than helping him. Alas, when will these parents learn to trust their children, if ever!
P.S. my son’s flight back was scheduled to arrive at 11 PM Monday evening. The flight was delayed. He arrived around 1 AM Tuesday morning.
Wesley Yang expresses more hatred of Chinese upbringing through the mouth of Daniel Chu, “When you grow up in a Chinese home,… you don’t talk. You shut up and listen to what your parents tell you to do.” This is a grossly overgeneralization. My daughter commented, “At our house, almost the opposite is true. It is I-talk-you-listen.”
Yang through Chu further said, “I’m trying to undo eighteen years of a Chinese upbringing.” Is Chinese family upbringing so horrible? He further challenges reader — “How do you undo eighteen years of a Chinese upbringing?” as if Chinese upbringing were so pernicious that one had to uproot it. Is he trying to instigate an uprising against Chinese family and the values it stands for?
By the way, I consider my Chinese family a normal one, in which my children sing and whistle, hop and skip as they wish. I encourage my children to seek out friendship with whoever they like, black or white or yellow. They go through normal adolescent awkwardness but survive without the “social deficiencies” or “Asian alienation” that Yang assumes all Asian-Americans must be plagued with. And I don’t consider my children’s upbringing experience an exception.
As far as I can gather, Yang is trying to purge out from his system any traumatic childhood experience from his Korean family through this writing. Safe catharsis. If that’s the case, write a personal memoir instead of projecting all the evils on AAA– All Asian Americans!
P.S. the main reason that I have reacted so strongly to Yang is I don’t want to see any people burdened with so much self-hatred. My daughter said I have been talking about the same thing over and over again. That put an end to my relentlessly chewing out of Yang’s writing.
In fact, Wesley Yang hates not only the mainstream Asia values but most of all, he hates his own face. I must say Yang seems to be suffering from some kind of hard-to-named mental illness. He starts his article with a derogatory self-description and with a very unflattering picture of himself, more like someone from a state jail house or more pessimistic than that.
“Sometimes I’ll glimpse my reflection in a window and feel astonished by what I see. Jet-black hair. Slanted eyes. A pancake-flat surface of yellow-and-green-toned skin. An expression that is nearly reptilian in its impassivity…” trying to tell readers, “Look, how repulsive I am…” He certainly has succeeded so far. He must have kicked his face millions of times behind the scene, which he believes deserves no better than this.
He reveals his mental illness when he says “Here is what I sometimes suspect my face signifies to other Americans: ….” I mean why do you care so much of what other Americans think about your face, as if they care to think about it? Your face is your business. Beauty or ugly is your judgment. Don’t flatter yourself as if your face ever deserved anybody’s attention.
Obviously, Yang presents an extreme case of low self-esteem, originated from his inability to accept his physical appearance, the stage that teenagers tend to go through but rarely seen among healthy adults. Of course, it is common among psychologically unhealthy adults.
He then goes on relating his feeling of estranged to that of millions of Americans as if he were not alone in finding his own image so unacceptably disgusting. Such a preposterous assumption!
Here’s what I have to say about your face: You may not be able to choose your race or racial features, but it is entirely up to you as to what facial expression you want to put on and what message your eyes and your whole face want to convey. We all like to see people showing confidence and sunshine in their faces, black or white or yellow. Look at the lovely face of Yo-yo Ma and millions of his like.
Not done yet…
On the value of your culture…
Yang suffers from two major crisis: identity crisis and self-image-hating crisis. He identifies himself as one of the whites but sadly he is not; he loves the physical features of the white and hates his own.
This is his personal problem. To me, the real damage is he speaks on a major magazine and talks as if he were the voice of millions of Asian Americans. Nothing is more hideous than this!
Yang knew he would be able to get it published if he could cater to the popular taste by lashing out this extremely self-disparaging piece against his own race–a popular trick. Yes, he did find his own voice by spitting on the face of his mother and all people she represents. Wonderful job!
If Yang hates Asian values so much, he has the choice of rejecting every bit of them, without having to attack these values across-the-board.
We all came from somewhere and have to move on in life from where we came from. Number one rule is: accept and acknowledge who you are and where you come from. Number two: improve and make change at wherever improvement is needed and changes can be made. To those, white or black or yellow, self-hate is a huge burden on life’s journey. It only serves a hastened self-destruction.
