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Posts Tagged ‘Beijing’

Showcase of future

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

photo 2I attended the joint performances of students from the High School affiliated with the Renmin University (Ren Da Fu Zhong in Chinese, RDFZ) from Beijing and Chicago Public Schools. They performed at the auditorium of the Walter Payton College Prep High School (WPCPHS) on Wednesday. I was blown away by the high-level skills demonstrated by RDFZ students, aged 11 to 17.

I interviewed Mr. Shen Xianzhang, Deputy Principal and co-leader of the 66-member performing troupe. I must say I was intrigued and impressed.

cicShen said the troupe will tour several major cities in the U.S. and will give 14 performances. The program staged at WPCPHS was their “short” list due to time limits.

Shen advised that RDFZ has a number of clubs, such as dance, martial arts, acrobatics, choir, etc., which attract approximately 600 students. The troupe on this tour is consisted of merely 10% of the students participating in such extra curriculum activities.

I feel these students’ performance can be praised as semi-professional.

Having been trained as a ping pong player in grade school, I can tell how much time and work they must have put into their select area of activity in order to reach this level.

Shen proudly mentioned a number of “first prizes” students at RDFZ have won over the years, and how many countries they had toured to give performances.

photo 2I know RDFZ is one of the top schools in China. It has a total of 5,000 students, a large pool to select talents, not to mention that those who are able to get into the school have proved themselves outstanding to start with.

Still, talents only would not have delivered such great skills in dancing, martial arts, and acrobatics.

Dedication, hard work, and consistent practices did. And discipline. It also means that they are not just book smart or buried in the preparation for college entrance examinations.

Over the years, as the generation of the one-child policy grow up, I have heard, and lamented myself, the little “emperors and empresses” who are self-centered and ill-prepared to deal with the challenges and hardships in life.

photo 1Here they are, a group of representatives of their generation. They have led me to look at them, and their peers, from a different perspective and with delight, hope, and expectations.

I asked Shen how he felt about the “amateur” performances given by students from CPS.

“I’m glad and moved to see American students dance traditional Chinese folk dances and sing Chinese songs,” he said without hesitation.

His words and sincerity touched me.

I noticed the disparity in the level and skills of the CPS students and neglected to realize the significance of their dancing Chinese folk dances and singing Chinese songs in the celebration of the Chinese New Year in Chicago, the heartland of the United States.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning feature-length documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset. Visit www.mulberrychildmovie.com for more information.

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No Equality Yet

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

jobAt a recent lunch with Jane, an American woman executive in a large media company and Zhang, a Chinese male colleague, also in the media, we talked about women’s positions in China and the U.S.

I have always admired Jane and liked her enthusiasm, openness, and ready laughter, especially considering her high-pressure top management position in a fast-paced industry. I asked her how she managed her daily job since she always appeared calm and at ease.

She laughed.

“The busier I am, the more productive I am,” she said.

She added that she loved challenges and solving problems. She also acknowledged that it was not possible for a woman to get to her position before, stating that the changing times had enabled her to move up the corporate ladder.

Then Jane asked about women’s positions in China.

“Men and women are equal in China,” Zhang answered as I struggled to put my thoughts together.

I raised my eyebrows and stared at him.

pay“Well, when women apply for jobs, they usually don’t get hired as easily as men,” Zhang added after a pause. “That’s only because of the concern about women’s commitment to work,” he explained. “Once a woman starts a family and has a child, employers worry that her work would be interrupted. But once women are in the workforce, they receive equal treatment, with equal pay and salary increase.”

I doubted if Zhang realized the contradiction in his statement.

“I think women in China enjoy a much stronger position than their average counterparts in many other Asian countries,” I cut in. “But if you look at higher positions in the government or corporations, there are not that many women at all.”

With that said, I admitted that growing up in a family of strong women, and hearing Mao’s slogan that “women hold half the sky” all the time, I never sensed or was even aware of the discrimination against women until I entered the workforce and encountered discrimination first hand.

In the early 1980s, college graduates received assigned jobs. Mine was to handle the import and export of films at a large company in Beijing. But when I reported to work and revealed I was a woman, not a man as the company requested, they banished me to do film subtitle translations in a subsidiary. I fought four years in vain to change my job, and in the end, escaped to the U.S. to do my graduate studies.

