Sunday, June 30, 2013

SCMP: Q and A with Ping Fu, Author of "Bend, not Break"

The following interview was published by South China Morning Post on July 1, 2013:
Q and A with Ping Fu, author of 'Bend not Break'
The South China Morning Post's Wu Nan spoke to Ping Fu in late February [sic] on continued controversy surrounding her memoir. 
South China Morning Post: Your alma mater, Soochow University, has documents showing that you dropped out of school in March 1982 without earning a BA or MA. Nanking University has also said that you were not a graduate of theirs, nor did you earn a Ph.D there. What's your comment on this? 
Ping Fu: In the book I wrote exactly what the fact is: I don’t have a degree from Suzhou [Soochow University], there is no contradiction. I have a MS and BA in the USA. On my social network sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, I only list my two US degrees, which are both in Computer Science. My understanding is that when other publications post my profile on their websites, they may run an automatic Internet search, which presents degrees from other people with the same name as mine, Ping Fu, and these peoples’ degrees get attached to my name. I found many instances of this, even on very reputable sites such as those of Bloomberg Businessweek, the Wall Street Journal, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). 
Post: Soochow University said they gave you demerits in October 1981 for being absent for classes and for violating school regulations. Is that true? 
Fu: Yes, in chapter eight of my book I explained the incident, related to my research, and my demerits were due to absences from school. I did not have a chance to write the thesis. My research about birth control policy, which let to the observation of infanticide, never turned into a thesis because I left school.  In my senior year I was planning to go to Nanking University to study journalism. Some of my classmates and my family knew about it. It was permitted for a literature student to write on a generalised topic instead of a specific literature topic in order to pursue graduate studies in journalism.   
Post: Your class advisor, Ni Junqiang, said that the university did not arrest you and other Red Maple Society members, or interrogated any of you.  How do you comment? 
Fu: There was no arrest or time in jail or prison for the Red Maple Society members. We did informing and confession. As I wrote in the book, I was not the author of the article “A Confession of A Communist Member," I was an editor. In 1980 Deng Xiaoping had a university student publication in his hand and criticised the underground publications. Later our magazine (“Wu Gou”) was not allowed to be published any more. 
Post: You mentioned in your book chapter "Life is a Mountain Range" that Soochow University authorities arrested you after Deng Xiaoping met student publishers and read a daring article you published as an editor in chief. Tang Zheshen, former leader of the Red Maple Society, said that none of their members ever went to Beijing, or met with Deng Xiaoping. Could you clarify? 
Fu: Different people have different memories. We are talking about something that happened more than 30 years ago. If you ask different people what happened, you may hear different answers. I wrote a memoir and this was my memory of what happened and how I felt. If someone said they remember differently I’m not going to say they are wrong. It's just we remember differently.   
Post: In the same book chapter, you mentioned the "controversial and daring article"--"A Confession of A Communist Member" -- published by you. 
Liu Buchun, the author of the article said that his article appeared in October 1979 in an internal student magazine, "Wu Gou", which was not part of the Red Maple Society and you were not its editor in chief. He said you were not punished in relation with this article, nor convicted or sentenced to prison terms. 
Fu: The author was Liu Buchun. I don’t know what he said. But I was the co-editor in chief of “Wu Gou” with Wang Jia-Ju at same time. I remember the magazine only published two issues before it was banned. I was the only female involved in two magazines, including the earlier version of “Wu Gou,” “Zhengyan.” In the early ‘80s, a publication got banned and the order was from the central government. There was surely punishment. But in chapter eight of my memoir, I mainly wrote about the happiness and excitement we had, not so much about the punishment. 
If Suzhou University said they don’t have record that I was punished, I can't comment on that. I never got a chance to see my record, and whether I received a “Four Anti” black mark. In that time, no one could see his/her own record. I thought we received black marks for the magazine. 
Post: Soochow University has demanded that you apologise, withdraw the "falsehoods" in your memoir, and stop further promotion of the book such as giving the scheduled speech at American Library Association meeting on June 29th, otherwise they would start a lawsuit against you. What's your view on that? 
Fu: Suzhou University is my alma mater. I hope that they are more tolerant and protective of their former student. I have never been disrespectful to the university. I've never attacked and will not be disrespectful to the university. The book tells stories about how I make decisions, how I emotionally respond to setback, and how I became who I am today. I have been a promoter of tolerance and compassion. I’m surprised how Suzhou [Soochow] University responded to my memoir. I wish they could see me with pride, not shame. I sincerely wish that Suzhou University and I can reach a peaceful reconciliation.   
About the apology they asked for, I would like to issue an open apology for the description that appears about Suzhou [Soochow University] conducting intrusive physical checks on all female students’ periods for birth control purposes. I didn't catch this error in the last round of editing before my memoir was published. My original intention was to describe the unique policy of “legal pregnancy” and the phenomena (periods police) that was a result of harsh enforcement in some local regions. Gender inequality occurred not only in China but also in other parts of Asia, such as India, Japan, and Korea. Birth control was a big topic in 1981 in China. I wanted to explain the historic background. Given the ambiguities of the Chinese language, what I wrote could be read as general information or something that happened in Suzhou. It’s clear Suzhou [Soochow] University and female students were offended by this. I’m sorry about it. 
I have always been a promoter of China and its harmonious culture. I’m an American citizen. ALA invited me as their speaker. It’s an important meeting. I honour the invitation and the freedom of speech. I have no reason to cancel it. It would be very unprofessional to do so.   
Post: What do you think about the netizens’ controversial comments on your memoir?

Fu: News is often controversial. I received many support letters, too. When people are upset, you are touching on something sensitive. If people need to talk about the Cultural Revolution and by criticising me they can create some healthy discussion, that's my contribution. Churchill once said, “You have enemies?  That means you've stood up for something...” In my view, these netizens are not enemies, they just generate heated debate. 
But I admit it also bothers me. Sometimes I’m confused. I’m not helping the “American side” or “Chinese side” to attack one other. We should unite rather than divide; extreme opinion divides. I won’t fight with Suzhou University. It will only hurt both of us. 
Post: Can you talk about your current role at 3G Systems? 
Fu: My new title at 3D Systems is Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer.  My responsibility is to support our company’s vision: manufacturing the future, and to align our execution with our vision. Creativity for us is about thinking out of the box in an exponential time and innovation is imagination applied. My new role is a perfect combination of creative destruction and pragmatic problem solving. I love what I do: 3D printing. 

SCMP: "Heartbroken" Author Ping Fu Willing to Apologise for Inaccuracies in Memoir

