PERSONAL NOTE: I decided to share my book 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, december 2, 2018 firstname.lastname@example.org blog – https://getting2knowyou-china.com
And when I first received the scholarship to study in America in the late 60s, little did I realize the significance of the one book that is still close and dear to me. While living in Singapore, I had found in an Indian book store a hard-cover edition of Dr. Lin Yutang’s 1936 book about pre-1949 China: My Country And My People. I remember saying to myself: I must carry this book to America, like a reference book with clear well-drawn portraits of the Chinese people. I would be new in America and if Americans wanted to know more about China and her people, I would share with them certain relevant passages from the book—like Christians would quote from the Holy Bible—about the character, culture, traditions, thinking, and philosophy of my ancestors in China. This book is about the Chinese life and background, north and south, east and west, before 1949, the year Chairman Mao took over China.
Lin Yutang, the author, was born in the town of Banzai, Pinghe, Zhangzhou, Fujian Province, about four hours away by car from where I lived and worked at Xiamen University. His writings attempted to bridge the cultural gap between the East and the West, nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1940 and 1950. The town of his birth, Banzai, has preserved the original home where he was born and grew up and turned it into a museum.
Lin Yutang wrote about pre-1949 China. I wonder if Dr. Lin Yutang himself could still recognize the China he wrote passionately about if he were to visit China today?
Chairman Mao Zedong created the modern China in 1949. Today one would be interested to know how much has China changed since Mao’s death in 1976? One needs to remember one of the stated goals of the Cultural Revolution was to destroy the Four Olds—Old Customs, Old Culture, Old Habits, and Old Ideas—and the campaign to destroy them began in Beijing on August 19, 1966 shortly after the launch of the Cultural Revolution by Chairman Mao. And I will always remember what some of the earlier tourists were saying about China, that if you want to know the real China, you have to visit Hong Kong or Taiwan or the Chinese in Southeast Asia—those untainted by the Cultural Revolution or communism—where you would more likely encounter the authentic Chinese customs, traditions and people.
Mao’s Red Guards destroyed old Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian temples, anything and everything related to the Four Olds or anything related to or smelling of Western cultural influences down the centuries in China. Cultural resurrection—like the revival of elaborate burial rituals, Spring Festival celebrations, different traditional
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festivals, visits to Buddhist or Confucian temples, Confucian teachings and ethics, listening to and pursuing studies of Western music, pursuits of high fashion and exotic foods, and advanced Western education, ex cetera—began in earnest and unimpeded since the early 1980s, with the massive reforms and opening up of China under the new leadership of Deng Xiaoping. As a Chinese, it didn’t take long for me to realize there is not just one China but several from the Imperial China, to the Republican China, to the Mao’s China, to the Deng’s China, and now to the Xi’s China—newly proclaimed the new era of “socialism with Chinese characteristics”. The new China—since Deng Xiaoping—is about 40 years old and I want to be there to be where the real action is in the world today.
In many ways we are now living in a “borderless” world. Australia and New Zealand, for example, offer Work and Holiday visas to 5,000 and 10,000 students from China respectively, providing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for young men and women to engage in some sort of cultural exchange, promoting and building closer cultural ties between them and China. Without any formal invitation, China is sending the largest number of students—compared with all the industrialized nations—to study in America; while the central government of China continues to provide free scholarships mainly to students from the Asia-Pacific regions to study in Chinese universities. China wants to build a peaceful and harmonious world and it starts with opening its doors to the best and brightest brains in the world, a diplomatic venture that will benefit China richly in the decades to come.
I did meet a large group of male students at Beijing International Airport one time and one of them, all from Sri Lanka—formerly Ceylon—said with a genuine smile and grateful heart, “We get everything free studying in China…everything free.” Others in the group nodded and shook their heads with happy, complacent smiles on their faces.
A report by Susan Jones in CNSNEWS.COM (January 24, 2013) reveals what President Obama was hoping to achieve by sending thousands of American students to study in communist China. The headline reads: “Obama wants 100,000 American students to study in communist China.” And the story continues: “Secretary of State Hilary Clinton on Thursday will celebrate the launch of a newly rebranded organization called the ‘100,000 Strong Foundation’, which aims to have 100,000 American students studying in China by 2014.” According to the news release, this event would “underscore the importance of studying abroad in China and the benefits to our strategic relationship with China, as well as the personal benefits individuals receive through these exciting experiences.” And a central objective of this 100,000 Strong Initiative is to allow more “underrepresented groups”—students from high schools, community colleges and minority-serving institutions—to study in China;
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this according to a State Department fact sheet. In fact, according to State Department statistics, 14,596 students were studying in China in the 2010-2011 academic year.
And in the words of Michelle Obama, speaking at Howard University in Washington, D.C., in January 2011, studying abroad is important for a well-rounded educational experience and also becoming “increasingly important for success in the modern global economy.” She went on to say, “With every friendship you make, and every bond of trust you establish, you are shaping the image of America projected to the rest of the world. This is so important. So when you study abroad, you’re actually helping to make America stronger.”
And in support of the 100,000 Strong Initiative, the Chinese Ministry of Education offers 10,000 scholarships through the China Scholarship Council for American students to study at their top universities.
In October 2012, Voice of America quoted a University of Southern California political scientist as saying that Chinese students returned home to China to start new businesses with the knowledge they had acquired in America. Peggy Blumenthal, executive vice president of the State Department’s Institute of International Education, was quoted as saying in the Christian Science Monitor (November 2012) that many multinational corporations in China are finding that the most effective employees are those who had studied in the United States.
The Chinese government continues to invite students from many parts of the world to study in China. This is China. China openly denies all claims to “colonize” the world but continues to make and win friends of people from all over the world—as if following every word from the pages of Dale Carnegie’s 1936’s HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE. President Xi continues with his aggressive open-arm policy to welcome people with talents and rich experiences to come and contribute to making China a better place to live and work for everyone. Beijing is one city who is happy to give you a green card if you could use your advanced education (especially those with PhDs) and experiences to help China grow and expand and improve her image as one of the best countries in the world to live and work and raise your family. This is China.
More than a decade ago, I would tell my American students to take a drive down to the port of Tacoma (a major port on the west coast of America and right in my backyard, so to speak) and see where all the huge container ships were coming from and—if they are smart—to start learning the Chinese language and forget their Spanish classes (even though a personal friend was teaching Spanish then), saying
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unapologetically that, “I am telling you this not because I am a Chinese but the world is slowly shifting their attention to China…and that, like it or not, China is taking over the world.” I was saying this way before I was invited to teach in China.
During the Cultural Revolution, many people, the old and the young, were forced out of their cities to toil and live in many remote areas in China and some still have not returned to their hometowns since then. In the 60s and 70s, many young hot-blooded Americans protested against the American involvement in the Vietnam War and left USA for different foreign countries and some have as yet to return to the United States. And many threatened to leave USA since Donald Trump became president in 2017. It is difficult for some foreigners to understand why some Americans today would willingly give up their citizenship and leave USA for good to live in other countries. While many Chinese in China are trying every which way to cross the oceans, fly across rivers and mountains, disguise through borders, to have a taste of the American life. Legally or illegally. Now the rich smart Chinese women are openly entering American hospitals to give births to their daughters or sons for the sake of acquiring the enviable American passports. This is China.
I am not planning to abandon my American citizenship for China. But I love China.
The new China is only about 40 years old. She is very young—younger than the United States of America, and her charm, like a seductive woman, will continue to lure and entice you into wanting to embrace and know more about her.
This is China.