Amy Chua talks to China’s Tiger Women

March 13, 2012

Have you forgotten the infamous Tiger Mother? Last year, I wrote several posts that focused on her and even did battle on this Blog and on Amazon with what I considered obsessed, anal Americans that accused Chua of child abuse and other horrible acts predicting her two daughters would need therapy in the future.

Well, Amy Chua is back, because the paperback of her memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, was released recently.

In addition, she has interviewed four of China’s most successful women entrepreneurs for Newsweek’s March 12, 2012 edition, and the same piece appears on The Daily Beast.


The paperback for “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” was released recently.

The four extraordinary Chinese tiger women Chua interviewed for Newsweek and The Daily Beast were Zhang Xin (a factory worker turned real estate billionaire), Zhang Lan (China’s premier celebrity restaurateur), Peggy Yu Yu (the founder of Dangdang, a leading online retailer in China) and Yang Lan (talk show host and co-owner of Sun Television Cybernetworks).

Although Amy Chua covers a number of topics in the Newsweek/Daily Beast piece, there is one theme these Chinese tiger women mention — children and education.

Amy Chua says, “Zhang Xin is a rags-to-riches tale right out of Dickens… At 14, she left for Hong Kong with her mother, and for five years she worked in a factory by day, attending school at night.”

Xin told Chua, “My mother drove me in school so hard.”

It would appear that having a real Chinese tiger mother paid off, since Forbes lists Zhang Xin as one of the 50 most powerful women in the world today.

“As a mother”, Amy Chua says, “Zhang remains more Chinese than Western. When her sons, now 11 and 13, get home from school, she makes them practice Chinese characters every day for two hours, rebuffing their pleas to go to friends’ houses or play soccer.”

Yang Lan tells Amy Chua, “The parent’s job is to help their children find their true passion … as long as they get a 90 or better (on school work), that’s all I ask.”

Yang says of the Chinese children known as little emperors, belonging to the billion spoiled brats of the one-child generation, that “These spoiled, children often study and drill from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. every day.”

In addition, Zhang Lan revealed that she was “a hard-driving mother, regularly threatening and spanking her son when he didn’t make top grades.” Today, “he has repeatedly said how grateful he is to her.”

The kicker to me was what Peggy Yu Yu said to Chua. “Working women in China have advantages over their American counterparts … at least in business, women and men in China operate largely on a level playing field.

“Sixty years of communism, ” Yu said, “did one really good thing: bring true equality between the sexes.”

To read more of Amy Chua, the infamous Tiger Mother, see In Defense of Tiger Mothers Everywhere, Amy Chua Responds to Tiger Mother Critics, Tiger Parents Saving America One Child at a Time, Amy Chua’s Suicide Critics and my Review of “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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On the trail of Dr Li Zhisui’s illusive Memories – Part 5/5

December 19, 2011

As you have discovered, while many in the West praised Dr. Li’s memoir of Mao as an accurate portrait of a manipulative egomaniac with little tolerance of dissent and a penchant for young women, the book was also criticized in China by those closest to Mao and by both eastern and western scholars of China.

In addition, many in the West have rejected or ignored what Dr. Li wrote about Mao and the famine during the Great Leap Forward.

According to some of the people that knew Mao best, most notably Dr. Li Zhisui, Mao was not aware that the situation amounted to more than a slight shortage of food.

Li wrote, “But I do not think that when he spoke on July 2, 1959, he knew how bad the disaster had become, and he believed the party was doing everything it could to manage the situation” Source: Answers.com

While many in the West believe most of what Li wrote of Mao in his memoir, those same people do not accept what Li says about the famine because to do so would be to admit Mao wasn’t the butcher of 20, 30, or 40 million people due to famine and starvation during the Great Leap Forward.

This is known as “cherry picking”, which is the act of pointing to individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position [opinion], while ignoring a significant portion of related cases or data that may contradict that position.

This is also called “confirmation bias“, which refers to a form of selective thinking that focuses on evidence that supports what believers already believe while ignoring evidence that refutes their beliefs. Confirmation bias plays a stronger role when people base their beliefs upon faith, tradition and prejudice.

