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Jiang’s biographer is man of many parts
Writer Kuhn works to help Chinese and Westerners understand
each other through the contemporary history of China
By Xu Jitao shown on CCTV.
Starting in 1997, with his Chinese friend and

partner Adam Zhu, Kuhn began to produce a series
I hope you can keep your passion for science of documentaries about China. Over the fol-
in the future,” Dr Robert Lawrence lowing three years, using US$1.5 million
Kuhn said when asked by a of his own money, the documentary
student of Jiaotong University “In Search of China” was com-
about the key to becoming a pleted and shown on PBS in
good scientist. the United States. The series
Kuhn, the author of “The was well-received by its
Man Who Changed China: American audience.
The Life and Legacy of “But I thought
Jiang Zemin,” had been something was miss-
invited to Jiaotong Uni- ing in what we were
versit y on March 21 doing,” he said. “I
to speak to students. didn’t explain the
Hundreds of students, importance of Chi-
including many from nese contemporary
overseas, attended history. The turbu-
the speech because lent histor y of
for them Kuhn is an the 20th century
especially interesting brought the nation
person, and in some Robert trauma, tragedies,
sense also a mystery. Lawrence opportunities and
Many Chinese, Kuhn challenges.”
including students at XU JITAO “People would
the university, knew of understand today’s
Kuhn because of his book China better if they
about Jiang. could understand the
contemporary history of
A story for the world China. And I found that
“The book was rea lly a President Jiang’s life was a
continuation of a long-term desire wonderful personification of
to tell the true story of China to the that history. He became a vehi-
world,” Kuhn said. In 1989, he was in- cle through which to tell the story
vited by Song Jian, the former chairman of the of China to the world,” Kuhn said.
then State Science and Technology Commission, Starting in 2001, it took Kuhn more than
to come to China and advise on reforms started in four years to finish the book about Jiang. In those
the areas of science and technology. It was the first four-and-a-half years, he tried to discover and ab-
time Kuhn had visited China and he was impressed sorb everything he could about Jiang. In addition,
by many of the things he he interviewed many
saw and heard. of Jiang’s friends, The book, “The Man Who Changed China: The Life and Legacy of Jiang Zemin,” became a best seller when it was published in China last year. GAO ERQIANG
After 1989, he trav- teachers, relatives
elled between China and and college room- knew Jiang personally in each area of his life,” motive Factory from 1958 to 1962, asked Jiang’s not do any business.”
A merica many times.
“I had a growing sense
“People would understand to- mates.
“It was not my
he said.
Over the four years, he conducted many in-
opinion of the book in the year after it was pub-
lished. Jiang told him that he thought the book Write like a scientist
of frustration because
people in the United day’s China better if they could full-time job, it was
my night job. I wrote
terviews himself. From Jiang’s sister Jiang Zehui
to his college roommates, from Jiang’s best friend
was very objective,” Kuhn said.
But Kuhn was questioned by many people
Born to a rich Jewish family in 1945, Kuhn
showed talent in business and writing.
States and the American the book at night from work when he was still employed in an about his motivation in writing such a book. He has a PhD degree in neuroscience from the
media had really a very
simplistic and distorted
understand the contemporary because during the
day I was running
automotive factory to his mentor Wang Daohan,
Kuhn tried to talk with every relevant person he
Some wondered whether there was some busi-
ness or political purpose behind it.
Anatomy and Brain Research Institute of the Uni-
versity of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and a mas-
image of China,” Kuhn
recalled. He decided to history of China. And I found an investment bank.
I w rote this book
could find. “In my life, I spent at least half of my time
doing things which have no relation to business.
ter’s degree in management from the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School. He
help both Chinese and from five or six in Not for business When I wrote this book, I just followed my own taught psychology at MIT, anatomy at UCLA and
Americans to understand
each other better through
that president Jiang’s life was the evening until
three or four in the
After the book was finished and published,
many people were impressed.
passion. I spent tens of thousands of hours writ-
ing it. If I had been interested in doing business,
business strategy at New York University.
Being a scientist helped Kuhn a lot when writ-
his work. morning everyday,” “People in the West who have read the book I could have spent those hours more profitably ing his book.
In 1999, an eight- a wonderful personification of he said. may not agree with everything I wrote, but they doing something else,” Kuhn said. “I understood that many words in the book
episode Chinese docu- At the time Kuhn said it had offered them a new understanding of “I’ve been fortunate in my life that I’ve been could be interpreted in many ways, so I tried to
mentar y series ca lled
“Capita l Wave” was that history.” was executive man-
ager of Citibank, the
China. They take it seriously and recognize that
the book is presenting a complex story they have
very successful in business in the United States.
