Saturday, March 23, 2013

Fu Ping's Interview on John Batchelor Show

On March 19, 2013, Fu Ping had a lengthy interview on the John Batchelor Show. She appears to consciously walk back or provide justification on some of her stories that have been questioned, such as her knowing only three English words or not knowing fractions. She also stayed away from some of the more outlandish tales.

The host, John Batchelor, on the other hand, appears blissfully ignorant of the controversy of her story.

The entire interview can be heard online. Below is a transcript:

Batchelor: I am John Batchelor. This is John Batchelor Show. Late summer, 1966, Shanghai, a quiet street that is presented by the author Ping Fu of her autobiographical production, Bend, Not Break, a Life in Two Worlds. It was presented as an oasis in the midst of a China that has been through a turmoil for the last 40 years and will continue to go into turmoil after this summer of 1966. Ping is 8 years old. She is living in a large and happy family. She is the youngest of several children and suddenly there is a crash downstairs and she is grabbed upstairs by young people -- she doesn't know their names -- One of whom she referred to as Bent Star. Ping, congratulates and good evening. That day, you have painted a vivid picture in your autobiography. Who are those young people coming upstairs and grabbing you? What do they want? Good evening to you. 
Fu: Good evening. Those people in 1966 are teenagers and some of them are referred as Red Guards. Between 1966 and 1968, they are roaming around the country and being given the power of doing things. They will take me away from the parents who raised me -- they are actually my aunt and uncle -- and take me to Nanjing which is where my biological parents live. 
Batchelor: So, they grabbed you and they took you to a train and put you on a train all by yourself. Their authority was just because they say you were born in Nanjing and not in Shanghai so they had the right to take you, as an 8-year-old, and put you on a train. That is all the authority they have. 
Fu: Well, at that time the train is full of people so I wasn't alone. It is very very crowded. Unlike America where children can not move alone, when we were young, it didn't have that kind of regulations. It is unusual to put a child on a train by yourself but the train was full of people, full of adults. I was placed on that train to go back to Nanjing. In China, there is this registration of where you were born you are supposed to live there. I was 8 and I couldn't go to school in Shanghai because I don't have registration there. So I have to go back to Nanjing. 
Batchelor: This is the first day you learned that you had been born in Nanjing. So it was not only a disruption of your life but also you have been thrown into the revelation that your mother and father was from Nanjing and your father is actually an intellectual who worked at a space institution. 
Fu: Yeah, at an university. When I was young, I thought I was born by my Shanghai mama. My siblings actually teased me so I asked my Shanghai mama and she said that I am so special that I took two mothers to born me. I believed her. 
Batchelor: Now  at 8 years old, your memories are brilliant and very careful. They read like a novel, very much like you are thrown into this world of revolution. But I take that, for the first 8 years in Shanghai, the experience was not a disruption. You were well behaved. You were educated. You are going to school. Your mother and father are there every night. Your house was well taken care of. There were memories of family reaching back to before the revolution. Is that all correct, Ping? 
Fu: By large, when I was little, yes that is correct. Close to the time I was taking away chaos has already started. I wrote in the book about a neighbor disappearing, the struggle session that conducted in my house. I started to notice the chaos erupted everywhere. But I was really too young to understand it. My Shanghai parents kind of sheltered me from all that. 
Batchelor: Now Ping Fu is a very successful American entrepreneur and now an executive of a very large software company. Her success is entirely based on her ability to survive the Cultural Revolution and the years that follow, and then leaving China in 1984. She was thrown out because she was regarded as a counter-revolutionary and in some fashion scarred by having an independent mind. Her success since 1984 is entirely on her shoulders and the shoulders of people who were assistance to, with her, educated her and the skill. The reason I am concentrating on this, the ugly experiences of the Cultural Revolution is because this is the darkness. For Americans it is very difficult to see that because the success of China we see today. What I learn from you today is that the China I think of as a tyranny did not really exist in an overwhelmingly brutal fashion before 1966. That's the period starting when you were grabbed until, I don't know the date, perhaps late 1979, after the death of Mao Zedong, and the solution of the Gang of Four, all of that upset and Deng Xiaoping became the head of the state. It was that 13 year period that is actually the darkness of China  Is that correct? Is that a fair memory? 