Not done yet…
I recommended to my daughter Wesley Yang’s article “Paper Tigers: What Happens to all the Asian-American Overachievers When the Test-taking Ends” May 8, 2011. After reading it, she made one comment, a rather pertinent one, “He has lots of anger.”
Exactly so. In fact, he used one single word to summarize his feelings toward Asian values on filial piety, grade-grubbing, Ivy-League mania, deference to authority, humility and hard work, harmonious relations, sacrificing for the future, and earnest, “striving middle-class servility” — that one word being an F-word. I try to understand why he chooses to use an F word here. My feeble brain fails here. Maybe he thinks it can grab global attention as Amy Chua’s book has obtained. So vulgar!
He must have been severely traumatized by these values. After going through his long writing, I still cannot figure out what is wrong with these values. Why does he hate them so much? Something not right with this writer. What is it?
Not done yet…
On 3/23/2011, when I talked to my mother over Skype, I asked her what she was doing. She told me she was reading newspaper on Confucian filial piety. “What did he say?” I asked.
Next she explained to me Confucius’ own words which is shaded in blue. Here’s the translation.
Ziyou asked Confucius what filial piety meant. Confucius answered, “Nowadays people understand piety piety as being able to support the parents. You can keep alive dog and horse. Yet, without a loving heart, what is the difference between keeping dog/horse and keeping parents?”
Zixia asked Confucius the same question. He answered, “It is difficult to attend to your parents’ need with a smile on your face.” That is, filial piety means you cannot serve your parents with a nasty attitude or trying to make your parents feel misery by throwing at them dirty looks, as if you were serving prison sentence instead of fulfilling your filial duties.
I have both today and yesterday off to mark Chinese Spring Festival. Mother nature has showered upon us mountains of snow since 2/1, making it the perfect time to stay home.
The only fun thing that I can think about rabbit is Beatrix Potter’s classic children’s story, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, 1902. Potter’s vivid characterization and description of Peter Rabbit earned her a place in children’s literature that no one has ever matched since her time.
To celebrate the year of rabbit, my daughter and I indulged ourselves watching Spring Festival Gala during daytime and had a marvelous time.
During the weekend of 8/14/2010, I went to an oriental grocery store for some Chinese vegetables like lotus roots and eggplants, my daughter’s favorites. I saw some young Chinese students there. Like right out of home, they even look younger than my son.
Boy, they are rich, appearing to be a lot richer than I am. They buy like crazy. They even buy cooking utensils at the oriental store. I mean it is a lot cheaper to buy them at Wal-Mart. I seemed to see something familiar.
My mind flashed backward when I saw these young students, back to the time when I first arrived in America in 1984. Back then I was their age, totally standing financially on my own. Living on a meager scholarship, I resided in a school-subsidized apartment, acquired all cooking utensils from host-families and church charities. I had never spent a penny on stuff like this and never bought anything that was not on sale. Yet, I managed to come up with some savings in order to go back home and spent them on my family in China.
Look at these young people now. How times have changed! How China has changed!
Nothing touches me more than the immense hospitality and friendliness of the Chinese people in extending their warm-hearted welcome to people all over the world; the eagerness to contribute and volunteer, and the scale of participation unsurpassed and unseen in any land provided a sharp contrast to the culture and custom in most western countries. We are so used to the custom of respecting and expecting privacy, keeping a polite and cold social distance so that we never offer help without being asked. We learn to keep ourselves to ourselves and to live in our isolated dwelling. To be fair, people in U.S. are friendly and ready to help if you ask, but the distance is sacredly observed and preserved. Below is what I believe is the theme song of 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
The doors of our houses are widely open to friends, far and wide.
No matter where you are from, you are our guests. Make yourself at home.
Welcome back friends, old and new. We will have a lot to catch up.
The evergreen trees here have witnessed the friendship of the past.
They will see you leaving us with fond memory rooted in our rich culture and tradition.
Beijing welcomes you, providing you endless opportunities, with her boundless energy.
Beijing welcomes you to share with you all under the sun, letting you break records in our land.
Beijing welcomes you, touching you like beautiful music, providing you the chance to surpass yourself
Beijing welcomes you. You will make it in this land as long as you dream great.