I built big companies and sold them to other big
be very cautious and to make sure that everything
in the book was as true as anything I wrote in my
broadcast in China on chairman of Geneva never heard before. Some people disagree with my companies, so I don’t have any financial needs,” academic writings,” Kuhn said.
China Centra l Telev i- ROBERT LAWRENCE KUHN Companies and the approach in the book, but they see it as reflecting he added. Being a serious scientist and successful banker,
sion (CCTV)channel 2. Author of “The Man Who Changed China: chairman of Kuhn part of the reality of China,” he said. “I like to do business and I do so, in invest- Kuhn was asked by the Chinese government for
The documentar y was Media Group and his After the book was translated into Chinese and ment banking and many other areas. I put the advice in many areas, including science, technol-
produced by Kuhn and
The Life and Legacy of Jiang Zemin” companies’ business published in China last February, many Chinese same energy and dedication into my business ogy and economic reform.
was the first co-produc- kept him hard at work also read it. Although Jiang made no comment activities as I put into my writing, but I don’t do “To write such a book made me a better and
tion between China and ever y day. Writing about Kuhn’s book when they met, he commented business to do writing and I don’t do writing to richer person. My understanding of China be-
the United States on economics and business to the book occupied all of his spare time. on it to others. do business, they are two separate elements of came deeper. It gave me confidence that I really
be broadcast in the country. It was also the first “The core of the book was provided by the “One of Jiang’s best friends, Shen Yongyang, my life. I have done and want to do business in understood China — that’s a very good feeling,”
series dealing with mergers and acquisitions to be special and exclusive interviews with people who who worked with Jiang in Changchun First Auto- China, but while I was writing the book, I did Kuhn said.

Retired bad boy of US boxing ‘Move China’

to visit Shanghai nightclub hero says don’t
By Xiao Chen
give in to hardship who is said to have good connections with celebrities and
folks in Hollywood.
Tyson is scheduled to show up for three nights between By Jiang Qiongji Suppor ted by
He is familiar to millions of Chinese due to the Mao tattoo on 11 pm and 1 am from March 30 to April 1 in Snatch, which Huaihua College, his
his arm. He is famous and infamous for biting off a chunk of could hold 1,400 people. college in Hunan prov-
Evander Holyfield’s ear during a heavyweight title bout. He will pose for pictures with customers and sign his “I’m not an idol. I hope I can be an exam- ince, he has launched
Love him or loathe him, Mike Tyson is coming to autograph for them. ple that people learn from for their own a financial aid foun-
Shanghai next week, the first time the bad The only punch he is going to deliver, along actions. Just adoring me without doing dation to fund poor
boy of boxing will have set foot on Chinese with some customers, is not to a man, but a ma- anything is futile,” said Hong Zhanhui, high school students
mainland soil. chine that will show the power of his fist. 24, a college student from Henan Prov- with good character
The man who became the youngest heav- After quitting boxing last year, Tyson is going ince, who became famous after the a nd academic per -
yweight champion in history is not coming to relax in Shanghai. story of how he adopted his sister and formance. An initial
to fight anyone, but to attend the opening of Arriving at Pudong Airport next Thursday supported his collapsed family became sum of 100,000 yuan
the Snatch Bar & Nightclub. morning, he will have hours to spare. He will tour well known throughout China last year. (US$12,500) has been
A beautiful and plush club that offers hip the Grand Gateway, a shopping mall in Xujiahui. Hong Zhanhui, born in a small vil- put into the fund.
hop, drinks and KTV under one roof, Snatch Tyson is said to have a love for shopping malls. lage in Henan, lived with his younger Hong said: “The
was introduced to Shanghai by Greg Lites, co-owner of a The once most feared boxer in the world is also going sister and brother and parents. reason why I chose
successful club promotion company based in Los Angeles, to win some hearts and minds by making a donation to a His life changed at the age of 12, to fund high school
local orphanage in Luodian Town of Shanghai’s Baoshan when his father was struck by a mental students is because
District, where he will be crowned an honourary citizen disorder and killed his younger sister elementary and jun-
of the town. accidentally. Later in the same year, his ior midd le school Hong Zhanhui moves students of East China Normal University with his
He is also scheduled to visit the Lake Malaren Golf father found an abandoned infant and (level 1- 9) students experience. WU KAI
Club there. Hong decided to adopt her despite their can be supported by
If there is anyone Tyson is going to fight in Shanghai difficult circumstances. the government according to the nine- his spare time. But he also regretted not
this time, it will be himself. In the next year, his mother left the year compulsory education rule; and being able to enroll in a good university
The 40-year-old tough guy, who was taken out of reform family because of the physical abuse she college students already have the ability due to the time he spent as a pedlar.