The following report was published by South China Morning Post on July 1, 2013:
'Heartbroken' author Ping Fu willing to apologise for inaccuracies in memoir 
Trying to head off a lawsuit, Chinese American tells the Post she was willing to apologise for what her former university schoolmates and officials call 'falsehoods' in her book 
Wu Nan 
In many ways, Ping Fu embodies the American dream. The 55-year-old Chinese American entrepreneur and author is an important figure in the global 3-D printing industry, and she sits on US President Barack Obama’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. 
But six months after she published a critically acclaimed memoir Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds, Fu, chief strategy officer of 3D Systems in the US, faces potential international lawsuits. Her alma mater, Soochow University in Suzhou, and some of her former schoolmates are threatening to take her to court for libel in China and the US. 
“Her book humiliated the image of China in the world and the reputation of Soochow University as a public education institution,” Chen Jinhua, director of the university’s news centre, told the South China Morning Post. University officials have joined hands with a group of former students, classmates of Fu’s from more than 30 years ago, to demand that she apologise for what they call “falsehoods” in her book, and stop all promotional activities related to it. 
“No society at any time should applaud success built upon lies,” Liu Biao, an official at the university’s president’s office, told a meeting of alumni at Soochow two weeks ago. “We will take further actions.” 
This is not the book's first controversy. Fu devoted chapters to her early life as the child of a persecuted intellectual family, growing up during the tumultuous Cultural Revolution period, between 1966 and 1976. She recounted heart-wrenching stories of being separated for years from her parents from the age of 10, and of being forced into child labour, starved, tortured, even gang-raped. 
Some of these claims, along with those she made in previous Western media interviews, were bitterly contested in China in the past months. Hundreds of angry comments and negative ratings were left on the page for her book, most by Chinese readers. Protest e-mails were sent to her publisher, her company and her associates. 
Tens of millions of Chinese were persecuted during the disastrous decade of chaos and violence, started by Mao Zedong in 1966 and ending soon after his death in 1976. The estimated death toll ranges from one million to 20 million. However, Fu's critics accused her of making up many of her sad personal stories to win sympathy and sell her book. Some, such as the controversial Chinese academic fraud-buster Fang Zhouzi, wrote detailed essays to prove that the abuses and atrocities she claimed couldn't possibly have happened. 
In 2010, Fu told US media NPR that she witnessed Red Guards execute a teacher by having her quartered by four horses, simply to frighten the children into submission. After Fang raised sharp questions about the veracity of this story, Fu admitted that this that traumatic event might not have taken place, and that her “emotional memory” might not be accurate. NPR has since removed the interview from its website. 
College years disputed 
Now, months after the previous storm of controversy seemingly cooled down, renewed criticism and legal threats from China are once more putting the high-flying executive on the defensive. The disputes have moved from her childhood history to her college years, starting in 1978, two years after the Cultural Revolution ended. 
Former classmates and teachers are not only challenging Fu’s self-claimed academic credentials, but also casting doubt over some of the most riveting events in her book. These often dealt with issues that remain sensitive in Sino-US relations to this day, including birth control, torture, freedom of the press and persecution by order of top Communist Party officials. 
Fu said she was willing to apologise for some of the inaccuracies in her book, which she blamed on memory failures or editing errors. She also said she would like to reconcile with the university to avoid a lawsuit. 
One anecdote in Fu's book seems to anger her critics in particular – that university officials used to check female students’ periods with their fingers to make sure they were complying with mandatory government rules on birth control. 
“I would like to issue an open apology for the description that appears about [Soochow University] conducting intrusive physical checks on all female students' periods for birth control purpose,” she said. Fu told the New York Times in February that the account was an error she had tried on several occasions to correct before publication. Instead of submitting to intrusive checks by officials, female students had to use their own fingers and show blood during their periods, Fu said.

As the leader of a student group called the Red Maple Society, according to the book, Fu had incurred the wrath of then-leader Deng Xiaoping after publishing a “daring and controversial article” criticising the Communist Party for corruption. According to her accounts, Deng, restored to power only a few years earlier, was visibly displeased after he read the article during a meeting with representatives from student publications. 
“University officials arrested and interrogated all the students who belonged to the magazine group,” she wrote. “As the editor in chief, I was held most responsible for the trouble. For punishment, I was given a black mark in my personal file.” 
But that was not the end of her political troubles. Fu also wrote that she was briefly kidnapped by unknown thugs and then banished from the university for doing research and writing a paper on infanticide in rural China, a barbaric side-effect of the one-child policy and people's preference for boys. 
Fu also wrote she was forced to leave school without graduating, and officials had told her to leave the country. She went to the US in 1984, studied at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, and later transferred to the University of California in San Diego to study computer science. 
'It's just we remember differently' 
However, Soochow University officials have shown journalists dozens of documents including Fu's full academic records, to prove that she never conducted research or wrote a thesis on female infanticide, nor was she ever punished or arrested for political essays in student publications. 
“The so-called arrest and interrogation never happened. I am angry at her for lying about this,” said Ni Junqiang, Fu’s class adviser from 30 years ago. Now 63, Ni manages his own high-tech company in Suzhou. He said Fu frequently missed classes during her college years and on several occasions he recommended that the university give her demerits. 
Speaking to a Post reporter by telephone in late June, Fu conceded last week that some of the details in her book were not accurate. “There was no arrest or time in jail or prison for the Red Maple Society members. We did informing and confession.” 
She also added: “I wrote a memoir and this was my memory of what happened [30 years ago] and how I felt. If someone said they remember differently I’m not going to say they are wrong. It’s just we remember differently.” 
But the university’s investigation has nonetheless stirred up painful memories and ripped open old wounds. Liu Buchun, Fu's former schoolmate, said Fu stole his story about suffering political persecution for criticising the Communist Party. Liu said that he was the one who delivered a speech at a meeting of student party members in 1979, airing doubts over the party’s teachings. 
Liu, now a retired high school teacher, said he and several editors of a student magazine who published the speech suffered years of retribution in the form of demotions and lost opportunities. The consequences haunted their entire adult lives, Liu said. But Fu was not involved in either the writing or publication of the speech, nor was she punished for it, he told the Post
“Correcting the wrongs of the Cultural Revolution is necessary, but not by making up stories like Fu did,” Liu said. “Lies have no redemptive power. Self-glorifying lies are even more despicable.” 
'Heartbroken and deeply saddened' 
In the face of harsh criticism from China, Fu said in February that she was “shocked, heartbroken and deeply saddened by the smear campaign”. However, she has on different occasions retracted some of the statements she made to Western media. 
“When people are upset, you are touching on something sensitive. If people need to talk about the Cultural Revolution and by criticising me they can create some healthy discussion, that’s my contribution,” she said last week. 
But she admitted: “It also bothers me. Sometimes I'm confused. I'm not helping the ‘American side’ or ‘Chinese side’ to attack one other. 
“We should unite rather than divide; extreme opinion divides. I won’t fight with Soochow University. It will only hurt both of us.” 
Now a mother of an adult daughter and working for a South Carolina-based firm specialising in 3-D printing technology, Fu said she wished the debate over her memoir would calm down so she could focus on her responsibilities at home and at the company. 
“Creativity for us is about thinking out of the box exponentially, and innovation is imagination applied,” she said. “My new role is a perfect combination of creative destruction and pragmatic problem-solving, I love what I do: 3-D printing.”

Adam Minter: Ping Fu's Book isn't Worth Joe Nocera

The following article was published on Bloomberg View on June 30, 2013, in reaction to Joe Nocera's blog on the Fu Ping affair:
Ping Fu’s Book Isn't Worth Joe Nocera
By Adam Minter  
The New York Times’s Joe Nocera devoted his latest column to defending Ping Fu, the Chinese-American author of the factually-challenged memoir “Bend Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds.” Nocera set a curious task for himself: Fu’s shaky relationship with the truth is so well-known that there’s an entire Amazon forum devoted to debunking the book’s alleged lies, errors, contradictions and other sins. 
The problems do appear to be many. For example, the book’s first line claims Fu was deported from China (her bio on her publisher’s website repeats as much), despite there being no record to substantiate the claim. In January, she told Forbes: “We could say that was a literary interpretation. I was asked to leave. My father helped me to find a visa to the US. I was told not to talk about it or to file for political asylum. My interpretation was I involuntary left China….If someone wants to say this is not deportation, fine. That’s my interpretation.” 
In February, she told the Guardian that in her draft she hadn’t employed the word “deported,” but her co-author and editor proposed it to “attract readers.” (The edition currently available for preview on Amazon uses the word “expelled.”) 
It’s hard to imagine Nocera devoting a column to another alleged fabulist (where is his piece defending James Frey, the disgraced author of “A Million Little Pieces”?). So why did he devote a column to Fu? 
His answer seems to be that he’s offended at how the Chinese immigrant community in the U.S. has made something of a hobby out of debunking Fu’s book: “Yes, Ping Fu’s book has mistakes in it. But it is hard to see how they justify the level of extreme, unrelenting vilification she has suffered. Her real sin, it appears, is that she stirred a pot most Chinese would prefer to leave alone.” 
In other words, Nocera sees in Fu, and her memoir, an imperfect voice for truths that the Chinese government, citizens and immigrants to the U.S. prefer not to speak of: “Three decades later, there is almost no one in China willing to delve into the Cultural Revolution. The Chinese government does not exactly encourage discussion of the subject. It remains a deeply painful subject to those who lived through it.” 
This would be a shaky defense of Fu if it were true. But it’s not. 
The Cultural Revolution -- painful as it was -- is widely discussed, written about and even the subject of films in contemporary China. There’s an ongoing conversation about the Cultural Revolution in the social media spaces that have become the country’s de facto town squares over the last five years. As of Sunday evening in Shanghai, a search for the term “Cultural Revolution” on Sina Weibo, China’s most popular microblogging service, brought up more than 23,371,000 results, with a new one appearing roughly every 15 to 20 seconds. Some of those are photos and accounts of victims of taken during and after the decade-long reign of terror; some draw comparisons between recent events in China and the horrors visited on the Chinese people during the period; and some revel in old Cultural Revolution artifacts and kitsch. 
Likewise, Fu is hardly the first Chinese immigrant to publish a Cultural Revolution memoir in the U.S. Many have preceded her, with plenty garnering praise from within and outside the Chinese immigrant community. 
One of the most striking characteristics associated with the Cultural Revolution microblogging -- and the wide-ranging contemporary dialogue about the period in China and the U.S. -- is the relentless desire to recapture, reveal and understand what really happened during that tragic decade. China’s netizens and its emigrants want the truth of the Cultural Revolution, just as Jews want the truth of the Holocaust, and Cambodians want the truth of Pol Pot’s reign of terror. 
Anyone who challenges such a quest through censorship, exaggeration or fabrication is going to be the subject of, to use Nocera’s words, “unrelenting vilification.” Deservedly so. 
(Adam Minter is the Shanghai correspondent for the World View blog and a contributor to the Ticker.)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Questionable Fact: Inc. Magazine's Interest in Fu Ping and Geomagic

