Conrad Lee: Warlord’s grand-nephew and elected Bellevue City Council member
By Dorie Yang
Conrad Lee (李瑞麟) has served as an elected member of the Bellevue City Council since 1993, one of the few Chinese-Americans in elected politics. Born in Kunming, Yunnan, in 1939, the son of a personal aide to warlord Long Yun, Conrad lost his father at age 8. He moved with his mother to Hong Kong at age ten and stayed there through high school. He came to the U.S. to attend Seattle Pacific College, then got his degree from University of Michigan in electrical engineering. After working for Boeing and then as a stockbroker, he was first elected to Bellevue City Council in 1993 and has been re-elected five times, most recently in November 2009 and Deputy Mayor in January, 2010.
I was born in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China, in 1939. When babies were born in those days, the dates were recorded in Chinese lunar calendar, but the date February 10 has become my official birthday.
Our family lived in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, although the family home was originally from a different village, called Bin Chuan (賓川) in Dali (大里) County, several hundred miles west of Kunming. That’s where Shangri-La is supposed to be because of its beauty and remoteness.
I remember visiting that town once, and it was quite a trip. At that time, there were no paved asphalt roads or highways. It took about a day to get there, in 4-wheel drive vehicles, like a Jeep. Our family had the means to travel in one. But it was driven along red dirt roads. Yunnan province has high plateaus. Part of it, the area around Kunming, is about 5,000 feet above sea level. It’s a mile-high city. Although it’s in the Tropics, because of the high elevation, it has a very mild climate all year round. It’s therefore called the “city of eternal spring”.
In those days, there were bandits along the way, so we had to travel with machine-gun armed guards. We were in the enclosed cab in front with the poor guards in the open trailer behind. I remember getting to the village of Bin Chuan and seeing the guards with their faces caked with dirt. To me, it looked like at least an inch thick.
Before there were motor cars, I understand people like my grandfather, had to travel from their villages to the capital city to take exams. My grandfather is a xiucai(秀才), an esteemed scholar through a system of examination by the government to get official appointments. Xiucai’s are like college graduates. They are given positions in government. I think that’s how he ended up in living in the capital city Kunming.
As far as I know, my grandfather was what is called yan yun shi (鹽運吏), a very important position. That means the person in charge of transportation of salt. Salt was a very precious commodity in that part of the country. In the old days, it was commonplace for people to have goiters. I remember seeing people with goiters because they lacked salt. When people traveled, they carried a bag of salt with them. When they went to visit people, they actually shared their salt with the host, or the host shared his salt with the guest – in whatever they’re drinking or eating.
Although many people in Yunnan are minorities, our family was Han Chinese. A few generations back, they probably went to Yunnan from central China. Some people went there because they were outcasts, prisoners. Some people went with the prisoners as officials. I believe my family probably went there as one of the official families. They were educated and passed exams, to stay in government positions.
My father was a banker and an entrepreneur. My mother went to high school. So they were both educated. In those days, women were lucky to go to school. Going to high school was about as far as you could go. Her mother and my father’s mother didn’t even go to school. Their brothers, the sons, did. They had private tutors.
One of my grandfather’s sisters was very smart; she never went to school but she was interested in the lessons and learning alongside her brothers. She was probably the best student among the bunch. She later married Long Yun (龍雲), Governor and Warlord of Yunnan. She painted, wrote poetry, ran the household, and helped Long Yun in many ways. She was extremely capable. She gave birth to three sons and a daughter. She died from complication in giving birth to the youngest child.
My father started Bank of Kunming. My mother did not work. In the old days, women just got married. I’m sure when she was young, she was matched with my father. That’s interesting, too. My father and mother were first cousins. It’s like in the old days when related royal families in Europe intermarried. In those days, it was okay if you had a different last name, even if the two are blood relations. My father’s mother came from the same family as my mother. Their maiden name was 方, which can be spelled either F-a-n-g or F-o-n-g. Like her mother, my mother married into the Lee family. Even though the last names aren’t the same, my parents were blood relations.
I was born in 1939, just as the Second World War broke out. I have no memory of the war. There were air raids in Kunming, but I don’t remember any of that. I only heard afterwards about people who had to escape during bombing raids. But the Japanese never got to Kunming, so we never felt the presence of the Japanese. Chungking (Chongqing) was the wartime capital of the Nationalist Chinese government. I don’t remember the war, but I remember the snow. Yunnan has a very nice, mild climate – just like Seattle. But occasionally, very rarely, it snows. I remember one year it snowed. It was like “oh!” we actually saw snow.
I also remember the Flying Tigers, pilots and airplanes that were based in Kunming. They were very spiffy-, sharp-looking young men. Some of the Flying Tigers were Chinese and some were Americans. When there was a party, these Flying Tigers were the center of attraction. Some probably worked at the airfield. I remember going to the airfield, and seeing foreigners: blue-eyed, blonde-haired people.