An example of this comes from Hong Kong-based historian Frank Dikotter’s book on the great famine where he claims that Mao was responsible for the famine and did nothing to save lives.

The point I want to make is if the West accepts the revised and sensationalized English version of Li’s memoir of Mao as accurate, how can anyone dispute what Li said about Mao not knowing the extent of the Great Leap Forward famine?  By 1959, Dr. Li had been Mao’s physician for almost three years and according to author Troy Parfitt was with him daily and knew intimate details of Mao’s life.

On the other hand, if we accept that Dr. Li’s memory was wrong about Mao and the famine in 1959, how many other claims in his memoir of Mao are inaccurate?

In fact, it was mentioned in Mao’s Alleged Guilt in the Land of Famines that Dikotter sensationalized his book [as Random House did to Dr. Li's memoir of Mao] by increasing [inflating] the mortality numbers by 50% to allow for possible under-reporting and came up with a claim that 45 million died of starvation during the GLF famine when in fact, the numbers may have been much lower.

Is it possible that Mao’s image in the West has been unwittingly engineered by the media to be worse than it should be?

We know that memory is imperfect. Gore Vidal said, “A memoir is how one remembers one’s own life, while an autobiography is history, requiring research, dates, facts double-checked.” — from Palimpsest by Gore Vidal (Penguin, 1996).

In fact, “Memoir writers must manufacture a text, imposing narrative order on a jumble of half-remembered events.” — William Zinsser, “Introduction.” Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir. Mariner, 1998

However, in the case of China and/or Mao, many in the West do not trust what the Chinese claim unless told what they want to hear. Everything else is to be considered a lie.

Return to On the trail of Dr Li Zhisui’s illusive Memories – Part 4 or start with Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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On the trail of Dr Li Zhisui’s illusive Memories – Part 4/5

December 18, 2011

Troy Parfitt says, “To say Dr. Li Zhishui was bright, not to mention perceptive and articulate, would be an understatement. I would say he was exceptionally intelligent, and probably a gifted physician…  His book is mesmerizing, deftly penned, overflowing with interesting tidbits…”

However, Li cannot be credited with the “deftly penned” English edition of the memoir since the original manuscript written by Li was translated from his native Chinese into English by Professor Tai Hung-chao, before being edited by Thurston (whom Dr. Li later accused of cutting substantial parts of his original manuscript without his knowledge).

I was also told by a friend that read the Chinese language edition of the memoir that it reads as if it were an accountant’s ledger.

In addition, Professor Tai later said the English-language publisher, Random House, wanted more sensationalist elements to the book than that which Li had provided them, in particular requesting more information about Mao’s sexual relationships.

Despite Li’s own protestations, Professor Tai said the publisher overruled him, and put such sexual claims in the published text anyway.

Then there is the Open Letter published in April 1995, a statement protesting that many of the claims made in Li’s book were false and 150 people who had personally known or worked with Mao signed the letter.

Next there is Professor Frederick Teiwes, a western academic specializing in the study of Maoist China, who was also critical of Li’s memoir of Mao, arguing in his book “The Tragedy of Lin Biao: Riding the Tiger during the Cultural Revolution 1966-1971″ (1996) that despite Li’s extensive claims regarding the politics behind the Cultural Revolution, he was actually “on the fringe” of the events taking place in the Chinese government.

Continued on December 18, 2011 in  On the trail of Dr. Li Zhisui’s illusive Memories – Part 5 or return to Part 3

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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On the trail of Dr Li Zhisui’s illusive Memories – Part 3/4

December 17, 2011

In 1994, a year before his death, Dr. Li Zhisui published his memoir of Mao, The Private Life of Chairman Mao: The Memoirs of Mao’s Personal Physician.

Li based the book’s contents upon his own memories of Mao several decades after the actual events, as he had burned all of his personal diaries during the Cultural Revolution in case something he wrote about Mao might get him in trouble with the teenage Red Guard.

In 1988, Dr. Li left China for good with Lillian (his wife), who was suffering from kidney trouble, and joined their sons, Chong and Erchong, and daughter-in-law Mei, near Chicago.