The Original Story:
On Pages 223-224 of Bend, Not Break, Fu Ping describes how, in 2005, Inc. magazine discovered her and made her their Entrepreneur of the Year:
Around that time, John Brant, a reporter from Inc. magazine, flew to North Carolina to interview me for a half-page story on my journey as an entrepreneur. What happened next was a complete surprise. When John asked me to talk about my life, the combination of the way he asked, how safe he made me feel, and my wide-open state of mind inspired me to share the story with him. We talked for hours. I told him details about being taken away form my family, fending for myself and Hong, and I even shared with him about being gang-raped. John reminded me of Uncle W. He was a brilliant audience -- caring, engaging, empathetic, and non-judgmental. 
At the end of the interview, John said, "Ping, I'd like to come back and talk to you again tomorrow. Would that be okay?" I agreed. 
John Brant stayed for three days, further interviewing me and speaking with others in the company. About a week later, Inc. sent a photographer to shoot pictures of me. When he appeared at my office door, he had the magazine's editor in chief, John Koten, in tow.
The Debunking:
John Brant is probably brilliant in his own right but Fu Ping did not tell the whole story of this encounter, which was not as lovely and innocent as she described above.

Months before that visit, Geomagic had hired Savvy Marketing Group to help them raise the company's profile. Among the many services Savvy rendered for Geomagic is the following item:
Savvy was also hired to train key staff on media interaction in anticipation of a writer coming to shadow the company for a week. The CEO and her team did a superb job to land not only an extensive and poignant cover story, but also Fu being named Inc. Magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year.
Unless Savvy was taking credit undue to them, we can conclude that Fu Ping's heart-to-heart conversation with John Brant was not as spontaneous as she would like us to believe, but a well planed business engagement. It also appears that John Brant had originally scheduled for a week-long session, contradicting what Fu Ping wrote in her book.

Christine: Why is Ping Fu the only "Victim"?

The following blog on Fu Ping affair was posted by Christine on Shanghai Shiok on June 30, 2013:
Why is Ping Fu the only “victim”?
I’ve been writing a memoir. For over a year, I've been hunched over my laptop, scrutinizing each paragraph, each line, each word that leaps from my head. A memoir is non-fiction, as close to the truth as you can get, and every day, I battle with memory, trying to get everything just right. At times my mind fails me, and when it does I throw a little tantrum and start sifting through the remnants of my past for anything — a photo, a letter — that will nudge those dusty shards of memory and make them whole. Sometimes, despite my best efforts, I have the nagging sense that something, some minor detail — a date, a color, a snippet of dialogue — is not quite right. Memory is faulty, after all, and all I and any memoirist can do is try our best to work through the jumbles of our lives and produce a narrative that makes sense. 
Which is why, when news first started popping up about the errors in Chinese-American entrepreneur Ping Fu's memoir Bend, Not Break, my heart went out to her. I hadn't read her book but it was on my to-read list — I've been a voracious reader of Cultural Revolution memoirs since I was a tween, and find personal accounts of those Maoist years painful, horrific, yet rewarding to read. What are these people so angry about? I wondered. Ping Fu has lived a long, hard life. Of course she didn't get every little thing right. But the more links I followed, the more I realized she wasn't being accused of things like mixed up sequences or composite characters or whether it was rainy or sunny that day. I’m not going into detail (you can read it here) but Chinese readers were accusing Fu of twisting and fabricating major events, including moments during the Cultural Revolution and a kidnapping in the US. The Guardian looked into it, and Fu conceded to some errors, including one bloody event that was likely an “emotional memory,” not fact. 
To me, her admission did cast doubt on the veracity of her book as a whole, but I wasn’t too invested or interested in the issue — I figured there’d be a new disclaimer in her book, end of story.  
But four months later, the controversy lives on.

Yesterday, the New York Times ran a column titled Cultural Revolution Vigilantes, that shakes its head at “the Chinese immigrant community” in the US who persistently refute the claims in Fu’s memoir. Apparently there is no consensus on whether her memoir is more fact or fiction, no verdict made as in the James Frey case (which is a very interesting comparison, but not to be explored in this blog post). Suzhou University’s statement against Fu seems to have changed few minds, and the mostly Chinese folks who criticize her are in turn condemned by Western reporters as a mob who can’t face the truth about the Cultural Revolution. Many, if not most of the comments on that NYT column, also refer to Fu’s detractors as a frenzied mass intent on squashing Fu because they can’t face up to their country’s past. It’s not a mere disagreement over Fu’s memoir, but a war between Westerners and Chinese over China’s history. 
I am not from China or America, but that NYT column is when I went from apathetic to very interested — because this controversy has turned into a highly racial one, with many Westerners in the pro-Ping camp and Chinese in the anti-Ping one. 
The pro-Ping camp seems to believe that, as quoted in the NYT, “there is almost no one in China willing to delve into the Cultural Revolution,” but isn't that what the anti-Ping camp is doing — digging into her history, their country's history, finding the history of so many others and comparing those experiences to Fu's? Millions tweet about the Cultural Revolution on Chinese microblogs, uncensored. China might not actively encourage public discussion of those years — Mao was only 30% wrong is the official refrain — but to say that Chinese people are ignorant and determined to smear and crush Fu in order to suppress the shame of the Cultural Revolution is a claim bordering on racist. 
Why Fu? Why is Ping Fu the only “victim” of these “vigilantes”? Why, out of the hundreds of Cultural Revolution memoirs published in the West by expatriated Chinese, has hers incited so much passion and rage? Why hasn't there been such campaigns against Jung Chang, Anchee Min, Ting-Xing Ye, Hong Ying, Yu Hua, Wenguang Huang, etc.? 
And have any of these writers and others like them spoken up for Ping Fu? It would be a very powerful statement if someone other than a white male writer defended Fu, especially a fellow Cultural Revolution memoirist. 
The anti-Ping camp hasn’t done itself any favors by being overcommitted to the issue and campaigning for more than evidence and/or a retraction. The human flesh search, the desire to strip Fu of her honors, awards, and achievements, the call to petition the White House to look into her green card application — this drowns out the calmer voices. Why, asks the pro-Ping camp. Why this emotional vehemence? It makes us suspicious. It’s downright frightening.  
My husband tried to answer this question by pointing to Elie Wiesel. A few years ago, it was alleged that Wiesel was less than honest about his experiences during the Holocaust. “People were very worked up,” he said. “The very idea that someone could misrepresent something as devastating as the Holocaust… it was an outrage.” 
And maybe that’s the reason for this rage, this on-going controversy. The Chinese haven’t had much of an outlet to openly discuss their own devastating past. Now that they can, thanks to the Internet, maybe their desire for truth and outrage at falsehoods takes on a life of its own. 
In the end, I’m suspicious of Fu's book but don’t vilify it. What kept me up writing this post is how this became a disturbingly Western/Chinese divide… it’ll be interesting to see where the controversy goes.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Joe Nocera: Cultural Revolution Vigilantes

