Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The spiritual vacuum left by the Cultural Revolution has yet to be filled

Wounds of the Revolution By DAVID BROOKS Op-Ed Columnist Go to Columnist Page » NYT: November 30, 2007 The Cultural Revolution swept away much of the old Chinese culture. Dignity is now defined by money and French and Italian luxury goods. BEIJING
During the 20th century, hell descended on many nations, and each one seems to recover in its own way. This is the story of one man’s recovery, and a glimpse into the rise of modern China:
Edward Tian was 3 years old when Mao Tse-tung launched the Cultural Revolution. His parents, ecologists who had been educated in the Soviet Union, were deported to rural backwaters. A mob invaded his home and burned his family’s books. He was separated from his sister and was sent to live with his maternal grandmother in the industrial city of Shenyang.
His grandmother was a terrifying yet fiercely devoted woman, whose child-rearing philosophy was summed up by her motto: “Do not smile until the children are in bed.”
Tian remembers being furious with his parents during their 11 years of separation: “I was very angry. Why didn’t they take care of me? I didn’t have a good relationship with my parents again until my own children were born.” Meanwhile, he was studying Marxism at school and dreaming of becoming a soldier for the revolution.
His grandmother persuaded him not to go into the military, but to continue his studies. In 1981, he enrolled in Liaoning University, and after graduation he sent out letters to American universities in hopes of getting a scholarship somewhere.
Texas Tech offered him one, and Tian, under the impression that Lubbock, Tex., was near New York, accepted. “The first plane ride of my life was the flight from Beijing to San Francisco, then I flew to Dallas where the airport was huge. I was so scared.”
He felt obliged to continue in his parents’ footsteps and study ecology, so the boy from Shenyang ended up getting a Ph.D. in Texas ranch management. He spent five years driving around local ranches. His dissertation was a statistical model of the spread of bromegrass weeds, which was read, after years of work, by 10 people.
But at Texas Tech he did have access to a Macintosh computer. “During breaks I had no family and no friends around, so I’d play with it. It planted a seed in my heart.”
By the early 1990s, Deng Xiaoping’s reforms were beginning to transform China, the Internet was beginning to transform the world and Tian seized the historical moment. He and a Chinese friend from Dallas founded AsiaInfo Holdings to bring Internet technology back home. Within three years, he had 320 employees and revenues of $45 million a year.
In 1999, the Chinese government created a new company, China Netcom Group, to compete with China Telecom in bringing broadband to China. Tian was asked to become chief executive, and he accepted. The ranch researcher from Lubbock ended up with 230,000 people working for him.
But the Cultural Revolution still lurks in the mental shadows. “Insecurity is a very important thought in my head,” he says. He now works with business luminaries like Henry Kravis, and observes: “Henry Kravis doesn’t need to prove himself. Because I’m Chinese, I need to prove I can do that. I can travel faster and learn more.”
Recently, he was the keynote speaker at a conference in Malaysia and arrived late and hungry to a buffet dinner. He went to the buffet table, piled his plate with rice and began furiously shoveling it into his mouth. A friend said he was embarrassing his fellow Chinese by behaving like a peasant. “I had to think about why I was behaving like that.”
Meanwhile, the prodding from home continues. On a trip to Japan, he called his grandmother, who is now 92, and told her that despite what she had suffered during the Japanese occupation, he was now standing in a beautiful Japanese park. She responded: “Why are you sightseeing? You should be hard at work.”
Tired of the bureaucracy, Tian resigned from Netcom and has founded China Broadband Capital. It funds firms that are using cellphones as the next information technology platform, and it owns part of MySpace China. He sits alone in a beautiful office in the middle of the park where the Qing Dynasty emperors came to worship the sun. His office was the emperor’s dressing room.
With his lingering insecurity, with his fierce determination to prove and reprove himself, he is in some ways typical of the Cultural Revolution generation elite. But he is also a cultured man, and in that he is atypical. The Cultural Revolution swept away much of the old Chinese culture. It was followed by the wave of commercialism and materialism. Dignity is now defined by money and French and Italian luxury goods.
The spiritual vacuum left by the Cultural Revolution has yet to be filled. Some set of values — good or bad — will eventually fill it, and at that point, the final aftershock of the hell will be finally felt.

No comments:

Post a Comment