Author Archives: Kelly Zhou

Who is right? Who is wrong?

Who is Right,Who is Wrong?

I am a Chinese student studying journalism in the United States. The two countries differ significantly in many ways, including political system, education system, religious believes an more. These result in different thinking styles, the way people do things, which we call “culture” overall.

Being bred and grown in China, Chinese people have the culture planted in their blood vessels. However, people within a group think very differently too. It all depends on the specific environment in which we have grown up and our different personalities.

Working at Radio Free Asia made me think more about the culture differences. When I was using social media renren.com(like the Face Book in America) to connect with young people in China, I encountered things that were not pleasant, as expected.

I look at people’s web pages to decide whom I was going to ask for interview. I tried to look for people with different views. A person’s profile attracted my attention. He used the communist flag, red background with the hammer and sickle, as his personal picture. Since he was so outspoken of his position, I thought it would be great to get his point of view which may stand for a group’s.

I sent a message to this person named “Progressive Club,” and asked if he was willing to be interviewed. He replied later, cursing me, using bad words, calling me “the traitor of China with the American imperialists.  ” I posted his reply on my page, and wrote, “I don’t have to reply, but I want everyone to see it.” Later on in the afternoon, a friend online sent me a link, saying, “Woo, you are famous.” I did not expect anything good. As expected, the Progressive Club posted a long essay on a website called “(fight) the western slaves.”  He said a lot of bad things about Radio Free Asia, and about me as well. I have to say, most of the things he said were not true. I was not surprised that someone would do that, but I think it’s good for me to take this chance to explain who I am, what I am doing and why I am doing this.
my response won a lot of support and respect, even though some people were still against me. The ideology differences are caused mainly by these aspects:

First of all, the differences between Chinese and America political system. Robert Reich, a  Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley commented on his post, China: Capitalism Doesn’t Require Democracy “The communist party is the only party there is. China doesn’t have freedom of speech or freedom of the press. It doesn’t tolerate dissent. Authorities can arrest and imprison people who threaten stability, as the party defines it. Any group that dares to protest is treated brutally. There are no civil liberties, no labor unions, no centers of political power outside the communist party….. China is a capitalist economy with an authoritarian government.”

Secondly, the differences of the education in the two countries. Affected by their political system, to some degrees, education is designed to serve the country’s political ideology. Since the Chinese government does not value freedom of speech, people’s religious believes (all Party members must acclaim to be atheists), they try hard to kill critical thinking skills students can develop in schools. Traditionally, teachers’ roles were to teach, and students were to learn – no criticism involved. Students who criticize will not be accepted culturally, under most circumstances. Further more, the country emphasizes the studying of science more than liberal arts – they want people with abilities to promote economic development rather than political reform — which make sense in this situation.

Fortunately, an increase number of Chinese people start to criticize the society, the education system, the traditional thinking patterns and the way people have always been conducting without thinking. Some may go extreme, which is not a good thing, while some still sticking to another extreme – every thing the government does must be right, and whoever criticizes are against the country.

The Student Code of China listed this as the number one doctrine: Love the country, love the people and love the Communist Party (translated). Through school education, many people were made believe that if you do not agree with the government, you do not love China. However, the fact has proved otherwise. Some times love comes from criticism. A spoiled child will not do much good for the world.

In America, the situation is totally different. The text books by no means can say, if you love America, you love the Republicans/Democrats/ U.S Federal Government. I know it sounds like a joke, but the comparison makes people know the situation in China.

The first day I worked for RFA, I watched the video instruction of using social media. The speaker has warned the audience that personal attack was not a surprise. I was prepared. It was somewhat disturbing though. Actually, this is quite normal for journalism. Whenever I read news on line, people attack journalists and each other. In china, because of the Great Fire Wall, many information is blocked, as Ma Jian wrote in his/her article, China’s Internet Dictatorship, “Eleven years after its initial connection to the World Wide Web (WWW), China’s access to the Internet is still guarded by firewalls, embedded in its proxy servers, which have proven to be more practical and impenetrable than the Berlin Wall.” But overall, the Internet is a good thing. Now Chinese citizens are closer to the truth than ever. It brings the world together, and may finally overturn the dictatorship, gain freedom of speech, of religious beliefs, like what just happened in Libya.

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What shall I do?

Several days ago, I had a conversation with a friend from Japan. I asked about the situation there after the tsunami, she said, “The hopelessness is more terrible than the disaster. ”

She told me a story.

A man was in an important position to help save the town where his family lived.