The following column on Fu Ping's affair was published on the Opinion Pages of New York Times by Joe Nocera:
Cultural Revolution Vigilantes 
Even now, nearly six months later — during which time has been flooded with hundreds of negative reviews condemning her; a Web site was set up attacking her; and her friends and colleagues have been bombarded with e-mails denouncing her — it is a little hard to understand why Ping Fu’s memoir, “Bend, Not Break,” has aroused such fury in some quarters of the Chinese immigrant community. 
Fu, 54, came to America from China nearly 30 years ago. In 1997, she founded a company, Geomagic, that was recently sold for $55 million. In 2005, Inc. magazine named her entrepreneur of the year. On Saturday, she’ll be speaking at the American Library Association’s convention. 
In other words, Fu is the classic immigrant success story. You’d think that would be a source of pride for Chinese immigrants. Instead, she has been subjected to what they call in China a “human flesh search” — an Internet vigilante campaign designed to bring shame on its target. 
Fu’s mistake — if you can call it that — was to include in her memoir scenes of growing up during the Cultural Revolution, China’s decade-long descent into madness. It was a period when people were routinely denounced and punished (and sometimes killed) for the crime of being an intellectual or teacher; when millions were sent to the countryside for “re-education”; and when teenagers ran rampant as “Red Guards” — all with the assent of Chairman Mao. It is impossible to read about the Cultural Revolution without conjuring up “Lord of the Flies.” 
Three decades later, there is almost no one in China willing to delve into the Cultural Revolution. The Chinese government does not exactly encourage discussion of the subject. It remains a deeply painful subject to those who lived through it. 
When I spoke to Fu recently, she told me that she had originally wanted to write a business memoir. But once she started writing, she realized that to explain the woman she is today, she needed to write about the girl she had been during the Cultural Revolution. A daughter of privilege, she was taken from her family in Shanghai when she was 8 and sent to live in a dormitory far away. She was raped by Red Guards when she was 10, she writes. She worked in factories and had to raise her younger sister. Although she says that she saw atrocities, she also writes about kindnesses that were afforded her. (Disclosure: I am currently writing a book for Portfolio, which published “Bend, Not Break.”) 
In China, a blogger named Fang Zhouzi, well known for his Internet denunciation campaigns, decided to attack her. Quickly, Amazon was flooded with one-star reviews denouncing her as a liar. Her critics, most of them Chinese immigrants, picked apart her story, and, though they found a few real errors, most of their criticism was highly speculative. Yes, they seemed to be saying, bad things happened during the Cultural Revolution, but they couldn’t have happened to Ping Fu. 
“School was interrupted a bit, but there was still school,” sniffed Cindy Hao, in attempting to refute Fu’s claim that she had worked in a factory. Hao, a Chinese-born journalist who lives in Seattle, has become one of Fu’s most vociferous critics. “Ping Fu made up her whole story,” she told me. 
(Note: Hao, a freelance translator whom the Beijing bureau of The New York Times uses on occasion, helped report an article by Didi Kirsten Tatlow. She says that she became a critic only after that article was published. She is no longer permitted to do reporting for the bureau.) 
You can’t spend time talking to Hao and other critics without thinking that the real issue here is not whether Fu’s book has errors, but rather who gets to tell the story of the Cultural Revolution — or even whether it should be told at all. Roderick MacFarquhar, an expert on the Cultural Revolution who teaches at Harvard, told me that for anyone who lived through it, the memories are ones they would prefer not to conjure up. “If you were a teenager in China during the Cultural Revolution, you were likely either being beaten up or were doing the beating. Either way, it is humiliating to think about.” Yes, Ping Fu’s book has mistakes in it. But it is hard to see how they justify the level of extreme, unrelenting vilification she has suffered. Her real sin, it appears, is that she stirred a pot most Chinese would prefer to leave alone. 
In recent months, Hao tried to get Ping Fu disinvited from speaking at the American Library Association convention. In one letter, she described Fu as lacking “honesty, integrity and trustworthiness.” 
From where I’m sitting, it sounds a lot like the denunciations that were so routine, and so awful, during the Cultural Revolution.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Rod Mackenzie: Unwanted Dirty

The following review of Fu Ping's Bend, Not Break, was published on June 3, 2013 on the thought leader blog in two parts:

‘Unwanted, dirty’ – reading a Chinese woman’s memoir (I) 
How everything is already memory. His broken hand cradled, cupped and listened to as its slow bones knit back. The wonder of watching his fingers and palm go through their re-blooming: the fingers learning again to outstretch, then bunch up like an evening blossom that closes at dawn. Over coffee in autumn by a cafe window, reading Ping Fu’s Bend, Not Break, he thinks, did my suddenly dead mother ever cradle me? What was that like? 
And the fallen leaves squabbling outside, toddlers abandoned by mothers. 
Ping Fu emerges in Bend, Not Break in the way so many Chinese women do in my memory. This is because I lived and taught in mainland China for seven years. Sometimes, in college classes, students and I discussed romance and love poetry. Some of the giggly or over-solemn woman students, with petal hands cupping mouths, declared to me no man had ever, ever touched their lips. Only mother can kiss my mouth. These are twenty year olds. Theirs was the lightning of unseen sexuality, only seen in the glow in eyes, flamingos arcing through irises, darting in confusion at attractive young men. 
And the same glow at dusk on fields and willows, huge hands opening their secrets, singing, we surprised you, come surprise us! 
Bend, Not Break has the vulnerability and passion many good Chinese memoirs have. (Memoirs about life in China written by Chinese seem only written by women, at least in translation. At least, I have never come across ones written by Chinese men. This seems to correlate with the fact the women bore the greater burden of suffering, being the child bearers in the post-Mao era that dealt with forced abortions and a culture that slaughtered or abandoned female babies in favour of the prized male heir.) I hesitate to say this, but you cannot truly feel the ache in Ping Fu’s words, that particular Chinese knowledge of suffering, unless you have lived for a good while in China. Without that intimacy, Bend, Not Break can almost be seen as another “rags to riches” (and from China to America) story. 
Ping is raised in Shanghai before and during the Cultural Revolution by parents she was to painfully discover, as a child, were her uncle and aunt. This occurred because she was accused of being a child of ancestral wealth, not poverty, by the young Red Guards, and evicted from her home as a little girl to go alone by train to nearby Suzhou, where her biological parents lived in “politically correct” poverty, whom she knew slightly and only as uncle and aunt. 
I came to know some Chinese, including students, who had similar backgrounds. They just gave me glimpses of their autobiographies, then clammed up, or deflected the painful subject with humour. For Chinese, laughter is a way of distancing themselves from uncomfortable situations. They have a gift for laughter, for the simplest things. This comes from early in the memoir, poignant because of what was soon to come, Ping’s suffering and abandonment: 
“Shanghai Papa [who was soon to turn out to be Ping’s uncle] ran a factory that made thread. When he came home at night, he would enter the front gate and call out, ‘Sweetheart, I’m home!’ Shanghai Mama would come running, her footsteps quick and light. I liked to stick my head out from the second-floor balcony to spy on them in the courtyard below, hugging and kissing. Then, when they came walking up the stairs inside the house hand in hand, I would jump on them. They made a game of fighting to see who could catch me first … theirs was the happiest marriage I have ever known.”

