On May 17, 2015, I wrote a letter to Ambassador Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to China, essentially to introduce myself and why I am writing this book This Is China. And now I am sharing this letter with you so you may understand my motives for writing This Is China.
Ambassador Cui Tian-Kai
Chinese Embassy, People’s Republic of China
United States of America
May 17, 2015
Dear Ambassador Cui:
My name is Stephen Ling (My Chinese name is Ling Eng-Huat) and I was born in Malaya (now Malaysia). My grandparents immigrated from China to Malaya in 1903. At that time the Malayan government, through a Methodist missionary, was able to recruit a number of “the poor of the poorest” from Fuzhou-Fuqing area in Fujian Province to grow rice because Malaya was going through increased population growth and high cost to import rice from other South-east Asian countries. This Methodist missionary had worked in Fujian Province and was well versed in the dialect of my grandparents. So they followed him to Malaya and were segregated from the other Chinese who were now in large urban centers involved in non-agricultural pursuits. (I wrote about this in details in my first book: For My Hands Only, published in America.)
I grew up in a small poor farming village in Malaya. Though my mother wanted me to be a farmer, I refused to listen to her (a bad son!) and studied hard to win scholarships to study in America. And now I am an American Citizen. In 2008 Xiamen University (XMU) invited me to be a visiting professor in the School of Journalism because of my background in economics and journalism. From 2008-2010, I taught at XMU. From 2010 until now, I am a lecturer at XMU TKK College. Dean Yang Kun—who had studied with President Wang of TKK College at the National University of Singapore, a top school in Singapore—invited me to join the Department of English as a lecturer. She saw in me as someone who had some innovative ideas to improve the students’ mastery of the English language. She is supportive and eager to work with me to implement some of the ideas on how to improve the level of English of our students. For example, I introduced the idea of students wearing a yellow bracelet (Speak English), to encourage students to speak English to anyone who wears this SAME bracelet. Why? I found most of our Chinese students are afraid or too shy to speak to anyone in English. Now if you see anyone wearing the yellow bracelet, you are not afraid to open your mouth.
I also introduced the Talk Show. The purpose is to expose all students to foreigners or Chinese students who can speak the English language fluently, and to give the students the chance to speak English in public in front of many students. We continue to work on establishing an English center to allow all students to meet other students who want to improve their English. And on and on. In 2013, I was a nominee for Fujian “Friendship Award”.
This year I have decided to return to America after 7 years living and teaching in China. Ruth Yang Kun, my dean, gave me the privilege to devote my time to finish my new book, this time on China. It is tentatively titled: This Is China. Dean Yang Kun will write a Foreword to this book. Why this book? Having the privilege to live and work in China for the past 7 years, I have seen and experienced China first hand and as a Chinese myself (with roots in Fujian Province), I have the privilege to hear, see and experience China, that is not possible for many white foreigners. Now I am ready to return to America because I want to spend the rest of my life in America to talk about China, a new emerging superpower in the world.
Having lived in America for over 3 decades, I have discovered most Americans are not interested in the outside world. Most American students are not interested to speak another language, whereas in China I see many of our Chinese students are eager to learn a new language or more because they want to see the world for themselves and they believe strongly if they are equipped with a new language, they can travel round the world. And now with increased international business and trade in China, they have more reasons to master other languages. Tourism is the new thing in China. With Chinese traveling all over the world. USA is granting 10-year tourist visa to Chinese tourists and business men!
Most Americans have no idea or knowledge of modern China. Imagine someone in America actually asked me this question: do Chinese have microwave ovens in their kitchens or do Chinese drive cars? Little do they know the most expensive cars in the world today are sold in China!!! Most Americans are very ignorant and naive about China. I want to return to America at the end of this semester (July) and spend the rest of my life to share with Americans what the new modern China is all about. And so I am trying to finish this new book (This Is China), to be published soon, so I could use it when I talk to Americans about China.
And so why this long letter to you? I want to introduce myself to you. I am hoping you could help me in my mission to do this back home in my country America. I hope the embassy will be able to help me with materials so I could share them with the Americans I will be talking to. I plan to speak to students in high schools and colleges. I plan to speak to adults in clubs like the Rotary, Lion and Kiwanis. I plan to speak to adults in churches. Yes, I had been invited to many of these places before when I first came to America to talk about my life as a foreign student in America. I had been there many times in different parts of America when I was a foreign student.
That is why I studied Journalism and Economics in America. With journalism I could write about important matters. With economics I could understand what is going on in America and China and how China has become a major economic power and force in the world.
I hope you will help me in my mission by sharing with me the materials I could use to spread the news of modern China to the Americans. The American tourists, not many, who came to China only saw the big cities like Shanghai and Beijing, etc. They know nothing about the real China, the China that I have the privilege of knowing as a Chinese.
Thank you for reading this long letter. I hope you will help me with my mission to educate Americans about modern China.