Miracle will take place as long as you have the courage to pursue it.
Yesterday was the birthday of Chinese Communist Party.
My children have asked me about Mao Zedong as they have heard many exceptionally bad things about him. If he were so bad, why were there so many songs dedicated to him? I told them to read for themselves and reach a conclusion from their own readings, as opposed to listening to what others have said.
I myself have read a lot about Mao. On the positive side, I agree with an article sent by a friend. That is, those who still cherish a dear memory of Mao believe that Mao had a genuine love for his people. This reminds me of the outstanding individuals in the Civil Rights Movement of 1960s, — the “I have a Dream” speech of Martin Luther King, Jr., Rose Park, those who bravely fought for de-segregation in Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama. All these ordinary people helped to move forward American society, which vividly exemplified what Mao once said, people and people alone are the true force behind the advance of human history.
On the first Monday of May I received a popular Chinese TV series on dvd from a friend of mine. She said I would learn something about China’s housing issue from this shows. Oh boy, it did open my eyes to much more than a housing problem in China.
Honestly, the show is depressing and the whole situation is rather foreign to me as I have resided in the States for over a quarter of a century and my family has never faced this problem before. Many issues touched in the show are beyond my humble comprehension. I simply cannot understand why people do this and that. Hence, I don’t feel qualified making any comment.
Still, I shared the show with my children together with my favorite piece below, not sure how much they can understand.
Last week my sister asked me if I have heard of fu er dai in China, the rich second generation. She further described how these children from newly rich families live a spectacularly useless and wasteful life; drinking and drugs, vices of all forms — contrary in every aspect to their parents’ lives.
This rich second generation children are so good at squandering wealth that they practically leave nothing for the generation following them. That’s why there is a saying that the wealth of one generation won’t go as far as the third generation.
This reveals nothing but an utter failure of the first generation parents in raising up decent children. No matter how much wealth they have amassed in their life time, they have failed as parents.
The day before China’s plan to hold national day of mourning for quake victims last Wednesday, I sent an email to a Chinese neighbor who is active at a local Chinese church, passing to her the information on how to make donations to the quake victims via a church in Beijing. I asked her to help circulate this information among her church friends, fully expecting something out of that supposed place of love.
I was a bit disappointed when she told me that her church does not send fund “through middle agent” and she was “not feeling comfortable to pass this to our church because people usually donate to their trusted agents…if they do donate.” To be sure, the request did not come from any middle agents but from a dear friend of mine in Beijing who devotes herself full-time to church service. I was full of words but don’t know what to say to this neighbor of mine. If this is not a trusted agent, I don’t know what it is to her. What would happen if I go back to China and make such requests to Christians here on behalf of church there? Am I not considered “their trusted agent?” I used to think church-goers are open-minded, at least more than I am. I wish … There I am sharing it here.
Last weekend while my daughter and I took a walk in the evening, I mentioned to her some of American writers, one of whom was John Steinbeck. I talked a bit on Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. We did not talk much of his other book The Grapes of Wrath. The book reminds me of the Dust Bowl and the migration of Okies to California.
The dust storm of the 1930s in American and Canadian prairie lands was the result of severe draughts and the misuse of lands, a disastrous cooperation of man and nature. Sadly to say, we are seeing the same thing happened throughout the world, mainly the dire consequence of human abuse of mother earth. In China, we see more and more severe sandstorms caused by the combination of farmland-turned-desert, over-grazing, pollution, and deforestation. In U.S. the grassy surface is gradually replaced by the sand down beneath in Sand Hills in Nebraska, driving people out of the area like what Dustbowl did in 1930s.
It leaves me sad and kind of helpless when I reflect upon the recent Copenhagen’s Climate Change Conference, which consists of too much selfish politics by the world’s richest countries. It is true China is the manufacturer of most of the world’s light-industry products and one of the top polluters as the result. Yet, without the help from her customers world-wide, it is hard to imagine China solves her pollution problem all by herself. China could choose the path of raising the cost of manufacturing and then the cost of goods sold, so that she can shift this cost of properly disposing the industrial waste to her customers. But will the world support this? We won’t be able to see much improvement until the world leaders realize that it is our shared planet and our shared responsibility to take drastic actions.