A few pages later I shuddered as I read young Ping’s description of the Red Guards arriving to wrench her away: “Suddenly I heard a crash echoing from the courtyard below … soon I could hear shouting, then my mother’s voice, soft but broken.” Well, any compassionate person would shiver, especially parents, foster or otherwise. But I am being autobiographical here; I came to love teaching Chinese children of Ping’s age (her name means Apple) and came to know some of them quite well as I taught them for two years. Though many I taught in Suzhou were deeply happy, they came from very poor backgrounds. To give you an idea, in a quiz on teaching household names and room names, I drew a picture of a line of laundry, explained the term and asked, “In which room does this belong?” All the kids in that class insisted the laundry line was hung up in the bedroom (which the family shared) or the kitchen. They could not conceive of laundry hanging anywhere else. Apple-like faces staring up at me in innocent and firm conviction; children unnervingly ripe to join another Red Guard with their certitudes about the world. 
Ping, by comparison, came from a very wealthy home and the Red Guard found her hiding in the home’s library sanctuary, never mind the laundry. The library was her favourite place, a womb filled with her parents’ cherished books. To many in the Red Guard, their home in Shanghai would have been an obscene extravagance. Education was despised, held in suspicion, and soon many of those books were burned or even used as toilet paper. Our little Apple was despised, called a “black blood” and forced to go to Suzhou, not to actually live with her real parents there, but to live in a “prison” dormitory for Mao-style “re-education”. She slept in an unfurnished room along with her newly found younger sister, Hong, who had been living with their biological parents. The utter poverty and despair in which the two girls lived makes one wonder how they survived. Ping makes it reasonably clear that having a sister even younger than her is what kept her going, someone to care for, a reason outside herself to live … 
‘Unwanted, dirty’ – the 'fictitious' gang rape (II)  
Bend, Not Break largely shifts between Ping’s nightmarish childhood and her adult life in the US. In America she grows, step by painful step, into a successful businesswoman in the software industry. Before this, sometime after the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese government demanded she leave China. This is because of the “innocent” research she was conducting into China’s then new One Child Policy and the effects of secret abortions of female babies because parents wanted only the prized male, particularly in rural areas. China has never taken well to any research depicting her ugly side, no matter how well intended. 
The constant shifting from Ping the child in China to Ping the adult in the US is striking and effective (skilfully edited by her co-writer, MeiMei Fox). The growth of the child Ping is in many respects mirrored by the growth of the adult Ping. The switches from childhood to adulthood anecdotes mimics the difficulty with which Ping deals with repressed memories, with her deep sense of unworthiness as a woman because of the horrors she endured as a child, especially her gang rape at the age of ten. She did not know at the time it was rape. Her own words are the best and I need not give away the “reason” for the gang rape, as, of course, there is no reason or excuse: 
“Then, suddenly, the beating turned into something else — something I couldn’t quite grasp. ‘Take off her clothes,’ someone ordered. I fought with all my might, but I found that I could no longer move my legs … I’d been attacked by a pack of hungry wolves … I could not hear. I could not scream … all I could do was feel the boys cutting my clothes off … ” 
Ping was utterly ignorant of what was done to her for many years. This vividly reminds me of some university students I’d taught who had had no sex education and were utterly “chaste” (see previous blog). And Ping definitely could not cope with the fact that she was blamed for the violence done to her. “I felt unwanted, dirty, unworthy.” These were among the repressed memories that came up during a retreat session run by Grinnell Leadership when she was CEO of her American-based company, Geomagic. 
She realised that all her life she had subconsciously regarded herself as “a ruined woman”, and even rejected by her own country, China. She learned to acknowledge there were many memories she battled to name, “hidden away in that broken girl”. 
The way the memoir moves back and forth from Ping’s childhood growth to her adult growth is deft and shows how memories, repressed or conscious, inform so much of what we do. She goes from waitress to CEO. Ping’s depiction of her life in the tough business world of the US, the dotcom era, the development and marketing of Geomagic’s unique 3D software applications and the massive out-of-court settlements, is superbly handled. (Among her public achievements, she received a Woman of the Year award from Business Leader magazine.) This side of the memoir is informative, caveat reading for the wannabe or seasoned entrepreneur. 
But I have not focused on Ping the entrepreneur here. A terse summary of her American and an international business experience is this apt quotation Ping uses from a business colleague, Reid Hoffman: entrepreneurship is where “you jump off a cliff and you assemble an airplane on the way down”. Though Ping Fu became very “successful” in the way the American Dream deems success to be, she came within an inch of bankruptcy on more than one occasion. 
My core experience of this haunting memoir is that the rape produced the woman. An admirable woman who got to know the Obamas and became a very successful employer who wanted the best for her employees. This is, of course, not to glamorise what was done to Ping. But it is easier to see how young Ping the carer of her sister became the carer of so many employees. The title of the memoir refers to plants that her Shanghai papa taught her were the friends of winter (hard times) because of their resilience, and one is bamboo. 
I am aware of the scathing criticism (especially, unsurprisingly, from China) that Ping did not experience certain “atrocities” (the word rape is avoided), and that she may be withdrawing these “atrocities” as “inaccuracies” from the next edition of her memoir. No one can ultimately decide what did or didn’t happen for Ping. And does not this censorship remind one of the women (and men and children) who have kept the violation and shame done to them “a secret”? That — somehow, somehow — the public outrage vented for exposing the “secret” outweighs that which is perpetrated against the woman or child? Do deeply repressed “memories” have the risk of only being fictions? Merely the way in which things become already remembered? How can victims be healed of this when they are uncertain their experiences were genuine? 
The denial of the violations done to Ping as a child in the Seventies in Suzhou (how can her critics know?) reminds me of the continued “repression” of the facts of the Nanjing Massacre, a horror, including endless rape, perpetrated by Japanese soldiers. Both Chinese and Japanese authorities alike are mostly silent about the massacre. This holocaust is documented in Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nanking. Like Ping Fu, Iris Chang met considerable resistance and took personal risk in standing up for the dead victims; she became so obsessed with championing their cause and the plight of women in China she became deeply depressed, increasingly isolated and committed suicide. Ping Fu also often contemplated taking her life after it was essentially destroyed for her. But she lives, and offers us a brave, vulnerable, beautifully crafted memoir.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Broken Fact: Fu Ping's Early Years as CEO of Geomagic

The Original Story
In Bend, Not Break, Fu Ping spends many pages telling the story how she co-founded Geomagic with her then husband. She describes some of the difficulties and triumphs in those years when she served as the company's CEO.

On Page 170:
In the spring of 1999, after establishing Boeing and Mattel as launch partners, Geomagic had raised $6.5 million in venture capital funding from Franklin Street Partner's Paul Rizzo, the legendary CFO and vice chairman of IBM. At that time we already had an additional private placement of $1 million from a friends-and-families round in 1997, the year Herbert and I founded the company...
She then described how she was slighted at the Phoenician hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona, while "attending a prestigious technology conference," where she found her name tag read "Mr. Ping Fu."
"Excuse me," I said, clearing my throat. "My badge should read 'Ms.'" 
"Only the CEO of Geomagic is registered for the conference," she replied politely, glancing up from her paperwork, "Spouses are not invited to the meeting, though you are welcome for the social hour, of course." 
"I am the CEO," I corrected her. "I am Ms. Ping Fu."
Her situation was quickly rectified. But she learned a lesson (Page 173):
Clearly, I was the wrong person to run a company. I needed a tall, smart, charming white guy to take charge of Geomagic...
She found such a person in Jon Fjeld [misprinted as Jon Field in the book]:
Impressed with his qualifications and personality, the board and I hired Jon to serve as president and CEO of Geomagic in the spring of 2000. With a sigh of relief, I stepped down to assume to role of chief technology officer while still serving as chairman of the board.
Jon Fjeld's tenure was a disaster and he left Geomagic in December, 2000. Fu Ping had to step in and make a heroic effort to save the company. Later, she had a heart-to-heart conversation with Jon that included this verbal dress-down (Page 195):
Over lunch, I told Jon, "At the time you left, I was really disappointed and scared. I and the other members of the board of directors couldn't believe that you'd abandon our sinking ship. I felt trapped because we had $6.5 million in cash and no debt when I handed you the company, and you returned it to me with $4 million in losses, no new revenue, and little cash to survive on...
The Debunking
Co-founding Geomagic is one of most significant events in Fu Ping's life. But just as several other such events in her book, she could not help to falsify facts to her advantage. In this case, all we have to do is to look at an official record.