school by a boxing trainer as a teenager and later spent three received from her sick husband. to make money.” He said: “My goal was initially to en-
years in prison for rape, will seek advice from a Buddhist Hong’s younger brother also left He recalled the hardship he suffered ter Peking University. I felt so sad when
abbot in Jing’an Temple. home shortly afterwards, leaving the in high school. “It was very stressful then. I received the admission from Huaihua
“The beast” is coming to Shanghai to “confess” his past family’s future in Hong’s hands. Hong I had to pay off expensive medical bills College.”
wrongdoing, said the headline on the Shanghai Morning had to split his time between study and for my sick dad as well as my tuition fees His first book, “When Hardship Be-
Post on Thursday. working to support family. while taking care of the whole family. I comes An Obligatory Course,” was pub-
After getting into so much trouble in his life, Tyson Hong was honoured by CCTV as one even contemplated suicide,” said Hong, lished recently. He said he would give
hopes the Buddhist abbot will point out a direction for his of its “Move China 2005” people this who could hardly hold back his tears. an “autograph signing sale” for his book
future life, said a source close to the organizer of Tyson’s January, an honour given only to those “But I didn’t want to tell them (the during his short visit in Shanghai. The
Shanghai trip. Shanghai will be the only stop in China for who help Chinese society progress. school) about my situation, because I money he makes from the book will be
the boxer this time. “I didn’t expect my story to move didn’t want to be on the “poor students contributed to the financial aid founda-
Tyson has tried hard to resurrect his image since his China. Whatever the media reports about list” and receive money from donations. tion he has launched.
retirement from boxing. He donated 5,000 pounds to a me- me, I’m still an ordinary son and brother I didn’t need sympathy from others. So I He also plans to initiate a summer-
morial fund early this week after he heard a West Yorkshire who bears the responsibility of taking peddled ballpoint pens at school to make camp programme, in which children
policewoman was shot on duty. Tyson was there serving as care of the family,” said Hong, at East money for myself,” he continued. from rich families pay some money to
referee for the World Cage Fighting Championship, billed by China Normal University in Shanghai “Many people looked down upon me live together with their less fortunate
supporters as the ultimate test of athleticism but condemned on March 21. for this activity at the time, but I had to do peers to experience tough conditions.
by critics as barbaric. Since he became famous, Hong has it. When my business went well, a jealous For poor students, he said the most
Mike Tyson will In 2004, he donated US$5,000 to a proper burial of consistently turned down public dona- bookstore boss struck me every time he important thing was to adjust one’s state
come to Shanghai Cuban pugilist Kid Gavilan who died in poverty. tions. He said he has declined the money saw me peddling the pens, until my left of mind to one’s circumstances and main-
next week. Tyson’s China trip is expected to last for three days. He because he himself had passed the worst eye was almost blinded,” said Hong. tain a positive attitude. “People who be-
IMAGINECHINA certainly hopes that the talk with the Buddhist abbot, set for period and there are many other disad- He succeeded in his little business come successful never give up; people
April 1, will not fool him, but enlighten him completely. vantaged people who needed help much and was even able to continue his study who give up can never be successful,”
more than he does. at college with the money he made in said Hong.
DECEMBER 2 - 3, 2006

Does God exist?

A Chinese atheist and Today there are many philosophers
and some scientists who take a different,
that the Bible is divinely inspired and
presents his arguments, many centered
many answers
actually, which
an American Christian and quite sophisticated approach, to their
belief in God. These questions and this
around the central personality of Jesus
in the New Testament and the claim of
have been well
honed over cen-
debate have profound implications and his resurrection from the dead. turies of debate.
go head to head to their importance is overdue to be consid- Zhao says that although he too reads (A theist’s answer
ered seriously in China. the Bible, “I am not a believer.” His to evil is called a
debate the existence probative question “Why?” is the reso- “theodicy,” which
Timely book nating theme of the entire book. is a defence of
of god in a bold, It is in this context that a very timely Zhao explains his unbelief in the God’s goodness
book has been published in China. words of a scientist: “I can only under- in light of the un-
new book, as Robert Zhao Qizheng, former minister of the stand what exists, what is concrete and deniable ubiquity
State Council Information Office, and substantive … I cannot understand a and depravity of
Lawrence Kuhn reports Luis Palau, a well-known international metaphysical concept.” evil).