When the disaster happened, he could either quit doing his job or go back home to save his wife. But in that case, more people’s lives would be claimed. He chose to stay in his position instead of going back home. His two children were evacuated and saved at school but his wife died. When he was talking on TV, he cried with guilt and shame. He felt like it was his obligation to stay and save the town, but he could not forgive himself.

A classic value debate topic is: is it justified to sacrifice one life to save a thousand? People have argued on this topic for thousands of years but are still not able to get an absolutely correct answer. It looks rational to sacrifice one life and save a thousand because a thousand is a larger number than one. However, what if the one person you sacrificed is able to find the vaccine for HIV and then change millions of human lives? What if you saved the thousand whom you’ve never known but sacrificed the love of your life? It looks ethical, but what will come to fill the sadness, darkness and emptiness in your heart? We cannot weigh lives the way we weigh vegetables. Ten pound tomatoes are worth more than one pound, but a life may not weigh less than a thousand. That’s where the confusion and anguish come from.

Situations that the Japanese man faced is a dilemma, a dilemma of life and death, a dilemma of morality and love for his family. He could not give up any of them but he had to.

I do not know how to answer a question like, if your mother and your children are drowning in a river, and you can only save one, whom will you save?I avoid looking for the answer because I don’t want headaches. The debate on this dilemma will never end. I wish I will never have to face dilemmas like this in life, but if I do, no matter what I choose, there will be a hole in my heart filled with sadness, and no one can explain the reason except my sign to myself: after all, this is a fallen world.

Why rumour spreads

The tsunami, earthquake and nuclear plant explosions in Japan are devastating. But some relevant information that is spreading quickly is more shocking to me. The other day, I read an article on one of my net pal’s blog. He forwarded it from a person, declaring that the nuclear pollution is actually caused by Japan’s atomic bomb test. At the beginning of the article, the author gave the source of the news: PhoenixTV.

PhoenixTV is one of the most famous TV stations in Hong Kong which is considered one of the most relatively objective news sources in China. To confirm the information, I searched their news website.

Japan’s earthquake was on the front page and is presented as special coverage with lots of reports. I searched carefully, and did not find anything about Japan’s nuclear bomb test. I searched “Japan’s atomic bomb test” on google and found out the information and analysis of this “atomic test” are all from personal blogs, which none of the mainstream media has reported.

Dongsheng Li, one of my net pals, forwarded the article. “I swear I will never buy Japanese products,” He commented, “I will never need Japanese products, no matter whether I live or die.”

“PhoenixTV never reported that Japan is having atomic bomb tests. The source is wrong.” I texted Li.

“I have knowledge on military affairs. You need to know better.” Li said. He avoided my point.

“I am not a scientist, but I study journalism. I know how to distinguish false news from the truth according to its source.” I replied.

We started arguing. My point was this information is not from any reliable source, and actually, the person who wrote it lied about the source. I didn’t think a person that lied about the source in order to add credibility to themselves could be objective.

Li did not confront my question at all. All he said was that Japan definitely has the ambition to make their own atomic bombs. Li did not argue with me about the credibility of the source, but kept avoiding my question and only focusing on his assumption.

“The information is too sensitive. They will not let journalists know.” This is Li’s most shocking statement about why the mainstream media did not report it.

The article Li forwarded looks rational. The author used a lots of terminologies and pictures to illustrate his opinion. The thing is, ordinary citizens have no idea about these terminologies and science theories. That’s just like fictional story created in a imaginary context. In the context the author creates, things make sense, and yet they are not true.

Japan invaded China during the World War II. China built several museums to remember the war. In China, every student learns about the war in schools. The hatred from history still exists, and that leads to an important reason why rumor spreads.

One reason that rumor prevails is that it gives people what they want, or it confirms people’s imagination. As long as someone presents the information with the six elements of news, and it fits people’s appetite, it spreads quickly.

Critical thinking skills are important to individuals. Unfortunately, most people don’t think rationally and objectively because doing so requires energy, time, and may even cause anguish and exhaustion. However, without thinking rationally and independently, people will be always following their feelings, create false emotions and make bad decisions.

A Dreamer

I have the same dream at least five times in a year, repeatedly.

In the dream I was standing at the intersection of a road. In front of me, the road was divided into two directions. If I chose the way on the left, I would go into a cornfield where you cannot see the edge but only the horizon. It was green. I could smell the fragrance of new-grown corn plants. The sky was crystal blue. Wild flowers were blooming on the narrow paths across the field. I sat down on a path. I was young, pretty and happy as if I was back to my childhood when I was only five.