On September 1, 1998, Geomagic published a press release titled "Geomagic, Inc. Appoints Jon Fjeld President and CEO," which announced:
Champaign, I.L., September 1, 1998 - Geomagic, Inc., a privately held supplier of 3D physical modeling technology founded in Champaign, Illinois, today announced the appointment of Jon Fjeld, 46, to the position of president and chief executive officer. Fjeld, highly regarded in technology circles for his vision and leadership, will be responsible for managing all aspects of the business operation. Focusing on building a solid and fast-growing software company, Fjeld will run the company from its soon-to-be-opened worldwide headquarters at Research Triangle Park in North Carolina.
The appointment was also reported in local media at the time. In his own LinkedIn profile, Jon Fjeld also listed his experience as President & CEO at Geomagic from 1998 to 2000.

So, if Jon Fjeld was the CEO from September, 1998, why did Fu Ping state his hiring as "in the spring of 2000," a year and half later? Just so that she could still claim herself as the CEO at the Arizona conference in 2000?

Geomagic was founded in 1997. It was barely one year old when Jon Fjeld came on board. According to her own story, the major breakthroughs with their initial clients, Boeing and Mattel, which led to the venture capital funding, all happened in 1999. After Jon Fjeld had well established his leadership position in the company.

Of course outsiders could not know exactly who played what role in these accomplishments in a private company. Maybe Fu Ping still did all the work while Jon Fjeld was just a puppet. But even if that was the case, how could Fu Ping speak to Jon Fjeld in their lunch as "...when I handed you the company..."?

Fu Ping has misstated Jon Fjeld's hiring date and most likely omitted his positive contribution. That whole lunch meeting scene, which was written extensively in direct quotes, is probably entirely made up.

Fu Ping's Explanation
On May 27, 2013, Fu Ping responded to a question in Amazon forum by posting the following correction:
Good catch on our mistakes on the timeline. Unfortunately I caught them only after the hardcover was out. These have been corrected and they will show up in paperback print. 
Jon was CEO of Geomagic from 9/1998 to 12/2000, I was the CTO during these years. Otherwise I was the CEO. 
I think this correction covers all of the references you found.  
The conference I described, which you didn't find the reference, happened on Jan 5, 2008 (not Jan. 2000). It has been corrected also in paperback.
As we saw above, this is clearly not a simple case of misstated timeline, as Fu Ping's belated correction purported. The stories she told in Bend, Not Break are organically dependent of it. Reshuffling this timeline would render her decision of hiring Jon Fjeld as well as her later lunch meeting meaningless. So, it will be very interesting to see how the stories are reshaped in the upcoming paperback edition.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

SCMP: Chinese College Threatens Libel Suit Against US Author Ping Fu

The following report was published by South China Morning Post on June 14, 2013:
Chinese college threatens libel suit against US author Ping Fu
Wu Nan in Beijing

Chinese-American author Ping Fu may soon be hit by international lawsuits for her controversial memoir Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds, which has been debunked by Chinese academics and critics. 
Fu’s alma mater, Soochow University in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, said on Friday that anecdotes in her memoirs, in which she makes claims that during her time at the university she was arrested for her college research, were “falsehoods” and called on the author to participate in a public debate to clarify the details. 
The university said that if Fu failed to respond and apologise, it would file libel lawsuits both in China and the United States against her. 
“These falsehoods have given both our school and country a poor reputation and caused our alumni and friends to feel deeply incensed,” Soochow University said in a statement. 
The university said earlier this week it had formed an investigation team to examine the controversial book, published in February, after it had received several inquiries from university alumnis and media on the memoir. A staff member of Soochow University told the South China Morning Post that the investigation had gone on for about three months and they would hold a press conference next week to announce the results, with Fu’s then teachers on hand to answer questions from the public. 
The Post first reported in February the doubts raised by academics and readers buying Fu’s book, who questioned the dramatic details in her memoir including what she called the “twisted cultural revolution experience” of studying at Soochow University. One of her controversial anecdotes claimed school officials conducted intrusive physical checks on female students’ periods, supposedly for birth control purposes. 
Other shocking claims in Fu's book include that she was sent to a labour camp at age 8 or 9 with her younger sister during the Cultural Revolution, tortured, gang-raped, and forced into child labour. 
In a 2010 interview with NPR, Fu said that she had, during the Cultural Revolution, witnessed Red Guards execute a teacher by tying each her limbs to horses and having them tear the teacher into pieces, done specifically to frighten the kids into submission.
Heated debate ensued when China’s well-known academic “liar hunter”, Fang Zhouzi, publicly challenged the accuracy and consistency of Fu’s memoirs, after the computer scientist and author conducted interviews with US media in which she occasionally changed details of her claims. Hundreds of Chinese netizens supported Fang’s campaign against the memoir, many of them leaving angry messages on the Amazon page for her book.  
Although she said that she was “shocked, heartbroken and deeply saddened by the smear campaign”, Fu later retracted some of the statements she had made to the media. 
Fu, 55, also responded to critics that her book was an autobiography and that her memories could be wrong. She was backed by her publisher Portfolio, Penguin’s business book imprint. 
Fu, a successful entrepreneur who has served on the US National Advisory Council for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, published her memoir during the time she was appointed Chief Strategy Officer of 3D Systems earlier this year. 
She declared that her story was of a life straddling two worlds in China and America, which she billed as “one person’s journey from nobody to somebody”. 
“It reflects how my past experiences influenced who I am today and how I make decisions as an entrepreneur,” she wrote. 
However her alma mater college Soochow University investigated the memoir by reviewing student records in their archives and interviewing her Fu’s teachers and classmates. They claim this investigation has confirmed facts that contradict details in the book – including records of her attendance at the university without earning a degree, records that she studied English as part of the curriculum, and that there was no enforcement of birth control measures on undergraduate students. 
“This university ultimately concludes that Ping Fu’s relevant narrative in her memoir is factually inaccurate and has damaged the image of Soochow University,” said Soochow University. “(We) reserve the right to take further action.”

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Document: Suzhou University's Press Briefing

The following is the content of a press briefing held by Suzhou University on June 20, 2013, delivered by Chen Jinhua (陈进华), a spokesman for the school. Fu Ping's teacher Ni Junqiang (倪均强) and classmate Hu Zhenfang (胡振芳) at the school also spoke at the press conference.

Besides the falsehood already exposed and documented on this site, this briefing included several pieces of new information from her file record at school, written in her own handwriting:
  1. Fu Ping had attended Nanjing Guanghuamen High School and graduated in 1976. She served as a class monitor there. 
  2. After high school, she did work in a factory for a year, before passing the national exam in 1978 to attend Suzhou University.
  3. Fu Ping had joined the Chinese Communist Youth League in 1973, a political honor that was even more restrictive than becoming a member of the Red Guard. 
The English language version is based on the translation by several readers who participated in the Amazon forum (Lanlan Wang, Sue Rogers, and American).