“It was only after I came to the U.S. that I learned about feminism and realized how far women had come, both in the West and East,” I told Jane.

There is no doubt that women’s positions have been improving continuously since the ‘80s, both in China and the U.S. However, we still face many challenges when it comes to equality between men and women, and we still have a long way to go.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset. Visit www.mulberrychildmovie.com for more information.

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September 6th

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Four years ago on September 6, I was on a plane rushing from Chicago to Beijing, via a transfer in Toronto, the only route I could get a seat within hours of learning the news that my father had passed away.  I was very shocked despite having seen him in Changchun, capital of Jilin Province where he lived less than two weeks before ago when I visited him and my mother and knew he was very weak.  The impact of losing him hit me so hard that I couldn’t stop the tears and couldn’t breathe without feeling the physical pain in my chest.

Four years later on the same day I was on a plane again, this time from Chicago to New York City. I was on my way to attend the premiere of Mulberry Child, the feature-length documentary based my book, at the Quad Cinema. It was a coincidence that the week-long screenings in NYC would start in early September. Personally I dedicated the occasion as a tribute to my father.

Four years have gone since his passing, but he is alive in my heart and his influence on me still goes on just as if he were still with me. I have and will always remember him as a man of integrity, a dedicated public servant, and a loving father. His passion toward life, his optimism facing all kinds of adversity, and his strength, both mentally and physically, will stay with me and inspire me forever. I cherish the memory when, as a child, I used his arm as a swing; and in his 80s, I still couldn’t beat him in arm wrestling. And I’m grateful to this day that his firm no against my joining the army before finishing high school changed the path of my life.

My father passed away on September 6, 2008 after battling with lung cancer for three years. He remained a fighter to the last day of his life. Upon learning the news of his diagnosis in 2005, he was silent for a week and then decided his way of living the last phase of his life: no operation, no chemo therapy, and no hospitalization. He wanted to control the quality of his remaining days without drugs, and he wanted to live with dignity, and with his mind as clear as he had always been. And he did, enduring a lot of pain without any complaint.

He expressed two last wishes during that time: live to see the Beijing Olympic Games and the Shanghai Expo. He was able to fulfill the first.

Many readers of Mulberry Child expressed admiration for him. I was touched and pleased. He would have liked hearing those comments. I took comfort in the fact that I was able to present a hardcover copy of my book to him in August 2008 when I visited him, and in September when I went back to attend his funeral, I saw my book on a prominent position on his desk. Longing to have the book accompanying him, I placed that copy under his pillow when he was wheeled away for cremation.

He would be pleased to know that the film Mulberry Child had been produced, well received at film festivals, with three awards under its name so far, and resonated with many viewers at theatres. I’m looking forward to the premiere in NYC, a place I had once lived for five years and my father had visited before.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset.

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China’s 12th 5-Year Plan (2011-2015)

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

The English version of The Twelfth Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development of the People’s Republic of China (2011-2015) recently became available. It was translated and released by the Central Compilation & Translation Press (CCTP), Beijing, China. Realizing that this is a very important document, I signed an agreement with CCTP to bring the English version to the West. I was very impressed by the broad scope of the plan and the grand vision it has revealed. I’m cautiously optimistic, knowing the big gap between planning and execution.

The Twelfth Five-Year Plan was “compiled on the basis of the Proposal of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) for Formulating the Twelfth Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development. This plan mainly sets forth the state’s strategic intentions, clarifies the focus of the government’s work and guides the behavior of market players. It is a grand blueprint for [China’s] economic and social development over the next five years; an action plan for the people of all [China’s] ethnic groups; and an important basis for the government to fulfill its duties in economic regulation, market supervision, social administration and public services.

 

An enlargeable map of the administrative divis...

Image via Wikipedia

I think those who are interested in China should all take a look at, if not make a good study of, this document.

The digital version in English is now available at Amazon and BN.com and will soon be at iTunes Store. Here is a link to the posting at Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/FIVE-YEAR-NATIONAL-ECONOMIC-DEVELOPMENT-ebook/dp/B0063NXHM6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1320895087&sr=8-1

Jian Ping, Founder and President of MoraQuest LLC, and author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Mulberry Child movie, a feature-length documentary directed by Susan Morgan Cooper and narrated by Jacqueline Bisset, had its world premiere at the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis in October. It had a SOLD OUT screening and received a standing ovulation from the audience.