My father became personal secretary to Long Yun when Long was forced to Chungking by Chiang Kai-Shek. Long Yun needed someone to handle his private affairs – somebody he could trust, who knew how to manage things. My father was in banking and business, so he knew how to manage. He was very young – in his 20s. Our family, the Lee family, took care of the Long Yun family’s private business. Once, we went to Hong Kong and my father bought property in Hong Kong for Long Yun. My father did all that through the Bank of Kunming.
Long Yun had his own power base, but he didn’t get along with Chiang Kai-Shek. The central government and the provincial government were at odds. So Long Yun was removed from his post as governor of Yunnan by Chiang Kai-Shek, and moved to Chungking. When he was removed from Kunming, in a way, exiled from Yunnan, my father went to Chungking with him.
I met Long Yun many times, especially every year at New Year. One time, we went to his house, and Long Yun taught me how to box and gave me a military helmet for doing it well. He was a military guy, Long Yun. He was a good wrestler, and once he beat up a Caucasian boxer. This guy was a big guy – Caucasian, big like a statue, and he was challenging everybody. Some of the Chinese dared to take him on, and got beaten by this guy. When Long Yun challenged him, he knocked that guy down with just a few punches. So he wanted to teach all of his grandkids and nephews boxing. He asked me to choose a helmet. I did well, so I got a helmet to take home. I remember that well.
In 1947, after the Japanese surrounded, my family took a trip to Shanghai, Nanking and various other places. My mother took my sister and me. I have an older sister, about a year and a half older than I am. My father was going from Shanghai to Hong Kong. The plane that he was on was lost at sea near the Philippines between Shanghai and Hong Kong. No body was ever found. I was eight years old.
As I understand it, we were planning to follow him to Hong Kong, and perhaps from there to the United States. But then because he died, we never did. We went back home to Kunming instead.
I remember a few things in Shanghai because it was a change from normal. In Shanghai, we stayed in the French Sector. Shanghai was divided into various sectors controlled by the English, French, and Germans. The French sector was considered the best. I remember going to a movie ‘Captain Marvelous’ who could fly with a cape.
Back in Kunming, during that time, I remember the currency devaluation. I remember using thousand-dollar bills to make fans because one day you’d get the money out of the bank, and the next day it would be worthless. So people would carry U.S. dollars and gold pieces in their purses. That’s what we did.
I remember going to a movie. It had a very sad and touching ending. When the movie ended, there was an explosion in the theater. We were in the theater, everybody ran. We got out and the grown-ups were all worried about what happened. What everyone was talking about was that when people left the theater, they all left their gold bars and U.S. dollars in the theater because they were running for their lives and people left their purses with gold bars and U.S. dollar bills. People didn’t talk about who got killed, just how much money was lost.
1949 came, and the Communists were moving south. In April, my mother said we had to leave, so we left for Hong Kong. I went with my mother and my sister. We had some connections in Hong Kong already, because of my father’s business there. So we had a leased house in Hong Kong and friends that took care of us.
I was ten years old when we moved to Hong Kong, and I had to go to school there. Hong Kong schools are supposed to be better than those in Kunming, but everyone spoke Cantonese. For kids, it’s easy to learn a new language.
But I found out that Hong Kong people didn’t know anything about the rest of China. They thought everyone who was not Cantonese was Shanghainese. Also, they didn’t know anything about Kunming. They said Kunming people have tails like monkeys. They thought that when people walked on the streets of Kunming, they had to carry a big stick because if someone passes you on the street and you turn around, it could be a big wolf, running around wild. The teachers were teaching geography and history and that’s the kind of stories they told. I was sitting in the second row thinking, ‘Where is my tail? It wasn’t like that.’
That’s just how people connected in the old days. When we first came to the U.S., many people had never seen anyone from China before. They just know the stereotypes. So they’ve got to learn about you.
The one thing about Chinese way of teaching is that hey always want you to memorize and recite. I didn’t know Cantonese, so I asked if I could recite in Mandarin. She said, ‘Sure, fine.’ The teacher did not want to show her ignorance in Mandarin. So I just said anything I wanted! And she didn’t understand it anyway. She said, ‘Oh good, good, fine!’ So I got high grades. That’s part of my early development of political skill, talking. It helps if you know how to talk with confidence.
I lived in Hong Kong from 1949 until I came to this country in 1958. I started in fourth grade and I finished high school there. I went to Diocesan Boys’ School. It’s a Church of England school, so we studied English. The teachers we had were all British teachers, all there before the war. So they all went through the Japanese internment. They were all old, salty people who had committed their life to Hong Kong and educating Hong Kong kids. So they were a very interesting bunch.