Not a few Chinese parents work like a dog all their lives, hoping to provide everything for their children, so that the youngsters will not have to go through what their parents have experienced.
Nothing can be as absurd as this parenting. No pain, no gain. Keep in mind this Chinese saying — flowers from a green house won’t last long and no winning horse can be trained in a stable. So it is true with raising a competent child. The material wealth provided to the younger generation beyond their childhood years only serve to continue their dependency on their first family and resulting in forever retaining a child mentality throughout their lives.
This was from a friend of mine regarding college students in China. I know it is not a joke even though it reads like one. I have personally known or heard similar story. That’s how they fail and how they become loafers or parasites, living off their parents. Here’s the translation.
They sleep through the whole class;
So that, throughout the night, the owls are not tired.
At school cafeteria, they never wait in line;
They won’t stop texting until they are in debt.
On smoking and gambling, they know them all;
Ten bottles of beer won’t knock them out.
They cut classes together in groups.
They never have any luck in romantic relationships.
They miss everything in exams.
Long live university!
I never know people can go so far to treat themselves well until I learned of the story told by the visiting relative of ours. She has a friend whose daughter got married in the most splendid style, a truly eye-opening event. The young couple belong to one of those new nouveau riches in China. The banquet foods were rich and extravagant in extreme, putting to shame those of any royal families. Still, the young man was not happy with the food served there. He said to the bride, “If we eat three meals a day, we will have 1095 meals per year. If we live another 50 years, we only have 54,750 meals to eat in our lives. We should not compromise each meal and should only have foods that we really enjoy most.” With that, he and the bride went out searching for his favorite food, whatever that might be, leaving behind their guests.
People commented that he really knew how to treat himself well. I never know people treat themselves well in such calculating manner. I am sure the man could be of great value to society if he applied his talent in that direction. I am not sure of the consequence to his health if he thus insists.
Human feelings invariably play a role in all human interactions, no matter where you go. In the U.S. the first impression during a job interview is very much made of feelings, one’s like or dislike of the interviewees, unexplainable at times and not based on reason. Yet, in most cases, feelings play a much lesser role in the U.S. than in China. The United States, being vastly different from China, is largely a land of laws.
The visit of the aunt and uncle of the family on 1/19/2010 brought to us the news of their son’s second divorce, under the excuse of his second wife’s mistreatment of the child of his first marriage. Later we learned the man had another extramarital affair before this second divorce, as if history repeats itself again and again, giving us a peek at coming attractions. No wonder China rates highest in divorce in the land strangely governed by human feelings and relations instead of laws and rules, fashionably reinforced by modern divorce laws.
I have always been puzzled by the surreal complexities of human relations in an other-oriented culture but am more than amazed by the rising disintegration of families brought upon by the hot pursuit of inner-oriented feelings or gan3 jue3 at the cost of everything else.
It is no exaggeration to claim that on the average people in China are hugely more complicated than those outside China.
While I am in China, I hear lots of talks about Chinese parents amassing wealth for their children, in the form of house and money. To be true, it is a very primitive type of love that parents naturally demonstrate for their offsprings, very much similar to that shown in a mother bird when she builds a nest for her fragile eggs and baby birds before they can fly on their own.
Guess what? Human parents are a lot smarter and powerful than birdie parents. Human parents can build nests that covers way beyond the point of their childhood, intending to shelter all the way to children’s whole adulthood, rendering them incapable of living on their own, forever. Human parents are expert in bringing out dependent adult children. So loving, caring and dedicated! That is, if both parents and children are happy with this arrangements. Let us hope parents can live as long as or longer than their children.
For me, I still follow the primitive love of the birdie mom and let my youngsters stay in their first nest only before they are strong enough to fly on their own but let them out when they become independent adults. Absolutely no baby nest beyond their childhood. Cruel love!
On 1/12/2010, I went to meet three middle-high school classmates, two of them still working and one in retirement. I learned some kind of scam going on targeting senior citizens in China. The scam goes like this.
Some illegal people calls your home, confirming your name and bank account number, informing you that certain criminal group has crept into your bank account and intend to withdraw all your money. You should immediately transfer your money to another account, which is given to you over the phone. The key to the safety of your money is total confidentiality, not a word is uttered to anyone else, even to your spouse or children. As soon as your transfer is complete, the swindler takes away all but a few cents from your account. A friend of my classmate was thus swindled, with damage totalling half a million yuan or nearly 76,000 US dollar, the sum of her lifetime savings.
