My Story and the Chinese Dream Behind It
In the past twenty years, China has faced three American presidents, but till coming to Yale today, I never realized that China really just faced one university. Although, through these three presidents, I understand that the quality of Yale graduates is not so even.
Let me begin my main subject and let me give it a title, called “My Story and the Chinese Dream Behind It”. I want to talk about five particular years. The first is 1968. That year I was born. But it was also a chaotic year for the world. In France, there was this huge street disturbance, and in America, too. Then President Kennedy was assassinated. However, I really did not cause all of these! But that year what we remember more was the assassination of Mr. Martin Luther King. Although he fell that year, his words “I have a dream” stood up, not only stood up in America, but across the whole world.
But sadly, not only for me, but for almost all Chinese, we did not know such a dream. It was hard to describe each Chinese as having his or her own dream. China and America were so far apart, no less far apart than the Moon and the Earth. But I didn’t care about any of that. All I cared about was could I have a full meal. Clearly, I was born at a very inconvenient time, not only for China, but even for the world, there were problems.
In 1978, ten years later, I was 10. I still lived in the very little city that had only 200 thousand people at the time I was born. It was 2000 km from Beijing. If you wanted to read the newspaper from Beijing, you waited three days. So for us, there was no such thing as news. That year my grandfather passed away. Two years before that my father passed away. So there was just my mother left to take care of me and my brother. Her monthly salary was not even ten dollars. As a result, even though I was 10, the word “dream” was still not in my vocabulary, and I would never think of it. I could not see hope in this family, but only felt bitter cold every winter. Where we lived was close to the Soviet Union. Yet the 1978 in which I could not see hope was also the year that a huge change took place, whether for China or for the relationship between China and America. That is a date that everybody here today should remember.
1978年，十年之后。我十岁，我依然生活在我出生的时候，那个只有二十万人的非常非常小的城市里。它离北京的距离有两千公里，它要想了解北京出的报纸的话，要在三天之后才能看见，所以对于我们来说，是不存在新闻这个说法。那一年我的爷爷去世了，而在两年前的时候我的父亲去世了，所以只剩下我母亲一个人要 抚养我们哥俩，她一个月的工资不到十美元。因此即使十岁了，梦想这个词对我来说，依然是一个非常陌生的词汇，我从来不会去想它。我看不到这个家庭的希望，只是会感觉，那个时候的每一个冬天都很寒冷，因为我所生活的那个城市离苏联更近。但是就在我看不到希望的1978年的时候，不管是中国这个国家，还有中国 与美国这两个国家之间，发生了非常巨大的变化，那是一个我们在座的所有人，今天都该记住的年份。
December 16, 1978, China and America officially established diplomatic relations. That was a big event. And two days after that, December 18 was when China opened the 3rd Plenary Session of the Eleventh CPC Central Committee. That was the beginning of thirty-one years of Reform and Opening. History, two great nations, and a very pitiful family all became intertwined in a theatrical way. Truthfully, from the small personal family, to the big family of the country, nobody then had any idea what the future would be like.
In 1988, I was 20. At this time I had already come out of the little border town to Beijing as a university student. Although we have many people in China today criticizing China’s university entrance exams and see many many deficiencies in it, it must be said that it is such a system that allowed very ordinary people like me to have the opportunity to change our lives. Of course, at that time, America was no longer a very distant country. It became very specific. It was no longer the “Imperialist America” of the past slogans, but it became the many details in our lives. This was the first time that I tasted Coca-Cola. When I finished drinking it I believed China and America were truly so close, because it tasted just like Chinese medicine.
1988年，那一年我二十岁。这个时候我已经从边疆的小城市来到了北京，成为一个大学生。虽然我们今天在中国依然有很多的人在抨击中国的高考的制度，认为它有很多很多的缺陷，但是必须承认正是高考的存在，让我们这样一个又一个非常普通的孩子，拥有了改变命运的机会。当然，这个时候美国已经不再是一个很遥远 的国家，它变得很具体，它也不再是那个过去口号当中的“美帝国主义”，而是变成了生活中很多的细节。这个时候我已经第一次地尝试过可口可乐，而且喝完可口 可乐之后会觉得中美两个国家真的是如此接近，因为它几乎就跟中国的中药是一样的。
That was a time when I took a crazy liking to rock’n'roll. That was a time when Michael Jackson still looked relatively handsome. More importantly, that was a time when China experienced very big transformations, as Reform and Opening had already gone on for ten years. That year, China began experimenting with market pricing for many goods. It may feel like something totally incomprehensible to you, but it was a big deal in China, a huge step, because before that the prices were decided by the government. But in that year, because price controls were relaxed, the whole country went on a crazy shopping spree. Everybody all thought, how long could this last, so they had to get a whole life’s worth of food and goods to bring home. That year symbolized that China marched closer and closer to a market economy.
Of course back then nobody knew that market economy could also have a subprime crisis. Anyway, I know that 1988 was an extra important year for Yale, because a Yale alum once again became an American President.