Christian evangelist, conducted a series It is indeed in the metaphysical These theist
of conversations, called the “Riverside aspects of religion — the claim to answers are often

n humanity’s long quest to under- Talks,” which they term “A Friendly explain Ultimate Reality — that Zhao complicated and
stand ultimate reality, the encounter Dialogue between an Atheist and a and Palau disagree. On matters of mostly involve
between science and religion — bat- Christian.” the social benefits of religion, such as “the Free Will
tling over the perennial question, It is a pioneering effort in China to contributing to a harmonious society, Defence,” which
Does God Exist? — is perhaps the introduce a vital subject of high con- there is more agreement. means that God
most significant clashing of opposite views temporary relevance and explanatory Zhao, whom I must disclose is a could not pos-
of seeing the world. power. These are the kinds of subjects personal friend, presents rich and pro- sibly have created
In the West, the Catholic Church in the that make minds sharper, more aware, found ideas from traditional Chinese human beings
past, and some fundamental Christians in more in touch with deep reality. philosophy — such as the dialectical with real free will
the present, reject science whenever they Zhao, who was trained in nuclear relationship between the physical and without also giv-
feel it comes into conflict with their form physics, shows both knowledge and the spiritual — and notes that although ing them the real Zhao Qizheng, former minister of the State Council Information Office, and Luis Palau, a well-known international Christian evangelist,
f l ti sensitivity about the Christian belief he does not believe in a God; the con- option of doing promote their book “Riverside Talks,” on August 30 in Beijing. LU ZHONGQIU
system. He has read the Bible and cepts of “spirit and soul” are not alien evil and suffering
understands its teachings and stories. to him. evil. allow, or to enable, the existence of stars mos. But how is it that we humans have
He sees the Bible as great literature, re- “Atheists and theists,” he says, Yet it is the scale of evil which is so and planets and the emergence of life and such farsighted understanding after
plete with wisdom, and he finds artistic “share the same pursuit in the realm of troublesome to believers and so support- mind. only a few thousand years of histori-
beauty in its prose, proverbs and poems the soul and the spirit.” He points out ive of the atheistic argument, a problem If the fundamental laws of physics had cal consciousness, only a few hundred
— so much so that Zhao even advises, that each would have different under- made even more potent by the fact that much differed, if the values of their con- years of effective science and only a
“The Bible is well worth reading from standings of spirit and soul. a good deal of the evil in the world has stants had much changed, or if the initial few decades of cosmological observa-
all of these perspectives.” What he does A dialogue between an atheist and a been caused by religion itself, through its conditions of the universe had much tions? Maybe it’s still too early in the
not do, of course, is revere the Bible as Christian cannot progress far without intolerance of the beliefs of others. varied, what we know to exist would not game. Maybe answers have been with
the revelation of God. the atheist bringing up the “Argument Throughout history, religion has been, exist since all things of size and substance us all along.
On the other hand, Palau claims from Evil” (to the theist it is called the over and over again, stained with blood of would have been impossible. I am pleased to see Minister Zhao
“Problem of Evil”), which historically its victims and stamped with the cries of Qizheng and Minister Luis Palau
is the strongest demonstration of the those whom it has tormented. Progress made — two different kinds of ministers to
BRAINS BEHIND THE OPERATION non-existence of God. As Nobel Prize winner Steven Wein- “Riverside Talks” is an excellent gen- be sure — bring the debate between
If God, as Christians claim, is all- berg said caustically: “Religion is an eral introduction to the issues and the science and religion to broad audi-
Dr. Robert Lawrence Kuhn, who has a doctorate powerful, all-knowing, and all-good, insult to human dignity. With or without controversies of science and religion ences.
in brain research, is the creator and host of how could there be such enormity of you would have good people doing good for general audiences who are hereto- This subject is becoming more
“Closer to Truth,” a public television series in the evil in the world, not only the “moral things and evil people doing evil things. fore unacquainted with them, but those popular in China, and well it should
United States that deals with the implications of evil” that human beings do to each But for good people to do evil things, that truly interested should go further. — this is a good sign of the continuing
state-of-the-art science, the philosophy of sci- other but also the “natural evil” of takes religion.” If it seems improbable that human development of Chinese society and the
ence, and the philosophy of religion. Two of his earthquakes and f loods, illness and Yet there is something new in the age- thought can make progress in explain- increasing sophistication of Chinese
“Closer to Truth” books have been published in disease. The fact that there is such evil, old debate. In recent years, the search ing ultimate reality, consider the readers.