Fu: That is the darkest period of China. There were some period before Cultural Revolution but they are more regional or more focused like the Anti-Rightists movement earlier and there was a movement the year I was born in 1958. In terms of largest purge of intellectual that started in 1966. 
Batchelor: Ping's book is extremely romantic in its success. It's everything you wanted in a novel. It is part of the facts that here at the 21st century, that your generation, your cohorts is now the same as the new leadership. This fifth generation of the leaders since revolution, Xi Jinping and the others on the standing committee are standing on the stage of the People's Congress. Those are all your classmates once upon a time. Is that correct? Not the physically classmates but they are the same age as you in 1966. 
Fu: Same generation, yes. 
Batchelor: They experienced this disruption of their lives, this crash-in of these illegitimates,  these brutes in many incidences. There are many people who were murdered, who are scarred, their houses were broken in and their properties were stolen from them. These leaders today, they all experienced that as well and remembered their childhood. Do you think that is true? 
Fu: Absolutely. Actually Xi Jinping and also the premier Li Keqiang, they both went through Cultural Revolution. So we are certainly the same generation. If you believe what doesn't break you makes you stronger, I do believe they are strong leader because they have gone through the atrocity. 
Batchelor: But I mean as an author, they haven't gone through the burden of remembering and writing them done and publish it worldwide. 
Fu: Well, I think you are right. I do hope that China will be opening up and be willing to talk more openly about Cultural Revolution. There are a lot, not a lot, but some books published about Cultural Revolution outside of China. But inside China, some time earlier we had some literature about it but now there is not quite a lot. I hope that China will be able to openly say that. 
Batchelor: Your modesty and humility are blocking me, Ping. Because I mean to flatter you because what you have done is you provided a window into a life that is, we can't reach it except your book. I did not know this kind of violence was visited upon children. You were thrown into a dormitory where there is nothing for you. You are not provided with any food. You were 8-year-old, you are in charge of taking care of your younger sister who is 4 years old and crying all the time. You had no parents. You had no supervision. There is a times strangers, yes, but I could imagine, were you in a different universe you would have perished. You and your sister would have perished and I could guess that there were thousands, tens of thousands, who did not survive that brutality. 
Fu: That is correct. There are as many who didn't survive the brutality as who survived. I thank you for saying that I provided a window into the lives we live. I would also say that there were many who lived similar or worse lives that I described. 
Batchelor: You finally are driven into exile by the brutes and the cruelty of a system that is  deemed pretty much out of control, random. They don't destroy you, they throw you out. Not because something you did wrong but because you are a truth teller. Rather than investigate what truth you did at the time on the one-child policy, you arrived at America. No scene I loved more because of its anonymity  You don't have enough money in the transfer flight. When you arrived at San Francisco, you are 5 dollars short. How did you get that 5 dollars paid? 
Fu: There was an American standing behind me, heard my situation and gave 5 dollars to the counter so I could buy my ticket. That was my first impression of America. That taught me a lesson that, when in doubt, always error on the side of generosity. 
Batchelor: You don't know who that is. Do you picture who that is? Can you see the face? 
Fu: I kind of can see the face. I am not sure if my memory is right. That was 29 years ago and I am still hoping with the publication of the book, someone will come out and say, hey, that was me.  
Batchelor: You could not speak English at the time. What did you say? You had the words "Help", "Hello", and "Thank you". That's all the English you have. 
Fu: I did try to study English when I was in China but when I arrive I couldn't remember most of them and I couldn't speak. 
Batchelor: Well, the only word I had in Chinese when I was at Taipei was "Thank you". I forgot it now so I can't repeat it to you but it helps to practice a lot to say "thank you". Now, your success since 1984 was entirely your genius. I love the fact that you apply from very early on to a computer science master's program. You were accepted because they are not aware that you haven't been through grammar school and study fractions. You didn't have any of that. So you would have to go and get a book for 2nd graders and learn it quickly before you got your master's. That's a joy but you were 25 years old. Have you wondered how your brain could pick up all this subjects so quickly? Usually at 25 the brain is shutting down from learning other languages. 
