The early profile by Inc. magazine in 2005 described Fu Ping's trip to United States:
Two weeks later, Ping boarded a United Airlines flight from Shanghai to San Francisco.However, the specific airline name was not mentioned in her book Bend, Not Break. Instead, the book vaguely indicated that it was a direct flight operated by a foreign company, Page 3:
When we were airborne, the flight attendant came by, wheeling a cart. She was an American with blond hair, blue eyes, and a warm smile...
I landed in San Francisco fourteen hours later, jet-lagged and emotionally drained.Later on Page 165, it mentioned United:
Our software was first put to use for 3D scanning and manufacturing of Winnie the Pooh and Barbie, and the door of a United commercial jet that just happened to be of the same vintage as the one that had first brought me to America.The Changed Story:
On March 1, 2013, Fu Ping told a slightly different version in her speech at the Downtown Speaker Series:
In 1984, January, I stepped on a Pan Am airline and flew from Shanghai to San Francisco, stop by Tokyo. I landed in San Francisco.The Debunking:
The Downtown Speaker Series speech was done after many people had pointed out that, in 1984, there was not yet a direct flight from Shanghai to San Francisco by United or any other American airlines. So, she apparently changed her airline and, for the first time, mentioned the Tokyo stopover.
In the 1980s, almost all Chinese students chose to fly the official and only Chinese airline when they go aboard. The chief reason was that Chinese airlines accepted Chinese currency for the airfare. Although there was no solid evidence to dispute Fu Ping's story, it is more reasonable and likely that she had also taken the Chinese carrier but invented the United or Pan Am story to illustrate her "lack of English skills" (more on that later).