I chose to the path on the right, and the cornfield disappeared. A huge golden sand dune was glittering under the sunshine. The dune blocked my view. All I could see was a the sky up high, every molecule of the air was reflecting the color of sand and sunshine. I walked up to the top of the hill, an ocean spreading itself in front of me. The ocean was blue, and infinite. I was thrilled. I saw myself laughing with my mother, jumping and running on the golden beach. I had a scarf with delightful and bright colors in my hand: acid blue, amethyst, azure green and apricot. I raised the scarf and let it fly in the wind.

I was not willing to wake up because of the wonderful feeling in my dream. But I do not understand the reason why every time I went to the ocean, I could not see the ocean, vice versa. I loved and enjoyed both of them, but I did not understand why I could not have them at the same time.

I consulted a friend who knows some psychology. He asked me, “What’s does cornfield mean to you?”

I thought for a second, then replied, “Childhood. I grew up in a small town that had green cornfields that stretched far beyond the horizon. ”

He asked again, “How about ocean?”

“I traveled several years ago,and saw the ocean for the first time in my life. I loved it. But I could not see the oceans often. They are far away from where I am. I always want to visit again,” I answered.

He thought about it, then said, “I think the ocean symbolize your dream, your earnest wish, I mean, the future you want to have. The cornfield is your childhood memory. You believe that you need to give up things you love to pursue your future, and they are not compatible.”

My friend is very insightful. This dream means a lot more for me and has explained part of my life now. I will continue talk about dreams, our earnest wishes this coming week. Please comment if you have something, like your wishes or your night dreams that you want to talk about.

He Is Changing Lives

She is significantly better.

It has been for more than a month since my friend Sarah (not her real name) tried to kill herself. Because it was not safe for her to stay by herself anymore, I’ve been staying with her since then.

I never knew I could do it. I have a hard time dealing with people who have depression. But I also believe God does not cause a person to suffer in vain, just like the verse in 2 Corinthians, 1:4, “…so that we may be able to console any who are in affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. ” We suffer so we may help those who are suffering, and for me, this is the best answer to all the existing plights in the world, and also the best answer of my purpose of life.

Sometimes, she lies down on the floor; she screams. She punches the closet; she hits her head against the wall. I would go near her and hold her in my arms. I couldn’t stop my tears because I know how much she is suffering. When she is in great pain. I am too.

When she started to curse God, I felt exhausted. I could not do anything anymore.

On Saturday, my friend took her to another house to spend the weekend so I could have some sleep. She went reluctantly. I could do nothing but pray for her. She is not a Christian yet, and I know what she needs the most is the Lord, more than anything else.

On Sunday, like a miracle, Sarah called me and told me that she finally understood it was not God who manipulated her life; it was the devil. She believed that God wants good things for her.

I almost burst into tears.

Since that day, her condition has been better. She told me for the first time in her life, she felt happiness, a pure happiness with no condition. I know God is working, because the same thing had happened to me before. God has blessed me significantly, He will bless her more.

My friends are amazed by how I try to help her, and how patient and understanding I am, but I know better. The love, patience and non-judgemental attitude are not natural to me. I am trained by God, step by step. Sometimes she tells me that she feels guilt because she needs me to be with her. But she does not know, she has made my life better, because I’ve never been so close to God. God is doing His miracle on both of us. He is changing our lives, not only hers.

Rice Noodle at Taste of Asia

It’s a taste of home.

Taste of Asia s one of my favorite places to get home-like food. For me, it’s even better than many Chinese restaurants — it has a taste of home which I don’t get from other places.

Taste of Asia offers food from South East Asia like Vietnam, Phillipines and Thai Land. The food culture in my hometown which is located in south west China are greatly affected by people from these countries.

Rice noodle is a specialty at Taste of Asia. Rice noodle is not common in the Unites States. Common noodle is made from wheat and egg, yellow, while rice noodle is white. Common noodle is sticker than rice noodle but both are soft. Rice noodle is soft in a different way — it’s thinner and lighter.

Several different combinations with rice noodle are served at Taste of Asia, including sea food, pork, beef and duck. Along with the noodle and meat in a big bowl of soup, a plate of parsley, bean sprout and one or two pieces of lime are coming to the table as well. The soup is hot enough to cook the raw vegetables to the best point that’s crispy, fresh and smell good without losing its nutrition.

My favorite combination is beef and meat ball with rice noodle. The meat ball served in Taste of Asia is different from the common kind of meat ball Americans usually have. It’s chewy because it is made from beef tendon, flower and beef. It’s not all meat, so it has less fat and is healthier. When you chew it, your teeth squeezes the soup out of the meat ball, with its special fragrance; hone-like taste fills up your mouth.