China, the latest one relating his work in China in which no one can deny, is the demon- for scientific explanations of ultimate progress already made. The science-religion dialogue is a
understanding the meaning and applications of stration to the atheist that there is no reality has been energized by increasing A century ago scientists assumed fundamental probe into the nature of
President Hu Jintao’s “Scientific Development God. recognition that the laws of physics and that our own galaxy, the Milky Way, reality, the methodology of discerning
Perspective.” Christians, as one would expect, the constants that are embedded in these was the entire universe. Today we grasp knowledge and humanity’s place in the
have answers to the Problem of Evil, laws all seem exquisitely “fine tuned” to the monumental immensity of the cos- cosmos.

The Confucian
Never a dull moment
ence. They had all found it difficult and disorient- Because most of the students attending one night’s
ing to not be able to speak their native language, English corner were male, we took a vote and
especially when the shopkeepers didn’t under-
stand why they were speaking in English when
they were very clearly Chinese.
watched the film “American Soldiers,” essentially
a propaganda film on the Iraq War with every
cliché in the book, but the English in the film
way of saying,
By Fiona Lee only children play in English, I finally tried to
shock them into not using the word. I explained
to my students that the connotations of the word
The students often had to resort to communi-
cating in body language instead. They also asked
question after question about what it was like to
was straightforward and easy for the students to
After we watched the film, my students and
I love you
On my first day teaching English to classes of “play” regarding adults were different from the be a stranger in a strange land, about what it was I had a great conversation about the Iraq War.
wary freshmen at a certain university in north- connotations regarding children. like to be unable to communicate verbally with I went to bed that night extremely pleased with By Sam Crane
eastern China, I asked myself, over and over Yes, children play with each other. But if you others. myself and with them. Hadn’t we just discussed
again, “What am I doing here?” are 21 years old, you do not “play” with your They left the class that day still talking about current affairs in a thoughtful way? Hadn’t my Confucianism is often considered a rigid and
Nine months later, I’m still asking myself the friends. And you definitely do not want to say, “I their experiences. Of course they would forget all students learned something about different per- conservative philosophy, unsuited to the chang-
same question. Calling teaching an adventure is play with myself.” about it by the next day, but for a good hour and spectives regarding the war? ing values and practices of modern society.
an understatement. On my good days, I feel I’m I explained to my students exactly what “I a half, they had spoken English — or for some But what did my students really take away from There may be some truth in that perception,
definitely expanding my students’ horizons in how play with myself” meant in English. They were of them, not spoken at all — and understood the it? They were all using curse words they had heard especially as it relates to the ways Confucian
to use English, American culture and in learning mildly shocked; and we had a good laugh. We value of language. in the film the next day. In fact, I had to take one thought was used historically to authorize state
about themselves. On the days that I have dubbed brainstormed various ways to say it differently. The foreign teacher of English is also not simply aside and gently correct his usage of a particular power and patriarchal rule.
“soul-destroying days,” my classes could be “I spend time with my friends,” “I hang out a language instructor, but also an embodiment phrase that had been used in the film, explaining But there is more to Confucianism than that.
termed: traumatic accidents in progress, bystand- with my friends,” “I enjoy being by myself” of everything positive or negative about their that no, you do not need to put the preposition If we go back to the Analects we can find a more
ers beware. and so on. home country. Since I’m an American, one of my “to” between the curse word and “you.” open-minded and flexible understanding of hu-
Someone once told me that most of the people A week later, they handed in essays I had as- brighter students is inclined to say sly comments After all, his parents were paying a lot of money manity, one that is relevant for contemporary life.
teaching English in China were there to escape signed on their high school experiences. Half of about the Iraq War in response to basic grammar for him to be in this programme. As long as he’s To get to the heart of the matter, the Confu-
from something. I think I’m here to escape from them were still writing, “I play with my friends.” points. going to be using English, even if it’s curse words, cian idea of ritual (Li) might be seen as the
boredom. Sometimes you just can’t win. I hold an occasional English corner of my own he should be using it properly. most rigid of ideas, a demand that we practise
The one thing about teaching English to those While I’m often banging my head against the with my students since their schedule doesn’t So what am I doing here? I have to ask myself standardized and formal ceremonies for every
charming text-messaging, sleepy, mostly indiffer- wall when I think about the many frustrating allow them to attend the regular English Club. that question because the answer changes all the significant life event: births, deaths, weddings,
ent students is that it’s never boring. It’s a chal- moments with my students, there are many other time. I’m an ambassador, a language partner and venerations of ancestors, etc.