His decision to set down his account of Mao’s private life was not easy since he had destroyed the 40 notebooks of his private diary during the Cultural Revolution—almost thirty years earlier.

It wouldn’t be until after Dr. Li’s wife died of kidney failure in 1989, that he would start writing the memoir. “In her last days in the hospital, before she slipped into a coma,” says Li, “she urged me to write this book…”

One of Li’s collaborators involved in editing and revisions of the memoir, the western historian Anne F. Thurston, noted that because of this, Dr. Li’s claims were “fallible” and might “be wrong”.

One of the many critics of Li’s memoir was Qi Benyu, a former member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China that was connected with the left wing of the Cultural Revolution Group and the red-guard power seizures of 1967.

Qi had no reason to love Mao since he was arrested and imprisoned at Mao’s order in 1968 and stayed in prison until 1986—a decade before Li wrote and published his memoir. Before prison, Qi spent several years near Mao and says he never heard any rumors of Mao having extra-marital affairs despite the fact that other senior Party members were known to have done this. Qi also said that most of the Cultural Revolution part of Li’s memoir consisted of information gleaned from newspapers, journals and other people’s writings.

Continued on December 17, 2011 in  On the trail of Dr Li Zhisui’s illusive Memories – Part 4 or return to Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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On the trail of Dr Li Zhisui’s illusive Memories – Part 2/4

December 16, 2011

Mao’s personal physician, Dr. Li Zhisui (1919 – 1995), attended West China Union University in Chengdu [now called Sichuan University], which is one of the oldest in China.

Soon after graduating from the university as a Western trained medical doctor in his mid twenties, Li fled China in the 1940s to escape the ravages and dangers of the Civil War and ended up working as a ship’s surgeon out of Sydney, Australia.

Then in 1949, “Madly enthusiastic about the Communist victory in 1949, he gives up a promising young career in Australia to take part in the efforts to rebuild China after a century of warfare and internal struggle…” Source: The Lecturn

Since Mao officially declared an end to the Cultural Revolution in 1969 [its active phase lasted until the death of the military leader Lin Bao in 1971], we may assume that Dr. Li returned to Beijing from the destitute village in Zhejiang Province and/or rural Jiangxi Province where he was sent in 1965 as part of the Socialist Education Program.

By this time, Dr. Li may have become a bitter man as we discover when we read his opinions in Around the Bend With Mao Zedong.

“As Dr Li presented it, the Socialist Education Program amounted to an elaborate waste of time … given the disparity between the living standards of the city people and the poor-beyond-all-imagination villagers.”

By now, Mao has held power for twenty years and Dr. Li has only been with him for eight of those years. That does not sound like someone that was with Mao every day he was in power.

How do we know that Li did not become Mao’s doctor until 1957?

“In 1995, a Chinese language book was published in Hong Kong (which at that time was independent from the People’s Republic of China), entitled Lishi de Zhenshi: Mao Zedong Shenbian Gongzuo Renyuan de Zhengyan (meaning The Truth of History: Testimony of the personnel who had worked with Mao Zedong).

Three people who had known Mao personally wrote the book: his personal secretary Lin Ke, his personal doctor from 1953 to 1957, Xu Tao and his chief nurse from 1953 to 1974, Wu Xujun.

The three authors argued in this Chinese language book [I understand this book never saw an English translation in the West] that Dr. Li did not only not know Mao very well, but that he presented an inaccurate picture of him in his book. The trio attack Li’s claim that he had been Mao’s personal physician in 1954, instead presenting copies of a document from Mao’s medical record showing that Li only took on the responsibility for caring for Mao on June 3, 1957.” Source: Wikipedia

Continued on December 16, 2011 in On the trail of Dr Li Zhisui’s illusive Memories – Part 3 or return to Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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On the trail of Dr Li Zhisui’s illusive Memories – Part 1/4

December 15, 2011

“Memory is imperfect. This is because we often do not see things accurately in the first place. But even if we take in a reasonably accurate picture of some experience, it does not necessarily stay perfectly intact in memory.

