I just came across two well-written and insightful articles. The first was from a long time resident of China who describes why he is leaving the country he used to love. Clearly, the author is speaking from a lot of experience. I imagine many non-Chinese feel the same at times. He cites pollution, corruption and all-consuming materialism as some of the reasons his family is leaving the country. But his top reason is the quality of the education his children are receiving. This man came to China with a love for the country many years ago. He has watched the country’s massive changes from the inside (as much as an outsider can, that is). I have a lot of compassion for his sadness, and even understand his bitterness. The response the article was huge, and surprising to him. It was also mostly supportive, though obviously there were people who were hurt by his judgements.
In response to this article, another author offered a different perspective on why she chooses to return to China. She acknowledges that much of what the first author writes is true. But she wants to stay to watch and be a part of China’s evolution. It is more hopeful in tone, though the commentary that followed more often then not called her naive.
Now, here I am on the eve of submitting my applications to graduate school in pursuit of an MFA in creative writing. None of these schools are in China. But an important reason for me to pursue this degree is to hone my writing skills for China, and to better be able to teach effective English writing to Chinese students. So though I will have to leave it is so I can return better prepared for a long-term career in China. I want to help give a voice to Chinese writers. And the fact of the matter is that the world isn’t listening in Chinese.
I have said it many times in this blog. China has much to offer the world. But both these articles are examples of foreigners focusing on what China has to learn. As I writer, I feel like I write best when I am learning. And if China does anything for me, with its challenges, its blessings, its contradictions and its baffling ways, it teaches me. When I am frustrated and disheartened and weary of China, I know, without a doubt, it is because I have stopped choosing to learn.
As I ponder leaving the country that is part of the world that I love, I wonder if there is a way to respond to China, or to anything in the world, (elections or football games, nature vs. nurture, science vs. religion, insert your controversy of choice here), without debating? The authors of both articles have aspects of the truth that have helped me understand China better. That, to me, is the whole point of differing perspectives. “The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions.”