I ask for extra lime every time. I squeeze the lime juice into the soup. I love the saucer taste from lime with abundant Vitamin C, natural and fresh. Spicy sauce is another must-have. Saucey and spicy creates the best home atmosphere for me. I love every part of the meal and I will finish the last drop of the soup.

Though the restaurant always serves rice noodle combinations with fresh parsley and bean sprouts, which have plenty fiber and vitamin, the soup is seasoned with aginomoto which is not always healthy. Some times, surprisingly, the cook can over-cook the rice noodle and it becomes soggy and looses its original great taste.  Because of where I grew up, I’ve tasted this special dish many times. Compared to the version of Asian food Americans seem to favor, rice noodle might be too exotic.  But if you’re willing to really indulge in the food from Asia, I feel you’ll enjoy the many flavors of Taste Of Asia, located at 2201 South 1st Street in Abilene.

A Philosopher

What is the most important thing in my life? I am one of those people who have no choice but to think through this question, with pain and anguish. An emptiness exists in the deep of a heart. Some people try to figure out the answer because they are suffering. Suffering creates a philosopher because he thinks hard, with all the purpose of finding the meaning of life that may give him a reason to live in a ruthless world, instead of giving up.

Most people, at some point in life, think about the answer. Finding out the most important thing in life means figuring out the purpose of living. Some people think about the answer out of no big reason but are only guided by the emptiness of their hearts. It’s unutterable, but it’s real, and it’s like a shadow you never escape from under the bright sunshine.

When time comes, with no light, no hope, one sinks into the endless darkness. You carry a smile with you when around people, but are never really understood. It’s too much for you, and it’s too much for others.

Not everyone understands darkness.

My friend Sarah tried to kill herself several times because of depression. Her boy friend was scared away. He said that he was not able to take care of her. She is young, at the age when a flower just spreads its petals and is about to bloom, showing its colorful beauty to the whole world.

However, life is not a fairy tale. Why do some stories end at the point when “prince and princess got married and started their happy life together?” That’s because a happy life has a lot more than just being happy. Marriage is too heavy for a fairy tale. So is a real life.

What is your purpose of life if you are not loved the way you are supposed to be? Happiness creates a poet who praises life. He does not have to think about the darkness of life when his emptiness is fulfilled by abundant love, understanding, patience and freedom. Though in this world, it’s too hard for human beings to find the love that can fulfill the endless amount of vainness.

People don’t get everything in control, and that’s the source of fear. Sometimes the fear is too intense, and it’s like blood seeping into the vein, flowing all over the body. It’s red, it stinks, it’s overwhelming; it grabs your heart and your brain and will never let you go.

Daytime will eventually come. But life is a circulation of day and night, spring, summer, fall and winter. Knowing and confronting the pain is ultimately good, even though it’s cruel and you are hardly able to look at it.

Love Is Not Without Problems

I like the kind of friendship that can tolerate differences.

I went to visit my best friend Lucy in California two moths ago. We have been known each other for years. I met her when I was in high school and she was in college. Being away from our hometowns, we rented a house together.

Lucy was my first Bible teacher – she studied the Bible with me once a week. She saw things from another perspective and I admired her a lot. The most impressive thing she ever told me was when I complimented her. “Don’t look at me. Look at Jesus. People will always let you down, but Jesus will not,” she said.

When a friend asked me if there was anyone that has treated me like Jesus does, I thought about Lucy.

I came to the United States two years ago. She went to a Christian University in California last August. I decided that I would visit her during Christmas.

It seemed like that I have grown too much. I do not learn from her as I did when I was younger or see her as someone I admire very much. Now I have more different kinds of thoughts.We started to argue on lots of topics about politics and our own theology. Sometimes when we were arguing in Chinese, her host parents would be looking at us worried. We would smile and explain we were all right, and that was just the way we communicate.

Today, I got a call from Lucy. She apologized to me for being “mean” to me. She told me her host mom Mary still did not understand the way we communicated and believe we could still be good friends. I laughed.

“To me, being who you are is more important than being polite,” I said.

I have thanked God countless times for giving me Lucy as a friend. Now I am not a girl anymore, and I found our personalities are so different. When I was younger, I got mad during arguments. I’ve since learned to disagree without arguing and tolerate differences.  These things have been a big lesson to me.