Update (7/21/2013): Suzhou University has now released images of the relevant files.
Soochow University's Press Briefing on Deceptive Behavior of Ping Fu 
Ladies and Gentlemen, 
In the last 3 months, many of our alumni and friends at home and abroad have contacted us regarding the validity of an English language memoir, Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds, written by Ping Fu, a former student enrolled in our Department of Chinese Literature in 1978, and published on December 31, 2012. We were informed that this memoir contains  descriptions that contradicted with actual facts at the time. It insults the reputation of Soochow University as well as the image of our country and caused deep disappointments and anger among our alumni and friends. 
Upon the notifications and information received by us, Soochow University organized an investigation team to carefully examine Ping Fu's student file in our archive, to interview Ping Fu's former teachers and classmates, to collect original copies of the book, proof of her falsifying academic credentials, and other evidences of her real experience while in our school. We have previously published two official statements, both in Chinese and English, on the homepage of our school's web site. 
We thank all the friends from the media who travel here and your attention to this important matter concerning the reputation and image of our school and country. Now, let me explain several points regarding Ping Fu's memoir in which she presented false experience while in our school and related issues. 
1. About Ping Fu's academic experience in Soochow University 
Ping Fu, female, born in 1958, a native from Nanjing, was admitted as a student in Chinese Literature in September 1978 into Jiangsu Teachers' College (predecessor of Soochow University). During her undergraduate years, a demerit entry was made in her record in October 1981 for several infractions and repeated unexcused absences. In those years, all students enjoyed free tuition, living experience, and guaranteed jobs upon graduation provided by the national government. They were therefore expected to follow certain standards and discipline in school. On March 16, 1982, upon strong request froms her and her mother, Ping Fu formally withdrew from school. She left without BA diploma or bachelor degree from Soochow University, let alone an MA degree. However, Ping Fu claimed that she had BA and MA degrees from the Soochow University, and Ph.D degree from Nanjing University on several occasions. We have inquired Nanjing University which confirmed that Ping Fu was not in their PhD grantee list. 
Ping Fu wrote in her book that she entered Soochow University when she was 19 years old. Yet, according to her registration form filled by herself, she was born on May 30th, 1958, which indicates that she should be 20 years old when she registered at Soochow University in October, 1978. 
Ping Fu entered the Department of Chinese Literature in October, 1978. At that time, the national college entrance exams are conducted separately for liberal arts and science students. The liberal arts students took exams in Chinese, Math, Politics, History, Geography, and Foreign Language. The science students took those in Chinese, Math, Politics, Physics, Chemistry, and Foreign Language. Scores for Foreign Language were not included in the admission criteria however. Our records show that Ping Fu was admitted into the Chinese Literature major per her first choice. There was no evidence that she had wanted to study Space Engineering but got assigned for Chinese Literature.

2. About her English classes from 1978 to 1982 
In her memoir, Ping Fu claimed that she went to the U.S., knowing only three English words - "hello, thank you, and help." Our records show that she earned an "Excellence" grade and an 88 (of 100) in English as a freshman (1978 to 1979) and as a sophomore (1979 to 1980), respectively. In both cases her scores were above average of her class. English was a mandatory course for all our students.  
3. About Ping Fu's Graduation Thesis 
Ping Fu withdrew from this University in March, 1982, so her name is not in the list of graduates of that year. There is no graduation thesis in her file. On the departure check list which was signed by each graduate, there is no record indicating that she received any graduation or degree certificate. 
As an additional note of clarification, student thesis topics in the Department of Chinese Literature have always focused on literature and linguistic topics and would not involve social subjects such as female infanticide. Besides, topics and contents of graduation thesis required pre-approval by advisory teachers. We have found no teacher aware of Ping Fu having written a thesis on that subject. 
In her book Ms. Ping Fu wrote that she was arrested and interrogated by university officials  because she had participated in a "Red Maple Society," been the chief editor of its magazine, and published her own articles. There was indeed a Red Maple Society, but there was no one among the class 78 students who was arrested or persecuted for being a member of that organization. In fact, the University had no power to arrest or interrogate students. We have two professors who were key members of Red Maple Society back then. They have been working in this University until today. If they were persecuted, how could we keep them as teachers after graduation and later became professors? 
Ping Fu also wrote about a representative from Red Maple Society was received by Deng Xiaoping during a private meeting. This is completely untrue. Had that actually happened, the University would have recorded and hailed it as a great honor. 
4. Finger Checking for pregnancy 
According to many faculties of SooChow University, including former classmates, mentors, officials in the department of Chines literature of Ping Fu's, and many students from her class, the school had never applied the insulting method of checking female students' period with fingers. Some of the female students from that time who are working in our school now can testify to that. 
5. About the kidnapping in fall of 1982 on S.U campus, in a black head cover. 
Ping Fu mentioned in her book that, "One day in the fall of 1982, as I innocently walked across campus making preparations for graduation, someone sneaked up behind me, jammed a black canvas bag over my head..." As a matter of fact, Ping Fu had dropped out in March of 1982. So, how could she walk on campus to prepare her thesis in that fall? Even all her former classmates had already graduated and left school by then.  
6. About Ping Fu made up life story in Cultural Revolution in her book 
From the registration record in Ping Fu's own handwriting, we know that she had completed formal middle level education. She graduated from Nanjing Guanghuamen High School in 1976. She was the class president. In 1973, she joined the Chinese Communist Youth League. After her high school graduation in July, 1976, she worked for a year in Nanjing Radio Equipment Factory for a monthly salary of 17 Yuan. In 1978, the acceptance rate for college admission was very low. It's hard to imagine one could be admitted without decent grades in high school. This proves that many of her description in Bend, Not Break during that period were made up.
In summary, It is very clear that Ping Fu lied about her life relevant to Soochow University in her book. We have several of her former teachers and classmates here. They will answer your questions and tell you the actual facts. We will not comment or answer any questions on events unrelated to our school as we have not investigated them. 
Although Ping Fu never graduated from Soochow University, she was nonetheless one of our students and alumni. So, for the sake of love and care, and for the reputation of our university, the best way to resolve this issue is to show the historical truth. This will also benefit Ping Fu herself in the long run. We once again call on Ping Fu to thoroughly acknowledge and rectify her lies, remove falsified content from her book, stop media interviews and speeches promoting her book, apologize to the people and institutions, including Soochow university, that she had hurt. At the same time, we call on publishers and media to take historical facts seriously and maintain professionalism, ethics, and integrity. We also appeal to our media friends, who came here today from home and abroad, to objectively report Ping Fu and her relevant issues based on fact and truth. 
I will make the manuscript of this speech available to any reporters after the meeting. Please note, however, that PDF files containing evidences are not to be disclosed at this time.

Thank you.

近期,关心我校发展的海内外校友们和朋友们,以来函来电方式,反映或提及了我校中文系78级学生傅苹撰写的,2012年12月31日正式出版的回忆录《弯而不折:一段生命两个世界》(Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds)中,有多处与当时事实完全不相符合的文字表述,有辱于国家形象和苏州大学的办学名誉,引起了海内外校友和朋友们的极大不满和愤慨。 
三. 关于傅苹毕业论文的问题 
四. 关于“手指检验”是否怀孕的问题 
综上所例,傅苹《回忆录》中涉及苏州大学的说谎内容应该非常清楚了。今天也有傅苹当年的老师、同学在场,他们会接受大家的提问,告诉大家真实的情况。 至于苏州大学以外的内容,我们没有调查研究,不予评论也不便回答提问。 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Broken Fact: The Number of Mosaic Downloads

The Original Story:
On Page 105 of Bend, Not Break, Fu Ping stated the success of Mosaic browser as:
In total, two million users downloaded versions of the software during its first year.
The Debunking:
Two million users is an astonishingly large number, considering that the Internet has not yet been popularized in 1993. Only relatively few technically savvy users could discover this tool through the  then-primitive online forums. Indeed, NCSA, where the browser was born, was far more modest in its her own account:
NCSA offered Mosaic free from its website, and soon more than 5,000 copies were being downloaded each month; the center was receiving hundreds of thousands of email inquiries a week, and Internet traffic was dramatically rising.
5,000 per month makes 60,000 a year. A really remarkable number at the time, but a far cry from the "two million" in Fu Ping's fantasy.

