This book tells the story of Jin Lan McCann, a Chinese woman who experienced China’s Cultural Revolution, economic reform and the rapid economic development, then immigrated to the United States. Without a college education, she became one of the first millionaires in China, but spent her wealth saving her ex-boyfriend from a sentence of death. After marrying an American lawyer and receiving an economics degree from Wellesley college, her blog on sina.com, developed 8 years and had over 100,000 readers, received its own death penalty when shut down by the Chinese government. She then realized that she had never been truly free, she could not know she was a chained slave because everyone in that society was brainwashed since birth, and that process never stops. Since then, she spent 5 years to study the modern Chinese history and the society, try to unravel the myths of the modern Chinese history and the so-called Chinese model of development. She also offered her views of the western democracy and believes it will require enormous efforts to withstand the challenges of losing its world leadership position.
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"Powered by Wellesley" by Jin Lan MCann is a wonderful book with many interesting tales of growing up in Communist China during the era of Mao Zedong and then under the modern reformists. Ms. McCann's descriptions and tales put you right in the middle of Mao's Cultural Revolution in China and starts from there. She holds no personal detail or embarrassment back, laying bare her family dynamics while at the same time giving the reader historical perspective on what was going on in China at the time, and the great danger that it presented to her and her family.
Reading her story, you get a sense of Ms. McCann's intelligence, her keen observation and understanding of people but also her innocence that is always in the forefront for you to see as it gets shattered along the way by her love interests and her slow awakening that the Communist government is not for the people but for protecting an ideology that only advances the interests of the ruling class.
Ms. McCann recounts her jobs after graduating from high school working as a hostess for a cruise line on the Yangtze river (which hosted leaders of the World Economic Forum) to being a sales woman for a kitchen manufacturer to being her own entrepreneur. She gives great insight into the business customs and practices of Chinese businessmen. As you read these and other antidotes, you can only admire her strength and the forgiveness she shows in the face of great betrayal by love interests and business associates.
I would say it takes great courage, experience and unusual insight to write a book like this. I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in learning how we have arrived at the current U.S-China relations and how China has systematically penetrated every level of the West in terms of government and businesses, think tanks, media, and academia. I would especially recommend this book to fathers who have a daughter who is of high school / college age, as it shows a woman of great strength dealing with adversity while still maintaining hope, integrity and perseverance!
On the beautiful campus of Wellesley College, a blue banner with white letters says, "Wellesley Women Are Growing Roots and Wings." On my coffee mug, it says, "Wellesley College - Where the Coffee is Strong, the Women Stronger." Yes, this school empowers women to change the world for the better.
I entered Wellesley College at age 42 to improve myself and see what I could do for the world. I have always wanted to make differences, from small to big. I even saved someone from the death penalty. I always wished I could contribute my passion, energy and talent for the societies which nurtured me and/or need me.
So, here I find myself at the prestigious women's school that gathers various kinds of the smartest people in the world, as though in a dream that I never could imagine. People her often ask me the same question: "What brought you to Wellesley?" The question always takes me back to my far away hometown Chongqing, and my childhood.
My hometown Chongqing is the largest and most populous city in China, although people in the West might not have heard about it at all. It's a mountain city, a gateway to Southwestern China, and the economic center of the upper Yangtze River. It has 32 million residents, a number increasing by 500,000 per year, and with a GDP growth of 20% plus annually. It is the 3rd largest center of automobile manufacturing and the largest motorcycle-producing region in the country. More than one hundred Fortune 500 companies have established a presence in the city. Sales of food, beverages, tobacco, alcohol, jewelry, office supplies, clothing and other textiles increased by 45% during 2009. It is reported as having beautiful women, a rising metropolis in its infancy, and there seems no way to stop it. The problem is that if its residents do not implement clean ways to develop, development will occur with all the pollution it entails.
For the past ten years, I had not seen a single star in the sky of Chongqing, let alone the blue sky and white clouds I used to see when I was little. I envisioned an even more terrible picture of Chongqing, more cancers, worse air . . . and decided to travel to the West to see what I could do to make a difference. As one might have sensed by now, I am an optimistic woman with dreams, and always have a positive attitude looking into the future.
As this is being written, the American people have rejected a Wellesley graduate who spent her life fighting for human rights as its first woman President. Instead, it has elected a swashbuckling man who does not speak softly in order to make people believe he carries a big stick. However, if the United States is strong enough to adopt and nurture a willowy Chinese woman and turn her into a force for change, it can survive anything - even a President who purportedly believes global warming is a hoax and we should hide behind his walls of trade and immigration. We shall see, shall we not? As I lead you through the fantastic story of my life and the modern Chinese history, you will conclude that the audacity of hope trumps any lesser emotion.
I just translated my talented high school classmate's new poem from Chinese into English:
Whenever I need to fill a birth place form,
I always sincerely inscribed:
"Chongqing Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital".
Every time, someone pointed out:
You only need to write down "Chongqing,"
Every time, I stubbornly shook my head.
I knew, during those disastrous years,
to safeguard the same idol,
even family members would kill each other.
This city owned numerous weaponry manufactures,
working class members drove tanks into the streets,
set sail warships upon the Yangtze River,
targeted schools with canons . . .
For one born in a Hospital,
life was guaranteed from the beginning.
How lucky this was,
but more people in my time
were given birth on narrow, humid
hard boards in the darkness,
in the range of flying bullets,
in the domain of missile explosion coverage.
Their first cry could not break through
the cotton quilt insulated windows,
even some of them died before their first cry
could be delivered to earth.
- By Yu Yan, 2016
Yu Yan and I both were born in February 1967, the beginning of the notorious Cultural Revolution, China's historic 'dark age'. This poem is a depiction of the crazy environment into which I was born. However, my other friend Buddha, who was a teenager at that time, told me what he saw was much worse than the poem depicted.
My Mom used to mention the armed fights during the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. She thought that Cultural Revolution was supposed to be a civilized debate about how people should run the country. Instead, the people who could not win the debate resorted to violent repression of each other, because Chairman Mao Ze Dong said "Power comes from guns," and the people treated what he said to be Gospel just as the westerners treat what is said in the Bible to be true.
Mom used to complain to me that sometimes she did not even have any food to eat for a whole day while hiding in the bomb shelter to avoid bullets and eyeless missiles. However, I, an infant, kept crying in her arms for milk. Now I feel sorry for her and wish I could have been a better infant.
The name of my eldest brother is History, given by my Mom's father, named Clean Life. History is seven years my senior. He told me a story about the bomb shelter era.
One day, when all the family members were hiding in the bomb shelter under the building of the Yangtze Shipping Co., where my Father worked, my Grandfather became so hungry he had to make some food to eat. Thus, he desperately fled home with my brother History. Since he did not want to see the flying bullets outside the uncertainness window, he draped the window with a bed sheet. While he was standing on a stool so doing, a bullet broke through the glass window and lodged in the wall. My Grandfather was so shocked, he fell to the ground, cried out and pissed. History thought this most funny and laughed at my Grandfather.
My brother told this story to me when he was 37. I told him it was not funny because my Grandfather could have been killed by that bullet. How lucky for History that he was too young to realize fear. . .
Meeting with Dr. Henry Kissinger
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