By Stephen Ling, author and college professor, USA, now visiting Xiamen, China, March 16, 2018
Let me first introduce myself to you. My grandparents, with six children (4 males and 2 females) were among the over 350 “poorest of the poor” recruited by the Malayan Government with the assistance of an American Methodist missionary (who could speak the local Fuzhou dialect) working in Fujian Province to “grow rice” in Malaya to meet a mushrooming population, and also their way to avoid expensive rice imports from other Southeast Asian countries. That was in 1903 and China then was in turmoil because of fights among the warlords, famine, high taxation, starvation and poverty that destroyed the lives of many who were poor to begin with. They then escaped to greener pastures in Southeast Asia. Instead of rice, grandparents and his many fellow friends and neighbors from Fujian Province prospered somewhat planting rubber trees instead of growing rice. Natural rubber then was in high demand because of the wars outside China before synthetic rubber came into being.
Eldest uncle raised a wonderful family and their children did very well because of higher education, working in the city of Singapore. Father and two other brothers were simply hopeless and useless and did not amount to anything in their lives. One was a police inspector with a mistress, the other involved with gambling and opium and prostitution in the city of Singapore. My own father squandered his life way involved in opium business and failed fishing endeavors, also having a mistress and produced many children. I grew up therefore in a poverty-stricken farm…my brother and 2 sisters did not finish any education. My sister in England and I (from two different families) were adopted in addition to the original 3 children in the family. In Chinese tradition, usually adoption means having additional or extra hands to help with farm work.
I grew up in open rebellion against my mother who wanted me to be a farmer. Eventually with God-given intelligence and determination, I obtained some scholarships to pursue my own dream in USA. While in USA, I had the privilege to study journalism and economics at the University of Texas and became a writer and a college professor, never to look back at the village in Malaysia where I grew up. Here are my books thus far: FOR MY HANDS ONLY (2005), CRAZY AMERICANS (2007), SPEAKING ENGLISH – BOOK 1 & 2 (Published in China in 2017 for Chinese universities throughout China), GROWING UP CHINESE (2017) and THIS IS CHINA (2018). At the moment I am working on KILL THE BABY: A NOVEL ABOUT LOVE AND SEX IN CHINA.
I was privileged to be invited to be a visiting professor at The School of Journalism, Xiamen University, China in 2008, the year of the Beijing Olympics. I spent 7 eventful years in China and spent 3 years writing my book THIS IS CHINA, for the sole purpose to educate my many fellow Americans who could not be bothered to know or understand or appreciate the emerging new economic dragon, China, which is predicted to take over the world in this or coming decade.
Since I returned to USA in 2015, I continue to return to China, my motherland, every year because China continues to evolve before my very eyes…because I love China…because I am convinced China is the hope for the future…not just for China, but for the rest of the world.
Before Xi became President of China, he spent more than a decade in Fujian Province and as an official he was involved in the Sister City program between Fuzhou (a city in Fujian) and Tacoma (near where I live in Washington State). As a President, Xi came to visit Tacoma recently and spent some time with high school students in a prestigious historic high school…and when told by the school principal that most students could not afford to travel beyond Tacoma (most students are blacks and hispanics and few whites) President publicly invited 100 high school students to visit China the following year. I was at Beijing international airport one time, and I met a big group of college students from Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) and they were excited with the opportunity to study for free in China because of President Xi…Yes, I am reminded of some Asian political leaders who once studied in Cambridge or Oxford and now leaders of their countries…President Xi is doing that too…he is already implementing his vision of China’s hands of influence in many countries of the world through encouraging many top brains to come to study or visit China…and now through its own AIIB and the Road and Belt Initiative, his tentacles of vision and influence is everywhere in the world today…building the foundational infrastructures is an important to the growth, development and prosperity of any nation under the sun…There is no end to both his vision and his pragmatic approach to solving the world’s economic problems. And President Xi is doing…none of his immediate predecessors had his vision and influence and his thinking and writings, now being translated into many languages around the world.
I returned to China March 2 in the middle of some big political changes about to take place in China…I was asked many times WHAT DO YOU THINK IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO CHINA BECAUSE PRESIDENT XI WANTS TO BE THE NEXT EMPEROR AND NEXT CHAIRMAN MAO ZEDONG! I could sense this perennial fear that Communism under any Chinese leader is doomed to fail and that would be a disaster for the rest of the world. Somehow communism is bad for everyone.