Is this a mistake similar to her part-time earnings in San Diego?

Questionable Fact: The Origin of the Mosaic Browser

The Changing Story:
In Bend, Not Break, Fu Ping did not directly describe how the idea of Mosaic browser was originated. But she gave conflicting accounts in her media interview.

In 2006, while interviewed by Kathleen Schalch on NPR, she stated that Marc Andreesen did not know the concept of browser when she introduced the idea:
SCHALCH: This may sound far-fetched, but Fu is serious. And she's come up with some pretty good ideas in the past. She once led a research team at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. One of the graduate students she hired was Mark Andreesen.  
Ms. FU: And he didn't like mathematics. So he asked me what project could he work on. I said how about a browser? He said, what browser? I said, well, a browser is a graphic use interface from which people can access text, images, songs, videos, whatever, and then he said, cool.  
SCHALCH: That's how Netscape was born.
She repeated the same tale in 2010 in a speech at UNC:
I just happened to hire this student his name is Marc Andreessen. He didn't really want to work in heavy math and wanted something simpler. So I said, "how about a browser?" He said, "what browser?" So we talked about a multi-media browser.
But lately in January, 2013, she seems to be pulling back when interviewed by Leopard Lopate on WNYC:
Lopate: How did you get involved with the Mosaic browser? 
Fu: I was at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. I hired this student whose name is Marc Andreessen. We were doing supercomputing applications at the time. Marc and some other younger programmers came to me with this idea of writing a browser. I supported them to do that.
The Debunking:
Although Mosiac turned out to be revolutionary, the idea of the browser was not new even at that time. A few earlier products already exist, but not in the multi-media and fully graphic form as Marc Andreessen eventually created.

Fu Ping seems to be taking credit of planting the idea of browser in Andreessen's head in her earlier interviews but somehow acknowledged it being Andressen's own idea in 2013. We may never know the full truth here, but suffice to say that Fu Ping seems to be the only person insisting her own contribution in this historical breakthrough.

Questionable Fact: Fu Ping's Position in NCSA and Mosaic Project

The Original Story:
One of the intriguing highlights in Fu Ping's story was her proclaimed role in the development of Mosaic browser, which eventually became part of the foundation of the modern Internet in the forms of Netscape, Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc. In Bend, Not Break, she recalls on Pages 103-104:
In 1992, I received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and was able to hire a few students to work with me at NCSA. One of them was Marc Andreessen, a witty, upbeat, and extremely bright undergraduate who had done some user interface programming in Austin, Texas, as a summer intern at IBM. We talked about building a browser, which is a graphic user interface to manage our public domain Web site at NCSA.
The Later Story:
In her speech at UNC in 2010, Fu Ping elaborated a little further on her position in that project:
We had a 40 million dollars annual budget and I was managing 10 million dollars in industrial relationship and 30 million federal government. So, we could actually do anything we wanted. I just happened to hire this student his name is Marc Andreessen.
The Debunking:
On Page 178 of Bend, Not Break, Fu Ping was reflecting on her reluctance of taking leadership in the earlier years of Geomagic years after NCSA:
At some point during the early daylight hours, I had an epiphany: I had given the leadership of Geomagic away because I had been scared of taking responsibility for the $6.5 million we had raised. On the surface, I had been proud of myself for putting my ego aside to step down as CEO, but what really had been guiding me was fear.
You wouldn't expect someone who had previously managed tens of million dollars sweat so much for $6.5 million.

The invention of the Mosaic browser is something of technological legend and has been well documented in a variety of forms. Fu Ping's contribution or even her name has never been mentioned in all but very few historical records -- with those few only traced back to her own words.

When she joined NCSA, Fu Ping had barely graduated with an MS degree from UIUC. It would be hard to imagine that she was in a leadership position managing millions of federal funding. Indeed, Cindy Hao, who investigated this matter, provides the following information:
According to NCSA's public affairs coordinator, Ping Fu joined the center in April 1991. Her job classification was "visiting research programmer" until she took a leave for Hong Kong in 1994.  
A "research programmer" who provides a mentoring role to undergraduate students on the project sounds a lot more reasonable given her credential and experiences at that point.

UPDATE (7/20/2013): Fu Ping's Visiting Res Programer position at NCSA has now been officially confirmed by University of Illinois.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Document: Suzhou University Calls on Fu Ping to Retract her Lies

After the initial official statement disputing Fu Ping's claims, Suzhou (Soochow) University issued a followup today, calling for Fu Ping to retract her lies. The school states that they had been trying to contact Fu Ping for clarification but was unsuccessful and is now ready to have public dialog with her and/or her publishers, as well as potential lawsuits.
3、苏州大学愿意在有关中外媒体参加,包括她的出版商和关心此事的各方人士均可参加的场合与傅苹进行直接公开对话,以便澄清真相。 希望傅苹能够响应这样的要求,尽快与我们联系确定对话的时间和地点。联系方式为: Tel:0086-512-6522-0971 

The Second Official Statement regarding Ping Fu’s Deceptive Behavior

Since the release of our First Official Statement dated June 11 regarding Ping Fu’s deceptive statements in her publication about Soochow University, many have expressed interest in, and perhaps concern over, the issue, and some of the media and our alumni have written to enquire about our following moves. A number of individuals from the press have called up for interviews. We must say that, since the incident began, we have been trying to contact Ping Fu (a former undergraduate student who dropped out from our University) to inform her of our hope that she should face up to the criticism from the public, take back her words in her memoir and do justice to all those she has harmed. But Ping Fu has chosen to ignore us while she continues with her deceptive speeches and interviews, much to the indignation of the University’s faculty and students and all related parties at home and abroad. In these circumstances, Soochow University saw it as necessary to clarify our position on the issue. 
The First Official Statement has understandably drawn a lot of public attention worldwide. And to update all parties on our stand on the incident, Soochow University now follows up with its Second Official Statement. 
1.The University could have publicized related evidences in its First Official Statement, but given the fact that many of these evidences involve Ping Fu’s private study and life records at this University, we did not think it was yet time. However, we are willing to show them to the media and/or to other related parties and to make public the evidences when necessary. Ping Fu’s former advisor and fellow classmates at Soochow University are prepared to accept interviews with media both at home and abroad. 
2. Ping Fu should stand up and respond publicly to the facts. She must be honest with the Bachelor’s degree and Master’s credentials that she claimed to have received from Soochow University. The public has every reason to see her failure to respond and to show these documents as proof that she admits to having lied. 
3. In order to clarify matters, Soochow University is prepared for an open dialogue with Ping Fu, that could be attended by the media both at home and abroad as well as her publisher and other related parties. We hope that Ping Fu responds to our suggestion and contact us as soon as possible via:, or Tel: 0086-512-6522-0971. 
4. The University holds that Ping Fu must publicly apologize for her lies. If Ping Fu continues to ignore the University’s requests and suggestions that we have so far made, Soochow University will officially start taking legal action (the legal papers in preparation). In the mean time, we will publish an Open Letter on newspapers and through online websites both in China and the USA. Ping Fu must take back her lies and make apologies to the University. If Ping Fu fails to do what is required, Soochow University reserves the right to take legal action against her in both countries. 
5. We are disappointed to know that the American Library Association (ALA) will invite Ping Fu to address its 2013 Annual Conference on June 29 and promote her book to all 120,000 public libraries all over the USA. The ALA is a place of free speech and open discussion, but to have Ping Fu there for her rumors and lies is not just an insult to truth but a violation of American laws. We call on the ALA to cancel the invitation and stop promoting her book. Soochow University publicly denounces all arrangements that will involve slanders against us and, in case of a violation, will disclose all evidences of Ping Fu’s fraud.  
Soochow University
 June 14, 2013