I related the detail to my mother, hoping she would be well informed. It turned out she already knew it and much more. Next she opened my eyes to more scams implemented here. Alas, I feel so out of touch with the reality in the land of my birth. I might be too ignorant or inexperienced or having lived in a very restricted and limited quarter. Anyway, I must admit that China has changed way deeper than I am prepared.
Not long ago, I was disturbed over something that I learned from another adult in the house. One of his relatives just had an extremely extravagant wedding in China, total cost running up to $80,000. They took over a whole floor of a five-star hotel, the best one in town. The news was used to prove how rich people have become and that his nephew should go back to China to catch the train to the rich and fame. But what a huge waste for just one wedding! Imagine how many children and how many lives they will be able to reach and touch with that amount of money!
Meanwhile, one of my relatives told me of a real story in China. Some super-rich people tried to get rid of their money by driving on the highway while tossing cashes out of windows in hundreds, just to enjoy the scene of money flying in the sky. Shameless and senseless beings!
These people have done nothing less than writing a shameful and infamous chapter in the history of Chinese civilization, an unprecedented one, way to prove this point, the one that the world is not willing to see, that is, the rise of an economically powerful China together with the fall of a moral China.
I hope these people were just a few isolated beings. I wish China had as many philanthropists as her millionaires and billionaires. Sadly to say, philanthropists are very scanty. Why? Off the top of my head, I can come up with one explanation — this sense of social responsibility for any unrelated human beings has not been part of education in most of Chinese families when the emphasis has always been within one’s family. Indeed, good moral and spiritual education starts from one’s first family. Or is it so? I have no other answer.
As my daughter put it, “These selfish millionaires are worse than those working at McDonald’s.” My son said, “You can be this luxurious after you have given back.” Well, not according to this writer. Wealth without morality, this is something I have warned my children against. Whatever you have means nothing, holding no social values until you share it with others, the more you share, the more valuable you are as a social being. Make efforts and make difference so that other fellow humans will lead a better existence because of you.
Last Wednesday, a young relative of ours came over. While chatting about his future, I learned that one of his parents wants him to get a job here upon graduation, the other doesn’t care. For him, it is more comfortable going back to China. He still has not got over the hard life in America, after 3 and a half years.
I can understand perfectly the hardship and the challenge of finding a job and beat out your own path here. For a young man, that’s the fun part of it all. Nothing can compare to the true joy that one experiences in establishing one’s new world.
The new generation, a rather different one indeed. What about this ancient theme of going through trials and triumph in one’s life’s journey? I wish my children still believe that nothing is as majestic as this epic journey threading through one’s coming-of-age to independence and finally to finding one’s secure and glorious place in society, or better than this, in history. Life would be too boring to endure if it lacks any transcendental meaning.
There, finally put my children in the picture. For them, I write today.
Last weekend a friend of mine sent to me the following as “universal truth.” Something must be wrong here. What happened to the values that we parents use to brainwash our youngsters? Like emphasis on reading, study and honest hard work? How can they make friends without drinking or become famous legally? I am confused, still I remain stubbonly old-fashioned and I shall not be otherwise. Here’s the translation.
People make friends through drinking,
–find lovers at dancing balls,
–make enemies at gambling table,
–become a crazy man at stock market,
–turn into celebrities through cheating or any illegal activities,
–end up a mere mediocre after honest work,
–are perceived as a wise person via IM,
–book-reading makes one idiotic,
–public service transforms one into rich being,
–remain a poor soul after a life of hard work.
On the evening of 6/24, while I was reading Joseph Campbell’s A Hero with A Thousand Faces at Border’s with my daughter, a stranger initiated a conversation with me, telling me that he was studying Chinese now and how wonderful China was. I appreciate his kind expression of good-wish and friendliness. Yet, I cannot stop wondering how naive some people can be. He talked as if I needed to be confirmed and needed to be told how great China was, as if I cared how the world thinks about China. Sounded nicely condescending, leaving unpleasant taste in the mouth.