“Another force is at work. The memory traces can actually undergo distortion. With the passage of time, with proper motivation, with the introduction of special kinds of interfering facts, the memory traces seem sometimes to change or become transformed.

“These distortions can be quite frightening, for they can cause us to have memories of things that never happened. Even in the most intelligent among us is memory thus malleable.” — Source: Elizabeth Loftus

For an example of what professor Loftus is talking about, we learn about faulty memories from Amy Chua when she discussed the writing of her memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

“The book was in many ways a family project. Rubenfeld [Chua's husband] and their daughters read every draft and tried to reconcile their different memories. The final version reflects “four different sets of memories,” Chua said. “It was like family therapy.” Source: Stamford Advocate

During the debate with Troy Parfitt, the author of Why China Will Never Rule the World – Travels in the Two Chinas, Parfitt mentioned Dr. Li Zhisui’s memoir of Mao to support his opinions of Mao and China.

Parfitt wrote, “Mao’s personal physician, Dr. Li Zhishui (1919 – 1995), a man who knew Mao intimately and saw him nearly every day he was in power, wrote a 736-page biography about the ruler called The Private Life of Chairman Mao. In it, Li describes Mao’s thought-process as “prescientific,” adding that Mao himself was “incapable of love and devoid of human feeling.”

It may come as a surprise to those that read Dr. Li’s memoir of Mao that Li was only one of Mao’s doctors. In addition, he wasn’t with Mao every day he was in power as Parfitt claimed.

In fact, Dr. Li did not become Mao’s doctor until June 3, 1957, and Mao became the leader of China in 1949.

Then in 1965, eight years later, at the start of the Cultural Revolution, Dr Li was recruited into what was called the Socialist Education Program. He and those Sent Down with him were assigned to a destitute village in Zhejiang Province. Source: Around the Bend With Mao Zedong

Another source, Mao’s Last Revolution” by Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals, puts Dr Li in rural Jiangxi Province, so maybe he spent time in both provinces during the Cultural Revolution.

Continued on December 15, 2011 in On the trail of Dr Li Zhisui’s illusive Memories – Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Facts about Education — China and the world versus America – Part 2/3

July 29, 2011

Myth: “The United States Used to Have the World’s Smartest Schoolchildren.”

ANSWER: Ben Wildavsky says, “No, it didn’t. Even at the height of U.S. geopolitical dominance and economic strength, American students were never anywhere near the head of the class … the results from the first major international math test came out in 1967 … Japan took first place out of 12 countries, while the United States finished near the bottom …

If American’s ahistorical [unconcerned with or unrelated to history or to historical development or to tradition] sense of their global decline prompts educators to come up with innovative new ideas, that’s all to the good.  But don’t expect any of them to bring the country back to its educational golden age—there wasn’t one.”

Myth: “Chinese Students Are Eating America’s Lunch.”

ANSWER: “Only Partly True … China’s educational prowess is real. Tiger moms (such as Amy Chua, who wrote Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother) are no myth—Chinese students focus intensely on their schoolwork, with strong family support, but these results don’t necessarily provide compelling evidence of U.S. inferiority.”

Wildavsky then says that many of the students in rural China outside Shanghai (the only Chinese city where the PISA international test was conducted) are poorer and less educated than ‘China’s’ coastal cities …

(American) alarmist comparisons with other countries, Waldavksy says, whose challenges are quite different from those of the United States, don’t help.

He says, “Americans should be less worried about how their own kids compare with kids in Helsinki (Finland) than how students in the Bronx measure up to their peers in Westchester Country.”

Myth: “The U.S. No Longer Attracts the Best and the Brightest.

ANSWER:  “WRONG!”

While Wildavsky mentions that the U.S. should be concerned about the future, the U.S. college education system was (and still is) second to none since the United States has long been the world’s largest magnet for international students.

In fact, he says there are more foreign students in the United States now than there were a decade ago—149,999 more in 2008 than in 2000.

For international graduate study, Wildavsky says, American universities are a particularly powerful draw in fields that may directly affect the future competitiveness of a country’s economy: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Continued on July 29, 2011 in Facts about Education – Part 3 or return to Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

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