(THIS IS CHINA-8) November 27, 2018 – Chapter 7 from THIS IS CHINA




PERSONAL NOTE: I DECIDED to share my book especially with my friends and students in mainland China, because the book is not available in mainland China. So enjoy each chapter and share it with your friends. Steve, usa, november 27 stephenehling@hotmail.com    blog – https://getting2knowyou-china.com

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Chapter 7

During my first months on the campus, to my utter dismay, at times bordering on annoyance, many of my Chinese students felt I wasn’t an “authentic” Chinese to fully appreciate nor understand the happenings and goings on in China. Thus, during my first months on the campus, they would often say to me, “Steve, This is China!” As if to say, “We do not think you do fully understand China, our customs and traditions.” Granted I was not born in China. Granted I am an outsider, now trying to be an insider because I am a pure bred Chinese, head to toe. Granted my grandparents hailed from China. And my blood is as Chinese as the Great Wall of China. My hair is as black as the dark color hair in China. My features—the only thing debatable about me—were at times interpreted as Japanese or Singaporean or Hawaiian or Mexican! Once as a college student in America, I crossed the border from Texas into Mexico with another student, the border guards detained me while returning back to USA because they thought I was a Mexican trying to enter the United States, despite the fact I was driving my American car with an American driver’s license. And spoke perfect English. I reflected: did I smell like a Mexican? Angry at the white border guards! Or the time I was shopping in a grocery store near my house in Austin, Texas, when a few Mexican women started asking me for help in Spanish, thinking I was a Mexican. Out in the streets near the Beijing airport, some women thought I was a Korean.

I did not know my identity was a problem for some people around the world. Who am I? I was told by my adopted Chinese parents that my biological mother was from Thailand. Granted I do not have a fair skin like most pure bred Chinese! But why would my students think the way they did about me? Because to some of them I am too Americanized or Westernized to fully grasp the essence of the Chinese culture and traditions, that somehow I am mentally, culturally and academically deficient to be an authentic Chinese. Honestly I wasn’t sure what criteria they were using to judge me of my authenticity as a Chinese, to work and to live in China. To them, I have become too American to appreciate anything Chinese. I am a fake, to them. Not a real Chinese. How to correct this “perception” of me?…A task I would not take lightly in the months to come.

My students were adamant about who I am, despite my loud protestations against being labeled somehow as being less Chinese in what I said to or shared with them about my keen in-depth observations of life in China. Because my personal interest in China goes far beyond an innocent child’s cursory fascination with different toys in a toy store. “You forget I am also a Chinese” did not help to improve my standing in their eyes. In about a year or so, something did happen to them or to me, and they

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ceased doing it—labeling or perceiving me as less Chinese—because by then I was beginning to share with them, inside and outside the classrooms, many things about China, the country of their birth. Because most students, however academic or smart or patriotic, had not endeared themselves to seriously reading or learning about contemporary China. Based on my observations about their behavior and general interests, many students felt their beloved government was putting out too much ‘bullshit’ in the mass media or books, lacking honesty, objectivity, transparency, and truth. They did not think they could trust anything coming from the Chinese government or anything with the stamp of the government. Should I be amused or surprised by this?

After all, in their thinking, the mass media is controlled by the government. Unfortunately to me, many students do not trust their communist government. This is
China. Why? Maybe you have to live in China long enough to understand the thinking of many college students, who do care deeply about their country, education and future in China.

It might just surprise the Chinese government to hear that many students on my campus preferred not to attend public lectures related to dear Lenin, Mao or Communism. They were told their presence or attendance at these public lectures was required or they would face some sort of punishment related to their academic marks or grades. “There will be someone there at the entrance to the lecture hall to check your attendance,” students would say angrily to me. Resigned to fate because they had no choice but to attend these public lectures as part of their continued indoctrination of Mao’s communist thinking, so they told me. This is China. “We had listened to this bullshit about Lenin, Marx and Mao since primary school,” they moaned and groaned. They expressed their opposition, verbally. Typical youth of modern China, I thought. Frequently, students continued to remind me This is China, not America. To many of them, America means freedom! Not China. And as long as they live in China, they feel trapped and suffocated by the culture and traditions that will define who they are as Chinese.

From the start of my college teaching in China, I was wrong to assume most students would welcome the many opportunities with open arms and hearts and souls to listen to veteran communists about their past experiences growing up and living in communist China. Now as young adults they are tired of the whole bullshit (in their language)—from elementary to junior to high school to college. The old sponges could not absorb anymore! Too much of a good thing is not good for your mental health, they seemed to be telling me. I sensed their frustration and total indifference to
more communist education. This is China. I can only empathize with their genuine

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frustrations and lack of individual freedom.

What was more troubling to me is the fact many top students, invited to join the communist party on the campus, refused outright to become a member. Only the best and the brightest top students are invited to join the communist party. This is China. For a while, it is true that “party membership symbolizes status, power, opportunity and sometimes privilege; therefore, it is extremely difficult to be accepted by the Party and to become a formal member”. Without doubt the college students are very troubled by the corruption among the party members and they do not want to be a part of that system. Students told me their parents would urge them to join. Granted it is true years ago if you were a member of the communist party, you would be assigned a job after your college education. The communist government had now stopped doing this. During my seven years on the campus, students would ask me for my advice about joining the communist party. “As long as you live in China, my advice to you is simple: join the party. We cannot predict the future. If anything, membership in the communist party means your love for your country and also your loyalty to China.” I would often say this to students who came to me for advice. Somehow many of them trusted my judgment and advice on issues related to their studies, love, sex, parents, careers and their future. This is China, just do it. But a few of the students ignored the invitation. They ignored also their own parents to join the communist party. Many are simply tired of the communist party.

Matter-of-factly, by the end of 2015, membership in the communist party had risen to 88.78 million from just 50 people in 1921.

The future of any nation is its young people. And I am proud to continue to be a part of their growing up, education, career, and future in China.

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