Somehow I have passed the age when I need this confirmation. And I think China also has passed this immature stage of development. She does not need anybody to tell her how she is and should not care any comments from outside. Just as America does not need to be told how great it is.
This friendly guy reminded me of the time when I was told how Americanized I had become, given to me as a compliment. Yes, I do need compliments like a little pupil! I know the world would be a lot sunny if people are not as sensitive as I am. Oh well, again, let truth stand.
Now I feel better after letting it off my chest.
I was aware how unpopular my position was while I was writing it, especially when the whole western world rallies itself behind the so-called democracy fighters or Tiananmen heroes, as if they represent the whole China. Still, I chose to come out with what I truely feel, even if it means going against the flow. Call it disrespect or even outrageous. I owe an explanation to my readers and my children.
First of all, the governing of country must be first and foremost deeply human, in that the basic physical human needs for every member in a society must be met before anything else. Whatever the motives for these student leaders, they were far above 80% of Chinese people who daily struggle to make ends meet and can’t care less about democracy or whatever. Food and shelter, health and security are their main concerns. If anything, these handful leads represented a tiny fraction of Chinese population who are well-fed and heeled and have never experienced the hardship of the under-fed, unshod and unclothed, and those who live on the brink of starvation and expiration.
Secondly, on the corruptions, we know no government is immune from this disease. Chinese government is well aware of it and has everything intention of having a clean government. Who wouldn’t? Only it cannot. The corrupt force can very well overpower a government. See what happened during Bush administration — resulting in a legacy of wiping out 10 of thousands of people during his two pet wars and trillion dollar deficit and the wonderful economy like this today.
The only hope for a clean government in China lies in openness and a full-fledged establishment and enforcement of laws and order, leaving nobody above these laws. American society is legally very mature, not through anything like our dearest “democracy fighters.”
Third, on tight control of Chinese government, a unified tight control state is better than a divided falling-apart one like former Soviet Union. Well, best situation for western divide-and-conquer. Throughout Chinese history, successful state heads all unified China through heavy power. The current government is no exception. Government itself is a necessary evil. I give Chinese government mountains of credits for making China what she is now.
I do not endorse the government’s handling of those inexperienced student leaders like Wuerkaixi and Chai Ling, etc, like shooting flies with atom bombs, though I am honestly sympathetic toward Chinese government. I could strike a better deal with these stupid babies than whoever in power. It will be left to historians of future generation to write this chapter. History will reveal its true picture and whatever impact it might have on Chinese society at that moment, from the interests of the whole nation.
This event is a sad reminder, showing us how a tiny spark can trigger a prairie fire that can engulf the whole land, having enough heat to burn us all. China is such an ideal place for this fire. Don’t we enjoy seeing her burn to ashes? That would be too hot for June and too much pollution.
Today marks 20th anniversary of Tiananmen demonstration. 20 years ago, my son was a baby and I was young and vastly stupid. I am glad I am wiser now.
Looking back, I feel ashamed of those so-called “democracy fighters,” who are so far away from the reality of the grass-root Chinese people and have no idea what these people really want in life. Democracy is genuinely empty to anyone who has to struggle everyday for his empty stomach. It is the last thing a man will think of when he cannot bring food to the table for his family.
Democracy sounds so hollow, out-of-touch, hypocritical, useless —
When school age children cannot afford to go to school,
When children go days without a decent meal,
When parents have to go far away for jobs, leaving their babies behind,
When the sick have no money to see doctor,
When decent people cannot find a decent job,
When poverty-stricken families have to sell their children,
When thousands of girls have to sell their bodies to support their families,
When thousands of baby girls are abandoned for want of boys,
When people never see blue sky because of pollution,
When homeless people reached out for a penny on Beijing streets,
When a man has to steal food for his disease-plagued wife,
When a person is dying of starvation and illness…
Chinese are very practical people, following the golden rule of “Black or white, a cat is good as long as it catches rats.” There are millions of things ordinary people must take care first before the need of democracy crops out. Here’s my valuable advice to those well-fed, richly-dressed, lard-filled, fat-faced from overeating “democracy fighters,” if you genuinely care for Chinese people, do at least one practical thing for those under-privileged, to raise them out of disease, ignorance, poverty, and crimes. There are millions of those out in China. For example,
feed the hungry,
Clothes the poor,
Shelter the homeless,
heal the sick,
assist the old,
educate the young,
adopt the abandoned, etc.