Now my faith has taught me that as long as it’s not personal attack, being able to listen to different ideas could be a great gain. Being in a totally different culture forces me to be more tolerant, otherwise suffered. Being ready to learn and open-minded has given me the key to a happier life. I had experiences when I left my friends because I could not agree on them. But now, I see a real friendship as one that sustains in spite of free expression of different ideas. It’s like marriage – every couple has problems, including the happy ones; but the ones that are willing to stretch themselves to finding better ways to solve the problems instead of avoid them are more likely to be successful in their relationships. Love is not without problems. Love is confronting and solving problems with a heart that is willing to grow bigger.

It’s an Irreversible Revolution

In Feb 20, the first nation-wide demonstration in China happened since 1989.

1989, after the tanks crushed young students’ dreams of reformation, the Tiananmen Square massacre became the deep cut inside the nation’s heart, ruthlessly hidden, covered, ignored and lied about.

Nevertheless, memories of blood can never be wiped off.

From yesterday, Words like “Jasmine,” “Jasmine revolution,” “KFC” and “Wangfu Jin” have been blocked in many big web sites, both in English and Chinese. Anonymous sources posted information online and organized this national protest. Thousands of internet users from several major cities in China like Beijing, Shanghai, Harbin etc., responded the call and gathered in public.

“We want to end the time of the party monopoly. We want freedom of speech and democracy,” two young men replied when they were interviewed by a journalist. After the journalist had gone, police took the two men to the Yunnan Road Police Station nearby.

Some activists have been detained. The number of people who have been detained is not known.

During the protest, people spread Jasmine petals into the crowd. The police were irritated and started chasing and beating them, until journalists gathered to take pictures and question the police, “Why are you beating them for no reason?”

What’s happening in China is not surprising to me at all. When Tunisia first started protesting to corruptive government, I waited for the same thing to happen in China. In Tunisia, a college student burnt himself; in China, several self-immolation cases have happened last year, mostly because of the government’s violent demolition of their houses. Severe inflation, unemployment and the gap between the rich and poor can not be ignored anymore. Cheating, lying and bullying are the main trends of society. Chinese people are living without hope and dignity. Since the Internet in China is strictly restrained, or say “harmonized,”people uses codes to express ideas. Chinese Internet users created words like “democrazy,” “freedamn,” to express their anger to the government control.

Anger is like a long-rested volcano bursting out of its outlet.The February 20th’s Jasmine Revolution in China is not the end of the Chinese people’s calling for democracy. When the white Jasmine petals are spread to the people with its fragrance of democracy, many people believe that this is an irreversible revolution that will not be ended.

 

Winner or Loser

I am a loser at most of the time.

I never do as well as my father wished I could. I never do as well as I wish I could.

This is how I define a loser — one who doesn’t achieve what they try for.

My father’s high expectations had trapped me. I was never able to be good enough for him. Later in my life, his goals for me became my goals for myself — always be the top student in class, always exceed in whatever I do. Failure was never an option. Being the best was the only way I was supposed to live my life. I can never be a winner unless I am the best one.

Actually, I am never the winner.

For years and years, the belief of being a loser has following me. The belief is a friend, and the belief is a foe. I can not live without beating myself up. Once I feel like giving up beating myself up with guilt, I feel my dreams are all about to die. That’s the only thing that drives me forward — guilt. It’s a loyal friend of mine, and I can not go forward without it.

Sometimes, however, the guilt is too strong. It overwhelms my thoughts, it crushes my soul. I start asking about the meaning of life. “Do we live just to feel guilt? Why I can never be the one I am supposed to be?”

It took me a very very long time to accept the fact that grace is given to me for free. When I was a new Christian, not only did I think I should follow the Bible’s doctrine, but I also should follow my father’s directions, because they were good. I feel guilt whenever I didn’t spend as much time on my studies as I wished. I felt guilt when I did clean my room as planned. I felt guilt when I did not score high enough on a exam.

In guilt, my heart was torn apart, my soul was crushed, my pillow was wet by tears, my head ached, my hopes died.

Until one day, the exhausted me was finally giving up my insistence and accepting Jesus’ new rule of the game — “I give it to you, all for free. I take care of you when you fail your class. I teach you lessons when you need to learn. You don’t need to be the best one to be the winner, because I love you, and I died for you. I chose to be the loser for you, so you are not a loser anymore. You are grown because of love, not because of guilt. Guilt is the worst guide leading you to your dream. It kills your hope, it kills your love, and your heart.”

I believe many people have struggled with guilt the way I did and may still struggle with it. For me, I am still struggling. But God cares about our souls. You are welcomed to share your experience with me. Comment here. Let’s talk together.