When i returned home for the 7 summers during the college break or recess, some of my best friends (Taiwanese) would say this to me, only to irritate me to no end: Why are you so stupid? You could have gone to many other countries to teach overseas, China is a bad country. It is no good. You should not go there…! My one consistent response, not only to my Taiwanese friends or anyone who dared challenge my decision to teach in China: (By the way I was invited to teach at Xiamen University, an honor beyond words!) Stop talking about China. Obviously you are so ignorant about China. Go and live in China for a year or more, then you can tell me about China. Else keep your mouth shut! Because obviously you know nothing about contemporary China!
Here is a small surprise for you: I have educated phd friends who would not visit China because they had heard too many negative things about China!
I was refused training to teach in China because I was not a NATIVE SPEAKER. I did not give up…Xiamen University invited me to come…and I stayed for 7 years, long enough to write my book THIS IS CHINA. So why would I defend President Xi to be the next Emperor and next Chairman Mao Zedong?
I saw and experienced, in a front seat, what was happening in China, the year President Xi because its new president. Mao started a political revolution, because he radically altered China, to be a new China, according to his convictions and beliefs and he worked hard for it. It was a revolution. It meant radical political, social, economic and cultural shifts and changes in the whole of China. But he had absolute control and he did not listen to others, like Deng Xiaoping, when it came to the most important aspect of the country or the lives of the people. Deng Xiaoping was sent away (banished) from the center of action in Beijing…no wonder China did not experience the Economic Miracle that Deng Xiaoping introduced to China after Chairman Mao’s death in 1976.
So why all the unfounded and distorted fear and anxiety of President Xi becoming another Mao? To me it shows the people who hold this view do not know China well and what President Xi has accomplished since becoming the new president of China. From the start when he took power, or given the power to be the president, he introduced many important measures to improve the government because he is a man who cares for the country, guojia, and its people…He wants from the start that all government workers or officials (whatever terms you want to use) including himself, are the servants of the people, that we should all try to improve their lives, that when they come to you, you should do whatever in your power to improve their lives, help with their problems, help to find the solutions…that is why he is so against the rampant corruption permeating every level of the Chinese government, from the bottom up, or from the top down. Yes, he wants that control like Chairman Mao, he wants people to do the right thing for the country…and in order to implement his many ambitious goals, people and country-centered, he needs to do what he has to do, to get rid of all the bad government top leaders down to the bottom, so the country can enjoy the China Dream, a collective dream, a dream to lift millions of people out of poverty in China. He is a man of vision. Not another Chairman Mao in the literal sense, NO WAY. He himself was a victim of Mao’s policy to send youth to the countryside to improve his grand scheme to improve China…his own father suffered at the hands of Chairman Mao. Will President Xi be another Chairman Mao, yes and no. Yes, because he needs the control the country in order to bring about happiness, harmony and prosperity to all peoples in the land. He will continue to get rid of all the Bo Xilais in the nation. I am tired of people telling me President Xi got rid of Bo Xilai because Bo was a rival. Bo represents the worse in the government of China, and like cancer, President Xi has no choice but to remove it! Does it take a Stephen Hawking to understand this? And as President, he will continue to remove all the bad apples in the government in China, from the lowest all the way to the top. He is the man of the season. He is the man of the hour. He will continue to improve the lives of all peoples in china…and he is making sure SOCIALISM WITH CHINESE CHARACTERISTICS will be followed like Muslims the Koran, or Christians the Holy Bible.
President Xi can be the President for life and it is good for China…because he knows China and he will continue to work hard to realise the CHINA DREAM…that everyone deserves a good life, that the government is for the people and to the people, that a country will achieve its glory and mission when it takes care of all its people…rich or poor, strong or weak, young or old, rural or city, and you can trust President Xi to do that and more because that is what he has been doing since he took the office of the presidency since 2013.
That is why I choose to return to spend my time in China every year because China, under President Xi, is a safe, flourishing, peaceful, harmonious and prosperous country, now the envy of the world. Once all roads led to Rome, now it would seem all roads are leading to and converging on China…a new rising STAR IN THE WORLD! I do not feel safe with the mad myopic Donald Trump but I feel safe and happy living in China, the land of my ancestors. This is China!