There are millions of chances to make a difference in people’s lives, for the better materially. Something or anything is better than empty slogans.
Alas, the world is so full of big talkers, especially today. I am more than mad and furious listening to their empty hypocritical utterances on radio and over TV about empty, stupid, good-for-nothing democracy. Turn off TV or radio immediately!
Exactly a year ago today, on May 12, 2008, a spectacularly cataclysmal earthquake hit Beichuan county, Sichuan province, China, dispatching from the earth about 69K lives and devastating thousands of families whose loved ones are here no more. The great number of school children thus passed tragically testified the sad reality of the poor condition of school buildings in that area. To these departed children, this posting is dedicated.
I have found this issue rather deep-rooted in psyche of some Chinese parents — the tendency to talk negatively about their own children in front of their friends. I pointed it out before to the other responsible adult in the family, but it cropped out again during yesterday’s gathering with friends. I tried to make him stop, to no avail. This morning, while the children were still sleeping upstairs, I reminded him again of not bad-mouthing the children to others, either in front of the children or behind their backs. Find something else to talk about.
It is not because our children are so great and flawless that we have nothing bad to say about them. Nor is it because we should try to cover up their flaws. The bottom line is respect. Children are individuals, no matter how small they are, deserving no less respect than us adults. It is not fair to them if we treat them like pets, as if they cannot understand or do not care what others say or think about them. It is sometimes frustrating to me that some people simply don’t get this point.
In Chinese language, there is a rather self-depreciating way of referring to one’s own son — quan zi. I even feel uncomfortable translating it into English, but I have to. It means “son of a dog.” How I dislike it!
Don’t take it as these people are really playing down themselves by using the phrase quan zi. They just try to be modest. Or rather, they think they are supposed to be modest and thus act out modesty. Either way, I am fed up with the inconsistency between what is modestly said and what is thought inside. Well, I found myself in a not-so-nice mood when it comes to inconsistency.
Back to my topic, sometimes the need to keep a modest appearance might overwork itself when some Chinese parents feel the urge to belittle their children in front of their friends. Such a heavy topic on this sunny winter Sunday.
When I was in China, I read about and heard people complaining of corruptions, pollutions, and illegal practices in China. I chatted with a young man, who might be representative of his generation. He has very much idealized American society.
To be sure, corruptions and illegal practices are rampant everywhere without exceptions. The difference lies in the degree or scale as well as in people’s attitude toward it. Most of Americans believe America is a democractic society, with elected government, simply because there is one more dominant party than in China, while not most of Chinese share the same belief regarding China, when in fact, both societies are minority-dominated, with money playing more role in America than in China.
While Chinese are more likely to see their own corruptions, Americans are good at finding wrongs in other countries, thus sending troops out in the name of correcting the perceived wrongs. Chinese are more reflective and self-critical while the same qualities are very much lacking in America.
America is the land of opportunities to all who are willing to make sincere efforts, while China, with colossal population, is the land of intense competition and limited opportunities. While law and order prevail in America, money, relationship, and connections work better in China. China still has a long way to go before law prevails, if that’s the desire of the majority.
A longtime friend of mine shared with me an article about Michelangelo Antonioni, an Italian filmmaker who made a documentary film called China in 1972. The film was realistically shot without any obvious personal bias, nor any cave-in or compromise to either west or east. It is now an excellent, rare-of-a-kind record of life at that historic moment of China. The true Antonioni fashion also feasts the viewers’ eyes with rich landscapes in various parts of China before China headed for full-blown modernization drives. The film was subsequently severely denounced in an 18-page article called “A Vicious Motive-Despicable Tricks-A Criticism of Antonioni’s China Film ‘China'” published by an official publisher Foreign Language Press in Beijing in 1974.
I would think the film was condemned because it ran against the policy at that time, that is, media should work as a propaganda for lauding China to outsiders. Anything negative should not go public.
I hope my children will remember this — Truth is like the rock buried in the midst of a roaring sea. When surrounding water subsides, the rock is revealed, standing the test of time and tide. So is it for Antonioni’s China, so be it for any truth.