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A New Toy

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

By Jian Ping

 

My new toy

Two weeks ago, I bought a MacBook Pro laptop, completing my shifting to Apple products from iPhone, iPad, and finally a computer.

 

The latest step was made necessary by my new initiative to release books I had acquired and will continue to acquire from publisher(s) in China. I’m excited to make my contribution in bridging cultural differences and promoting cross-cultural communications/understanding by releasing books under MoraQuest, the company I founded two years ago.

The first book I selected during my June trip to China was titled China in the Next 30 Years, a wonderful collection of essays written by more than a dozen Chinese and Western scholars who predict the economic, political, and agricultural development of China in 30 years. I found it very informative and the perspectives from both Chinese and Westerners provided various balanced and in-depth views.

 

A powerful tool

Armed with my new toy, I learned the basics of page layout and cover design by using Pages, the equivalent of Word in Microsoft Office. I took one-to-one tutoring at the Apple Store on Michigan Avenue and spent hours laboring over templates and graphics and the color “inspector”. I must admit I was and still am quite “technology” challenged. I put aside everything else, including blogging, and “fought” my through step of the way, day and night. For two weeks, I slept four or five hours a day. After many trials and errors. I finally created a file with hyperlinks that would allow readers to click on the table of contents in PDF or ePub files, the basic requirements to release the title in digital format at the three key e-retailers, namely, Amazon, B&N.com and iStore. I’ve made one round of revision shortly after loading up the files. There are still minor issues, I’m sure, that will be brought to my attention. But the digital book is available for sale online now!

 

 

A new release in digital format

A few people who read the book generously endorsed it, including Robert Herbold, retired COO of Microsoft. Mr. Herbold wrote in his testimonial: “China has made huge progress over the past 30 years. In this book, some of the world’s best visionaries examine if and how China can now transition to a genuine global leader. I highly recommend this very interesting collection of viewpoints.”

 

My new toy has helped me embark on a new endeavor. I’ve acquired two more books focused on China issues, mostly its political and democratic systems. They were both written by Westerners and were quite critical of China. I am impressed that these books were released in China, in both Chinese and English. If my newly learned skills doesn’t fail me, I should be able to release these books in the next few weeks.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Visit www.mulberrychild.com, www.moraquest.com for more information. Mulberry Child has been made into a feature-length documentary film by award-winning director Susan Morgan Cooper and will be released in 2011.

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Visiting China — College Entrance Examination

Friday, July 1st, 2011

By Jian Ping

Parents waiting outsite an examination site

The day I arrived in Beijing was the day the three-day annual college entrance examination, gao kao, started. Gao Kao, which functions as SAT in the U.S., is still the sole criteria for student admission to college. And college education, in turn, is regarded as the essential step that one must take in order to have a future.

There were 9.3 million students took the examination nationwide this year. Xinhua reported that about 72% would enter college one way or another.

A sign states: Important Gao Kao Site, Honking Prohibited

As I rode in a taxi in Beijing on the 9th, the last day of the examination, I noticed a large crowd—parents and relatives of the students taking the exam—standing outside an examination site. They’d be waiting for hours under the grueling sun before their children came out of the morning session. Do you believe their presence could assure their children inside or improve their odds of success? I was puzzled by their behavior.

Big banners placed on the surrounding walls of the examination site stated: No honking. Gao Kao in process.

Emengency ride from a policeman

This annual examination is so important that Beijing lifted its bans on private cars on the streets so parents could drive their children to examination sites. Some cities suspended parking rules; others requested police to help students who got stuck on their way; and some constructions were suspended for certain time period so students could rest well at night and concentrate better during the exam.

Millions of people seemed to hold their breath during these three days!

The Gao Kao system was restored in 1977 when colleges reopened their doors. Ever since then, the education of the young has been focused on how to pass the college entrance examination. Three years of high school is filled with drills of exams and students pore over their books at school, in many places, starting from 7 in the morning to 6 p.m. in the afternoon, followed by private tutoring and additional homework.

Many Chinese have realized the limitation, if not damage, of the Gao Kao on the young, but no reform has touched this area as of now.

Some newly rich are sending their children abroad, avoiding the grueling process that stiffens a youngster’s creativity and independent thinking. But the majority of the high school graduates have no choice but to comply and do their best to enter the best university they can.

