CCA Pulse Magazine
OPINION: Opinions of a Chinese Immigrant | Wesley Ge
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are not representative of Pulse Magazine, CCA, or SDUHSD, as a whole.
How does a backward, third-world country, riddled with poverty and corruption on the verge of collapse, turn into a manufacturing powerhouse with an economy set to surpass the US in just 30 years? The story of modern China in the post-Maoist era is nothing short of a miracle, but it would be nothing more than a dream without the people that built the country. Through an interview with a first-generation immigrant who experienced the failures and triumphs of modern China, but also the abundant freedoms of America, we can compare the two countries from the perspective of an average person.
My father grew up in the late-Maoist era in the small village of Shaoxing. After finishing his education in molecular biology in Beijing, he served in the military for 10 years and immigrated to the US to work as a researcher at UPenn. His life is split evenly between China and America.
When questioned about the differences between these two nations, he begins a story I’ve heard dozens of times: “When I applied for a road test in here [US], I sit in the second car waiting for the road test officer to come out, so the guy in the first car brought out a cigarette, but the officer come out, the guy said ‘I just lit my cigarette, can you wait until I finish the cigarette’, so the officer just stood there waiting for the cigarette, but in China, the guy would be doomed, not in just this road test but every other test, because the officer would use his relationship to make sure the guy will never pass, unless the guy bribe him or apologize by kneeling. [In America], no one would choke you because they have the power and right, so you do your best and you get your reward, in China, things are more complicated, everyone at a certain point can and will choke you, unless you bribe them, so it's much easier and rewarding living here.” It is a struggle to understand my father sometimes; for every word out of his mouth, I must parse through his idiosyncrasies and old Chinese idioms to decipher the meaning, but his stories often offer insights into his past life. Through him, I have discovered this: China is a place of intense respect for authority, where the local government wields extreme influence, and exerts its power through the complexities of the legal system. My mom chimed in: “In China, everything has to zǒuhòumén’ [go through the back door - meaning bribery], government official power is so big, you need to find a relationship with the person who take charge of these things, do everything need relationship.”
His impression of America stays consistent with both the government and the economy: “The foundation of the Communist party being popular is to give people false hope that everyone should be equally rich, but actually its equally poor… so communist is the evil enemy of human society”, before going on to another story about visiting North and South Korea. In terms of the economy, he proudly recounts his childhood experiences biking around his village, and in just a decade taking a bullet train to Beijing; however, he says, “ I don't believe it [China’s economy] will surpass US, No way. No. Way. Everything is built by the foundation laid by the US, so there is no way China would surpass.”
Lastly, I asked about Taiwan. “Of course, yes. Taiwan has never NOT been part of China,” he asserted, “Everything from the language, the food, the culture, the architecture is all ‘Chinese’”. In this subject, my dad stands strong with China, taking a strong nationalistic point of view.
Although my dad is quick to criticize China’s political, economic, and societal problems, he is still Chinese and was nurtured and facilitated by the country. “In that way,” my dad recounts, “I love China, more than America.” Faced with vastly different cultures, the position of a Chinese immigrant is difficult.