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Does My Future Lie in China or America

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After having given this fundamental problem some thought, I have found that it really resolves itself into four minor problems: First, that of allegiance or patriotism, or race; second, that of service; third, that of employment; and, finally, that of civilization, or culture. Without a consideration of these four significant problems, I believe an answer to the main problem is quite incomplete and inadequate. I propose, therefore, to discuss them as fully as the limited length of this essay will permit.

In determining whether my future is to be in China or America, I have naturally come to ponder the question: To which of these two countries do I owe allegiance? Which country am I obliged to serve?

Ever since I can remember, I have been taught by my parents, by my Chinese friends, and by my teacher in Chinese school, that I must be patriotic to China. They have said: "You should be proud of China's four thousand years of glorious and continuous history, of her four hundred million population, and of her superior culture and civilization. You must be thankful for the traditions and customs you have inherited as a member of the yellow race. What is more, you would not be living if it were not for your ancestors and parents who are Chinese. Most certainly, then, you are obliged to render service to China, especially in these days of need and stress and humiliation. Don't you realize that the Chinese are mocked at, trodden upon, disrespected, and even spit upon? Haven't you yourself been called degrading names? Have you no face, no sense of shame, no honor? How can you possibly think of staying in America to serve it?"

Now, I do not wish to contradict or oppose these assertions as being unsound. Somehow, however, I feel there is another side to the picture. I owe much pride and gratitude to America for the principles of liberty and equality which it upholds, for the protection its government has given me, and for its schools and institutions in which I have participated. Without them, I certainly would not be what I am now. If Americans have called me names, so have the Chinese who speak of me scornfully as being a "native" (t'oa jee doy) and as knowing nothing of things Chinese.

True, many regard me highly because I am a junior at Harvard; but I can say without ostentation that my American friends also respect me as a student. In fact, they give me more respect because I am Chinese. Whatever I do in school and college in the way of extra-curricular activities or of attaining high grades, I am given much more credit and popularity than an American would receive if he did the same things. Being a Chinese among American friends, then, is a sort of advantage. There are, then, two sides of the picture: I am certainly as much indebted to America as I am to China.

If this is true, then I should serve both equally; but is this possible if I choose a future that lies in America? Certainly, one cannot help China by building a bridge or opening a factory in America; one cannot serve China by curing American patients; one is not aiding China by practicing his principles of government, sociology, or economics in America. It is true, however, that almost every overseas Chinese who has entered college is studying in one of these fields. They all evidently are planning their futures in China; but could we justly condemn them as showing no allegiance to China if they later decided to stay in America to put their studies into practice? I think not, provided they serve China in some other way.

I mean to say that even though one practices his profession in America, he can still serve China by building up a good impression of the Chinese among Americans, by spreading goodwill and clearing up misunderstandings, by interesting the Americans in the Chinese through personal contacts or otherwise, and, if necessary, by contributing generously to the financing of worthy enterprises in China. These are services of inestimable value. These are services which may be even more worthy than the services of those who do their life work in China. It is possible, then, to pay the debt one owes to China and show one's allegiance to Chinese even while living in America. What of those who would like to find a life-work in America?

What are the opportunities for employment? Is it to be contended that a Chinese will be welcomed into American employment as cordially as into positions in China? The facts seem to indicate the opposite. Chinese students have indubitably found it difficult to get employment, to say nothing of getting the more elevated and higher-paying positions.

My brother, a graduate of M.I.T. last year, failed to receive a single favorable reply from different companies to which he sent letters of application for employment. He has returned to China and now has a position with the Nanking government. What shall I say to this? I can say my brother was merely fortunate, as he himself admits in his letter. He was lucky to have a sister who is married to someone connected with the government. In other words, he was given a "pull" up the ladder, a necessary force which most overseas Chinese do not have.

In his last letter, my brother warned me that positions are so few that even men with Ph.D.'s and M.S.'s and M.A.'s are without work. It is evident, then, that employment is hard to get anywhere; in America, perhaps because of the color line; in China because jobs are scarce. The color line, however, does not entirely prevent the American-born Chinese from getting jobs. The chances are small, to be sure, but as in China, there are some opportunities open to certain fortunate people. It cannot be said, therefore, that it is impossible for Chinese American youths to obtain remunerative positions in either China or America.

If there are possibilities for profitable employment in both countries, then I see no reason why I should not choose a future for myself in America if it happens that I like it better here, or if I happen to be acclimated to the modes of life and social environment here. True, if I receive employment in China, it would almost surely be one of the large coastal cities where there are modern conveniences such as electric lights, running water, quick transportation, and means of sanitary and healthful living. The two civilizations can hardly be said to be conflicting in the material sense, except in minor details. The real harmful conflict is between the two different cultures, the two different outlooks upon life, which, together with the language difficulty, will tend to bring social estrangement to the returning overseas Chinese, whether boy or girl.

If I am to spend my future in China, there must come a time when I shall have to make contacts there. Years of lonesomeness will intervene before I shall be able to speak Mandarin or Cantonese with considerable fluency. Even then, I am afraid my endeavors to make real intimate friendships will fall short of their goals and will merely end in casual acquaintanceships. I have been brought up to live by Christian ideals, by liberal attitudes, and by an optimistic outlook on life.

I think I shall be able to make few close relationships with the young men and women of China, for their background is of utilitarian ideals, conservative attitudes, and of a fatalistic outlook upon life. When these two cultures conflict and clash, the inevitable result is either social estrangement, or a yielding of one culture to the other, a process which is sure to engender much unhappiness, discontent, and despondency.

I have not, perhaps, expressed this point clearly; but I can say that I feel the clash of cultures within me even now, because I live with my father and I contact many Chinese friends who represent the pure Chinese culture. My relatives are also of a different background than myself, and they all advise that I make friends, not for friendship's sake, but with a hope that they will help me get a job sometime. They object openly or become suspicious when I am seen walking with a girl. They pour contempt upon religion, especially upon Christianity, and fail to see the preciousness and value of the individual life. This culture and attitude is contrary to mine, and I fear that I shall be unhappy in the process of yielding to it.

With the conclusion, then, that I owe America as much allegiance as I do China; that it is possible to serve China while living in America; that remunerative employment, though scarce, is not impossible for me to obtain in either China or America; and that I would avoid the unhappiness and social estrangement due to conflicting cultures by staying in America; I think no one could justly accuse me of being unwise if I chose a course of life whose future lies here in America.

Does My Future Lie in China or America?

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Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . factcouraud. (2007, May 22). Does My Future Lie in China or America. Retrieved January 08, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License