Seeing the drastic changes that China has undertaken in so many areas in recent years, I wonder when the Government is going to reform the education system, with a sense of urgency and efficiency—China’s future depends on the change of Gao Kao.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Visit www.mulberrychild.com, www.moraquest.com for more information. Mulberry Child has been turned into a feature-length documentary film by award-winning director Susan Morgan Cooper and will be released in 2011.

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Visiting China–At Tsinghua University

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

In June, I had the luxury of taking a 3-week trip to China, covering a total of six cities, going from the north to south, east to west, and finally back to the north. Over the last 20 years, I had visited China about twice a year. But my short trips were limited mostly to Beijing, Qingdao and Changchun. I was excited about this trip and would love to share some of my experiences and photos.

I. At Tsinghua University (清华大学), Beijing

The old gate, a symbol of Tsinghua University

I arrived first at Beijing, having scheduled meetings with a couple of publishers in the city. Mr. Zhao, a friend’s friend helped me set up the meetings and arranged for me to stay at a hotel on the campus of Tsinghua University. It would be more convenient for the meetings, he told me.

I had worked in Beijing for four years in the early 1980s, but had never set foot on this first-rate university in China, which the Chinese referred to as the “MIT of China.” Mr. Zhao, also a writer, sent a young man to meet me at the airport. As our taxi entered the gate of the university, I was surprised by the enormous size of campus as the young man kept giving directions to cab driver—it felt like a city inside the walled campus! Wide streets with nice landscape, canals with artistic bridges, buildings, old and new, gardens,

A pond on campus cast in the morning light

and walking trails that disappeared under the trees. Not to mention streams of students walking or on their bicycles … I was amazed by the scenes revealing before me.  

Mr. Zhao and his wife graciously took me out for a northern cuisine dinner. I retired early for the night, trying to get over my jetlag. Despite the Melatonin pill I took, I woke up at 4 a.m. the following morning. As soon as the light became brighter outside, I put on my running gear and went out to explore the campus.

A monument on campus

For the three days I stayed there, I ran for an hour each morning, taking a different route each time. Still I was not able to cover all the ground on campus. The various parks, gardens, ponds covered with lotus, with people fishing by their sides, the outdoor track fields, rows of apartment buildings, cars, and bicycles. I got lost in the maze and had to find my way back to a major pond in order to return to my hotel.

I couldn’t help from admiring the young men and women walking on campus—they are the brightest children of China and will surely have a bright future.

 Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. The book has been developed into a feature-length documentary film by award-winning director Susan Morgan Cooper and will be released in 2011.

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Time Passes Fast

Friday, March 11th, 2011

By Jian Ping

Booster

My girlfriend WJ called earlier in the week. We used to get together frequently when I lived in the western suburb of Chicago, but over the last year or so, we didn’t keep in touch.

I was very happy to hear her voice and eager to receive the updates of her world. I couldn’t believe her daughter had graduated from university last May (I thought she’d graduate this year) and her sister’s older daughter, whom I saw every time we got together, had been in college for nearly a year. In my mind, the images of these two girls were still that of a teenager, if not younger.

Then, I was surprised to learn about the death of her five-year-old dog, Booster, a beautiful Chinese Shar-Pei. “Kidney failure,” she said. For the last 15 years or so since I had known her and her husband, they had always had a dog, always a Shar-Pei. “Dog food and snacks imported from China are known to cause kidney failures for dogs and cats,” the veterinarian who had attended Booster told her. She didn’t know. Now, in order not to take any risk for their new puppy, another Shar-Pei named Rocky, my friend is cooking meals for him!  

How time flies! we exclaimed.

The fact that the next generation have grown up only made us more aware of our own age, or aging. To her credit, WJ started dancing a few years ago with a group and had been giving performances to the public in various occasions. She was, and still is, very passionate about it and has gotten quite good at it as well. A wise step–not only to defy aging, but also to enjoy a social and vigarious activity. 

We should definitely be mindful and appreciative of the time we have and take full advantage of every day, every minute. 

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. For more information, visit www.mulberrychild.com, www.moraquest.com. Mulberry Child is being developed into a feature-length documentary film by award-winning director Susan Morgan Cooper and will be released in 2011.