In 1998, I was 30. I had already become a news anchor at CCTV. More importantly, I had become the father of a one-year-old child. That year a very important thing happened between China and America, and the protagonist was Clinton. Perhaps you remember his sexual scandal in America, but in China what we remember is his visit to China that year. In June, when he visited China, he and President Jiang Zemin held an open press conference in the Great Hall of the People. Then he gave an open lecture at Peking University. The live anchor for both events was me.
During Clinton’s lecture at Peking University, because he used his own translator the whole time, I guessed that many Chinese viewers only knew that Clinton was definitely saying something, but what he said wasn’t all that clear. So near the end of my live broadcast, I remarked that it looked like for America to learn more about China, sometimes it needed to start with language, though for our two countries, face-to-face was always better than back-to-back. It was also at the beginning of that year that I drove the first car in my life. For me this was unimaginable before, that Chinese people one day would also drive their own cars. A personal delight can also make a lasting impression, because sometimes the first time is the most unforgettable.
In 2008, I was 40. The words “I have a dream” that haven’t been discussed for many years now were heard among so many Americans. It seemed like Obama really did not want to accept Yale’s 20-year occupation of America. Using words like “change” and “dream”, he even convinced Yale teachers and students to parade and celebrate his election to the Presidency, according to what I’ve heard.
But this was also a year in which the Chinese Dream showed clearly. After encountering many setbacks as any grand dream in the world is destined to, it came through. Whether it was the long-awaited Beijing Olympics, or the first spacewalk by a Chinese aboard the Shenzhou 7, these were all dreams which we have waited for a long time since a long time ago. But the sudden Sichuan Earthquake made all this not as magnificent as we had expected. Eighty-thousand lives departed, and made every day of 2008 seem like a year. I’m guessing that on Yale’s campus, on every web site, in front of television and newspapers, were also many people from China, and people in all parts of the world, who shed tears for these lost lives. Just like forty years ago when Mr. Martin Luther King fell but allowed the words “I have a dream” to stand higher, more enduring, and seem ever more valuable, more Chinese people also came to understand that dreams are important, but lives are even more so.
而这一年也是中国梦非常明显的一年。它就像全世界所有的伟大的梦想都要注定要遭受很多的挫折一样显现出来。无论是期待了很久的北京奥运会，还是神舟七号中国人第一次在太空当中行走，那都是很多年前我们期待了很久的一个梦想。但是，突如其来的四川大地震，让这一切都变得没有我们期待中的那么美好。八万个生命 的离开，让整个2008年中国人度日如年。我猜得到在耶鲁校园里头，在每一个网页、电视以及报纸的前面，也有很多的来自中国的人，以及世界各地的人们，为这些生命流下眼泪。但是就像四十年前马丁路德金先生倒下，却让“我有一个梦想”这句话站得更高，站得更久，站得更加让人觉得极其有价值一样，更多的中国人 也明白了，梦想很重要。但是生命更重要。
During the Olympics, I passed my own fortieth birthday. That day I was full of emotional thoughts, because when the day of my birthday approached, I was broadcasting an exciting competition. Twenty-four hours later, when my birthday was passing, I was still broadcasting. But that day I felt very fortunate. Because it was such a special fortieth birthday at the Beijng Olympics that made me realize the Chinese Dream behind my personal story.
It was in this kind of forty years that I went from a far-away border-town kid who had no possibility of having a dream, to a newsman who could be at a big festival celebrated with all of humanity and who could communicate and share the happiness with them. This was a life story that took place in China. And in this year, China and America were not far apart. There was a bit of me in you and a bit of you in me, we needed each other. It was said that President Bush spent the longest time in any country abroad as President, and that was during the Beijing Olympics. Phelps took eight medals there, and his family was there by his side. All Chinese wished that extraordinary family well. Of course, every dream will pass. In such a year, China and America almost simultaneously found their new “I have a dream” moment, and it was so coincidental, and so deserving.
正是在这样的四十年的时间里头，我从一个根本不可能有梦想的，一个遥远边疆的一个小城市里的孩子，变成了一个可以在全人类欢聚的一个大的节日里头，分享以及传播这种快乐的新闻人，这是一个在中国发生的故事。而在这一年，中国和美国相距并不遥远，你中有我，我中有你，彼此需要。布什总统据说度过了他作为总统 以来在国外，一个国家呆的最长的一段时间，就是在北京奥运会期间。菲尔普斯在那儿拿到了八块金牌，而他的家人都陪伴在他的身边，所有的中国人都为这样一个特殊的家庭祝福。当然，任何一个这样的梦想都会转眼过去。在这样的一个年份里头，中美两国历史上几乎是第一次同时发出了“我有一个新的梦想”这样时候，如 此的巧合，如此的应该。
America is facing a very very difficult financial crisis, and it isn’t only America, but it affects the whole world seriously. Yesterday I got to New York. As soon as I deplaned, I went to Wall Street. There I saw the statue of President Washington. His gaze was permanently fixed on the huge American flag on the stock exchange. Interestingly, the hall behind the statue was holding an exhibition on “President Lincoln in New York”, so President Lincoln’s huge portrait was also on it, and he also gazed at the flag. I felt the very solemn weight of history. When I left there, I told my colleague this. I said, many many years ago, if something like this befell America, perhaps Chinese people would have taken pleasure, because see, America is miserable again. But today, Chinese people would especially wish that America get better soon. Because we have hundreds of billions worth of money with America. We also have a huge quantity of products waiting to be put on freighters and sent to America. If America’s economy takes a step for the better, it means behind these products, another Chinese gets a raise, it means he regains his employment and happiness in the family.
