I first met Professor John Zhuang Hongming when he was a visiting scholar from China at the Pacific Lutheran University, Washington State in 1997. Later he was promoted to be the Chairman, School of Journalism, Xiamen University. For over 10 years, John and I continued to work together on many critical issues related to journalism education. John had never publicly acknowledged the fact that without his recommendation to his “big boss” at the university, I would never have been invited to teach at the School of Journalism. Thank you John for giving me the rare opportunity to work and live in China for 7 years and to experience China first hand. Xiamen University is only about 4 hours away from the tomb of my grandfather, who left China with his growing family around 1903 to settle in Malaya (now Malaysia). Grandpa in his later years would often visit China and died in China, and buried in Fuqing.
Thanks to hundreds of students entrusted to my care during my 7 wonderful years in China. Each day was an opportunity for me to learn from all of you about the old and modern China. Armed with a journalism background, and a plan to write a book about China, land of my ancestors, I was not afraid to ask questions. And many volunteered more than I had asked for.
Thanks to many of you who responded enthusiastically to many invitations to eat with me and to play mahjong with me, my way to introduce many of you to each other, from different departments. My way to continuously learn about China.
Thanks to former dean Yang Kun, for trusting in me and inviting me to join her faculty, the English Department, Xiamen University Tan Kah Kee College, and together we actively promoted the Talk Show, with me as the Host, and numerous activities to enhance the mastery of the English Language skills—listening and speaking, reading and writing. Through the dean I was invited to write two volumes of English Speaking (both published in 2017) for the universities in China.
Thanks to many people outside the campus and in many places I had visited, who were kind to me as a foreign teacher and from them I learned what it means to live and survive in modern China, the land of opportunities for many who are willing to believe in themselves and to work hard for themselves, and their children. The days of migrant workers will soon be over as many young men and women are aspiring to open their own little businesses, here and there, and the astounding e-commerce now available to them, all possible because of “socialism with Chinese characteristics”.
Thanks to Aaron Sun Min, the first student to allow me to visit his home and his mother, the first of many homes, allowing me the rare opportunity to learn the importance of family, filial piety and adherence to family beliefs and traditions that continue to define the Chinese families down the ages. Aaron was the first student I sent to study in America for his master degree.
Thanks to Jake Chen Junjie for being there always when I need anything done with the computer. Via the remote control, Jake continues to assist and guide me in the use of the computer in USA. Jake was responsible for all the posters for my Talk Show during my 7 years in the Chinese campus.
Thanks to Jake Chen for creating a beautiful and meaningful cover for this book, by introducing the Chinese word for Door (men), meaning the book is a door to appreciating and understanding historical and modern China.
Thanks to Mitchell Hendrickson for countless hours reading through the whole manuscript, always looking for ways to improve my writing.
Thanks to the team at CreateSpace (an Amazon company) for their patience, understanding, cooperation, and deligence to make this book available to the public. They also published my first book CRAZY AMERICANS in 2009.
And finally thanks to the Splendid Land of China, the country of my grandparents, for allowing me to visit small towns, villages and cities, and 7 years as a visiting professor in China…because without this freedom and prerogative this book would not be possible.
Ruth Yang Kun, Associate Professor
CEO, Hangzhou Reading Educational Technology Co, Ltd, China
I first met Stephen Ling at an informal gathering of students December 2009 in our campus to listen to some memorable Christmas music performed by a group of Americans, and it was the start of an incredible journey because of our shared dreams and vision of how best to enhance the mastery of the English language by our students, as they prepare themselves to shoulder the responsibilities in meeting the challenges of a modern China. We speak the same language. Stephen was a visiting professor from America at the School of Journalism at Xiamen University 2008-2010, and joined my faculty, The Department of English Language, Xiamen University Tan Ka Kee College 2010-2014. I was then the Dean of the English department.
Within 5 years, we worked indefatigably together to implement a number of goals for English majors and non-English majors focusing on the four critical components in the painstaking acquisition of English—reading and writing, listening and speaking.
Together he and I introduced the first school-wide Speak English Bracelet project, convinced that “Wearing this Speak English Bracelet is one way for students to conquer their fears, lack of confidence or courage and perennial hesitation, because now they can speak to anyone in the campus wearing the same bracelet.”
He and I launched this project in conjunction with our first Talk Show, hosted by Stephen, in our campus for the purpose “To expose all our Chinese students to foreign voices and those students who are fluent in English, and to give them the best opportunity to express their thoughts, ideas and experiences, and for them to ask questions of the guest(s) or the host, all in English.”
We both believe we should provide our students opportunities to learn from and interact with foreign guests in Western Culture Month each year. And each year students from all departments work diligently in campus-wide competitions in drama, debate, dubbing, writing and public speaking, all in the endeavor to improve their English proficiency.
In this new book This Is China, Stephen continues his passion about the momentous events that continue to shape and guide China on her way to becoming a critical player in the development of peace, prosperity and harmony in China and in the modern world…beyond Eurasia. And he writes about his continuing work with students who come “knocking” on his door, whether here in China or in America. In writing this book, he wants to share with you his 7-year experiences living and working in China, a China of his ancestors seen through his American lenses. This Is China.