lenge to get them motivated, especially when the times when I know that this is one of the most an adviser — all in a day’s work for the foreign Yet, while Confucius certainly believed that
mood of the class changes each time I walk into rewarding jobs I’ve had. teacher of English in China. we should thoughtfully enact our social roles,
class. Sure, I have a lesson plan for each class, but One of my most successful lessons, one that I his notion of ritual was neither so narrow nor so
that doesn’t mean I’m actually prepared for what borrowed from another teacher, was when I had rigid as modern interpreters might suppose.
might greet me. my classes do a scavenger hunt Take one of the most cryptic passages in the
One critical part of teaching in China is the where they had to find, ask for Analects: “Gu (ritual vessel), not a gu, a gu
culture shock. I don’t mean only the culture shock and take photos of items available indeed, a gu indeed.” 实⤜实实䊶实䊶*̲E̵
of a foreigner adapting to a new country, but also in the shops around campus. J̲J̲]̢LJ̲]̢L
the culture shock of a teacher and a class adapting The catch was that they The simplicity of the passage opens it to mul-
to each other. could only speak English to the tiple interpretations, but some commentators
Two semesters later, I’m still experiencing shopkeepers. Each group had see in it a move away from dry formalism and an
culture shock with my students. We never seem a watcher who made sure that acceptance of diverse expressions of sincerity.
to be on the same page on even small matters. the group did not speak Chinese. Confucius, in this passage, may be comment-
Why can’t they keep my handouts that I spent The scavenger hunt was meant to ing on a situation where ritual procedure calls
so much time and money making? Why do they mimic the experiences of foreign- for a vessel of a certain sort, a gu, but one is not
not understand the idea of a final draft, even ers in China or the experience available. The ceremony proceeds with some
after I’ve explained it time and time again? of any traveller in a foreign other type of cup, not a gu, standing in for the
Why can’t they write a skit that gives every country — the small, eve- usual object. In the end, however, the form of
person in their group a speaking part when ryday frustrations of the vessel does not matter.
this is the fifteenth time we’ve done skits? Why language barrier. Rather, the sincerity behind the act is so genu-
don’t they bring paper with them to class? The When we held a feed- ine that the expression of deep human commit-
“whys” never stop. back session after ment invests the non-gu with the significance of
But I can see the “whys” from the students’ the scavenger a gu. It is a gu indeed, because the loving care of
point of view, too. Why is our teacher always on hunt, I asked humane action makes it so.
our case about arriving late? Why does my teacher them what The larger message is that we do not have to
want me to stay awake during class when I’ve they had blindly adhere to traditional ritual forms. Inten-
spent the entire night at the Internet café playing learned tions and sentiments are most important. If we
World of Warcraft? from truly care about what we are doing, then we can
Why does my teacher actually expect me to the ex- find many different ways to perform our social
hand in the assignment when she wants it instead peri- duties considerately and meaningfully.
of whenever I want to hand it in? After all, their Our modern lives have changed the forms of
Chinese teachers don’t expect these things from our social relationships. Work may take us away
them, so who is this crazy foreigner and why is she from home and consume much of our time. New
always on my case? communications media create novel channels
Teachers are also amazed by how certain errors for human interaction.
repeated themselves over and over again. The Beneath all of the social and cultural change,
most infamous one, of course, is the “he/she” however, we still have a need to cultivate our
mix-up. closest ties with family and friends. Those social
As a student of Chinese, I know that bonds define us as individuals and, if we are to
in Chinese the written characters express fully our individuality, we must attend
are different, but the pronunciation to our social roles.
of the characters is the same, so Confucius understands this. He tells us that
there’s a reason for it. All the same, the form of our meaningful interactions with
I can’t understand why after some others will change as society changes around us.
13 years of English, my students Traditional means of performing our social
still make that mistake — even commitments may not be available to us. Yet if
after all these months where we’ve we are sincere in our feelings, we will find new
played games identifying “he/she” and appropriate expressions of our heart-felt
and after I’ve constantly asked, affections. We will make a gu out of the circum-
“He is a girl? She is your boy- stances at hand.
Then there’s the use of “play.” LUO JIE The author is a professor with the Williams College in Wil-
After trying to gently correct their liamstown, MA, USA
usage of the word by saying that

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