美国面临了一次非常非常艰难的金融危机，当然不仅仅是美国的事情，也对全世界有重大的影响。昨天我到达纽约，刚下了飞机，我去的第一站就是华尔街，我看到了华盛顿总统的雕像，他的视线是那么永久不变地在盯着证券交易所上那面巨大的美国国旗。而非常奇妙的是，在这个雕像后面的展览馆里正在举行，“林肯总统在 纽约”这样的一个展览，因此林肯总统的大幅的画像也挂在那上面，他也在看那面国旗。我读出了一种非常悲壮的一种历史感。在离开那个地方的时候，我对我的同事说了这样一句话。我说，很多很多年前如果美国发生了这样状况的时候，也许中国人会感到很开心，因为你看，美国又糟糕了。但是今天中国人会格外地希望美国 尽早地好起来，因为我们有几千亿的钱在美国。我们还有大量的产品等待着装上货船，送到美国来，如果美国的经济进一步好的话，在这些货品的背后，就是一个又一个中国人增长的工资，是他重新拥有的就业岗位，以及家庭的幸福。”
In the past 30 years, I don’t know if you’ve noticed the Chinese Dream that is relevant to more and more ordinary Chinese people. I don’t know what other country in this world, in the past 30 years, has changed the individual fates at this magnitude. A kid from a remote small city on the periphery, a kid in despair, today has the chance to have an exchange with these Yale students. Maybe we can change the viewpoint, and look at 1.3 billion very ordinary Chinese, their down-to-earth dreams, their impulsive drive to change their fates, their still kindhearted temperament, and their diligent character. Today’s China is made up of these words I just spoke.
In the past many years, Chinese seemed to be looking at America through a telescope. So everything good that is in America was magnified by this telescope. Frequently people mentioned America was like this and like that, then look at us, when can we be like that. In the past many years, Americans also seemed to be looking at China through a telescope, but I am guessing they held it backwards. Because what they saw was a diminished, always-doing-wrong, full-of-problems China. They overlooked 1.3 very ordinary Chinese people and this impulsive drive and urge of theirs to change their fate, which caused such huge transformations in our country. But I also always had this dream: why do we need to use telescopes to look at each other?
Of course I hope very many Americans have a chance to go see China, and not to look at China through the media. You know I don’t really trust all of my colleagues. I’m just kidding. Actually I respect my American colleagues very much. I only hope that more and more American friends go to see a real China. Because I can at least guarantee one thing. Even if in America you ate what is deemed to be the best Chinese food, in won’t fetch a good price in China. Just like many many years ago, in every city of China there was this popular “California Beef Noodle” shop. Many Chinese all thought, anything from America was definitely very very tasty. So they all went to eat. Although it was not very tasty, they didn’t complain because they knew it was from America. This fast-food chain existed in China for many years, until more and more Chinese people came to America, and searched every corner of California for a California Beef Noodle shop, and could not find a single one. Only then did more and more Chinese know that California doesn’t have such beef noodle, so this chain store in China is in the process of disappearing. This is the kind of discrepancy I am talking about. As we come and go, such misunderstandings will be fewer and fewer.
当然我也希望非常多的美国人，有机会去看看中国。而不是在媒体当中去看到中国。你知道我并不太信任我的所有的同行。开一个玩笑。其实美国的同行是我非常尊敬的同行。我只是希望越来越多的美国朋友去看一个真实的中国。因为我起码敢确定一件事情。即使在美国你吃到的被公认为最好的中国菜。在中国都很难卖出好价 钱。就像很多很多年之前，在中国所有的城市里流行着一种叫加州牛肉面，加利福尼亚牛肉面。相当多的中国人都认为，美国来的东西一定非常非常好吃。所以他们都去吃了。即使没那么好吃的话，由于觉得这是美国来的，也没有批评。这个连锁的快餐店在中国存在了很多年，直到有越来越多的中国人来到美国，在加州四处寻 找加州牛肉面，但是一家都没有找到的时候，越来越多的中国人知道，加州是没有这种牛肉面的。于是这个连锁店在中国，现在处于陆续消失的过程当中。这就是一种差异。但是当人来人往之后，这样的一种误读就会越来越少。
So lastly I just want to say one thing again. Forty years ago, when Mr. Martin Luther King fell down, his words “I have a dream” spread across the world. But, you must know that there is not just an English version of “I have a dream.” In the distant East, in the China that has held on for thousands of years, there is also a dream. It isn’t a grandiose slogan, it doesn’t lie with the government. It belongs to every ordinary Chinese. It is “I have a dream” written in Chinese.