Fu: I lived with my English teacher. When I came to United States, I didn't know if I could go back so I really am trying to adopt to the society and try to learn the language. I guess I was not gifted to the language also. As I said, I did study English before, I just couldn't speak. When you have the language environment it does come back. As to computer science, I wrote this thing about fractions, it wasn't like I didn't know anything, I was trying to show the knowledge gap. When you don't have a formal education, you cannot pick up those things. It's just pieces here and there. I was working in a factory. I study from workers and farmers. I actually picked up some academic information here and there. What I found when I came to United States is that I have a lot of knowledge gap. Some thing everybody thinks they know but I didn't. Then there are some things I just know. Sometimes I feel I am quite smart, I feel like I am the most stupid person in the room because I didn't know what people are talking about. This fraction is just one example of it even though I may know some more advanced math. It is this particular thing that 3 over 5 that I didn't know. I just didn't study it because I wasn't in school in the 2nd or 3rd grades. So I skipped over those knowledge and then later it catch up on you. 
Batchelor: You go on to educate yourself in Illinois and you found Geomagic in the early 1990s with your then husband and you have a child -- all of the successes of an American entrepreneur. In fact, I remembered reading at one point you hired a young man named Marc Andresseen to work for you and he went on to found Netscape. So you are at the beginning of the foundation. You were there when the Wright brothers who were putting the airplanes together. You were there at the digital beginning  At that time, did you keep contact with all the people you know in China? Or did they emerge after hearing your success and find you? How did you contact them so you are so conversant with their lives today? 
Fu: No. With my families of course I have connections. Other people whether they were victims with me or in the same study groups I did not have contacts with them until 30 years later. I did go back to China a couple of times after I become US citizen. I have various contacts with different people but to really have a deeper connection with them it took me 30 years. 
Batchelor: Today, because you have a unique position here, being able to look back to the Cultural Revolution, the China today, is it some thing you could dream when you arrived at America, that it succeeded despite all of its brutality? Is this a success when you think China today? 
Fu: Absolutely. China today is so much better than the China I was in about 29 years ago. It made huge progress. Average life, average living is so much higher. I do think there is a lot of issues in China, just like any country there is a lot of issues. It's not going to be easy for China to resolve any of those issues. But I think we made huge, huge progress. I also realized that, when I was in China, the atrocity happened during the time I was supposed to go from K to 12, the very formidable years. I had this quite bad experience. Now I realized that China has a really long history. My experience does not define China. Majority of Chinese people are good and kind. I wish them well. The other thing I think that is really, really important is in the 21st century I do believe that China and US relationship, the policy of the two country to collaborate are far, far deeper than anyone understood. We need to get it right. 
Batchelor: I agree with you, Ping. But you and I both read the news very carefully and there are some shadows emerging between the two states especially in the area that you are an expert, which is digital. You know this. It's going on right now. Is that something worries you? You see the President and other leaders of the United States talk about cyber-crime and cyber-spy. And that's your field. 
Fu: Yes, that's becoming an issue of national awareness. I believe big success and big fear come hand-in-hand. Sometimes it takes this kind of big fear for us to innovate for a resolution. Really, we don't really know how to deal with cyber-crime, cyber-terrorism, or cyber-bullying yet. A lot of time people are not using their true identity and you don't know who you are dealing with. The scale and the speed of that attack one can use on the Internet is both damaging and scary. So I think we need to innovate. We need to have a policy. We need to have some normal behavior of how to use the Internet and the technology. 
Batchelor: Well, I am very thankful that you are on the American continent now.

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