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Asian Trip—Hanoi, Vietnam

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

 By Jian Ping

A courtyard in the Temple of Literature where Confucius' teachings were taught

After being delayed for more than an hour, I arrived at Hanoi shortly before midnight. I had never been so happy to learn about the delay of another flight—the flight from Beijing to Hanoi. Five friends from Chicago were on this flight and I was supposed to meet them at the Hanoi Airport! I smiled with relief when I saw them walking to the luggage claim area shortly after my arrival.  

I looked out of the van that took us to Sheraton Hotel in the city, but could hardly see anything in the darkness. “Don’t expect much,” one friend said. “Hanoi is more like a big village.”

Skills of a motorcyclist

The next day, when we toured the city, I realized my friend’s remark was correct. Unlike the economic boom and high-rises one witnessed all over China, low buildings and streams of motorcycles filled the streets. I was amazed to see families of four fit onto one motorcycle, with one child in front of the driver, and another behind, squeezed between the driver and the adult on the back seat, or young women riding a big bike with high heels.  

We hired a tour guide for the day and visited a few major attractions: the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Presidential Palace, the Temple of Literature, and the Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the “Hanoi Hilton.” Our guide, a girl in her late 20s, gave us an introduction

Cyclo Tour

of each place. “Uncle Ho was like a father to us,” she said, pointing to Ho’s portrait at Ho’s Mausoleum. “He was so busy working for the people and the country that he never got married. We are all his children.” I watched her, somewhat incredulously. I felt I was listening to someone reciting an official line…

To her credit, we did go to the old quarters and took “Cyclo” ride. We fought our way through hundreds of motorcycles and small vendors walking with baskets of fruits on a bamboo pole on their shoulders or on the back seat of their bicycles. Small shops on each street appeared to be organized to sell similar items, from construction materials, furniture, to house plants. “It’s like Home Depot laid in the open,” a friend commented as our cyclos passed these streets. The pollution in the city was so bad that most of the many wore facemasks. Regardless, the old quarters revealed a dynamic and interesting sight of life here.   

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. www.moraquest.com, www.mulberrychild.com

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Asian Trip (5)

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

By Jian Ping

It was a relief to get back safely to Beijing. The first thing I did after checking into my hotel was to take a long, hot shower. For three days, I only sprinkled cold well water on my face for a wash. The running water felt incredibly good.

Beijing Train Station--Waiting Room

The next day, I met my sister Wen and my brother-in-law Mingfu at the train station. The old Beijing Train Station located in the center of town appeared to be from an earlier era, so different from the sparkling new South Beijing Station. Travel by train is still the main means of transportation in China and the station was packed. After elbowing my way through security checks, I was swept forward in a stream of humanity into the No. 2 Waiting Room. 30 feet into the large hall, I found myself grounded on a spot the middle of nowhere, with no space to move forward or backward. As I was wondering how on earth I could find Wen and Mingfu in this crowd, I saw Wen slowly make her way forward in the main “walkway,” searching left and right with each step. She must be looking for me! I raised my hand and waved frantically to her. Miraculously, she saw me and gave me her usual calm smile. It took her five minutes to cover the 10-feet between us.

“We came early and Mingfu is waiting in front,” Wen said, equally relieved to find me.

It was challenging enough for her to move through the crowd without any luggage. There was no way I could join them. She decided to meet in our train carriage.

Our train moving at a speed of 242 kilometers per hour!

“Watch out for your belongings,” Wen said. She always worried about my carrying the bag on my back. Pocket picking was common in public places.  

The rush to go through the ticketing gate was another drama. I used to warn my American colleagues that if there were three people in front of a ticket office in China, they’d elbow their way to the front instead of forming a line. With at least a thousand people, the scene was chaotic. I grabbed my carry-on and backpack and simply moved with the flow. By the time I found my carriage and eventually reached my seat, I was sweating as if I had just finished a five-mile run.

Wen took over my luggage and placed it on the overhead rack, a space that she had taken for me with her handbag. 

“Sorry,” she apologized as if it were her fault. “I know you would have flown to Changchun if it were not because of us.”

Wen and me on the train

That was true. After a six-hour bumpy ride on a bus the day before, I was not looking forward to another six-hour train ride.

“I’d rather be with you,” I said.

Wen gave me the window seat and took out all kinds of snacks for me to munch on. I leaned against her shoulder and gave her hug. I already felt close to home.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Visit www.mulberrychild.com, www.moraquest.com.

Mulberry Child is being developed into a feature-length documentary film by director Susan Morgan Cooper and will be released in 2011.

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