We had a completely British system, under a headmaster. We would have to wear ties and uniforms and we had prefects governing students. The first thing they teach you at night is – ‘lights out!’ Then everyone’s supposed to sleep, no noise. Suddenly you hear footsteps. They come, and you learn that you don’t want to be the one that footsteps come to. Because they came to get the boy who had done something bad, and led him to the headmaster’s room. You would go in there and the headmaster shows you a room full of canes. You could choose which cane you like. Thick ones, skinny ones, small ones, large ones, hard ones, soft ones. And the headmaster would take the cane you had chosen and hit you on the buttock. And you heard the guy walking back to bed, hurt. Experience taught us not to choose the thin ones; those hurt the worst. I never got the cane because I became a prefect very early in my days. So I was the guy who brought in these offender kids to the headmaster. That’s part of our job.
The English masters were very good. They treated kids very maturely because they understood that we had gone through a lot. They knew a lot of these kids were older kids because the war had caused them to miss a few years of school. Because it was a Church of England school, there were a lot of Eurasians, mostly with British military fathers and Chinese mothers, I think. They boarded at the school, they lived there. Some were orphans.
I was a boarder, too, because I lived far away. If I didn’t live at school, every day I would have had to take a bus, take the ferry, take another bus. Boarding was good because you really develop an attachment with the school, and with the fellow students.
I learned English very quickly. It was a very tough school to get in. If you were not a Eurasian or orphan, you had to know the right people, to have the connections and be a pretty good student. If you were a good-looking Eurasian, you had a better chance to get in. If you were just an average Joe, then it was hard. I happened to get in because they opened up a big class that one year, adding a whole class of 25 or 28 students. So I passed the entrance exam and squeezed in.
They divided the students into classes – A, B, and C. A was for the top students. B was okay, C was for the new guys and flunkies. I started out in the C class with a bunch of new kids. The first day of class, the English teacher came in with a 16-ounce shotput. He tossed it in the air and said, ‘Well, you guys are here in an English school. You’re supposed to learn English. My first rule is, I’ll treat you like adults but you have to be respectful of me so you can earn my respect back. No Chinese spoken.’ In the back, some older kids, the bigger kids, started talking Chinese. And the teacher threw the shotput up in the air and ‘bam!’ it hit the wood floor. He walked down the aisle where these two kids were sitting with his hand sticking out and slapping everybody on the face with his hand. Even the innocent ones. He just said ‘Hey, you guys caused everyone to be punished.’ Then he slapped those two guys. It was the last time anybody spoke Chinese. We learned English in about a month.
That was seventh grade. We called it Form 1 in high school. In the English system, primary school has six grades. High school has five grades, starting with Form 1. And there are two grades in post-secondary: college preparation. In Form 5, you take a school certificate. In Form 6, you prepare for Hong Kong U. For everything you do, you have to take exams. I went through Form 5 and half a year of Form 6 before I left for the U.S.
Also as a boarder you learn really fast because a lot of people speak English. Also it’s part of the system. If you take exams and do well, you can get promoted to A class at the end of a semester. If you do really well you jump a grade. I was very fortunate: I jumped a grade. So I caught up. It’s harder going to an English school. A lot of people who want to transfer from other schools have to go down to a lower grade. That’s why many of these kids were older. So when I jumped a grade, I made up the grade I had lost.
Another thing was, I could sing. The Headmaster loved music; he was the choir director. I happened to sing, so I was in his choir. So I became one of the favorite boys. I was participating in the choir, and he knew me, so in no time I became a prefect in Form 4, although normally it doesn’t happen until Form 5. As a boarder I got to know people better. Relationships, connections, politics, it’s all part of fitting in. But it’s good.
After high school, we had to decide where to go for college. We could go to Hong Kong University or overseas: England, Australia, Canada or the United States. Very few people wanted to stay in Hong Kong. Hong Kong U was one way, but few people who had options want to stay there, because the job opportunities were very limited in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong had four million people at that time, so how many doctors do they need? A lot of people, if they graduated from the right high schools, would become police inspectors. That was probably one of the best jobs you could get. Security. At that time inspectors were bribed, with money. That’s the way things were. In the 1980s, they really cleaned up a lot, I understand. But in the old days, that’s the way it was. One of my high school principals did become a police inspector and he worked there for three months and had to quit because it was just not possible not to take bribes. That was part of the system. If you didn’t take it, you made other people look bad. You made other people uncomfortable. So that’s the way it was.
Most people from Hong Kong tended to go to Canada or to England. England was hard because it was more expensive–impossible unless you had family or resources. In England you couldn’t get a job; you would just spend money, to pay tuition and expenses. Therefore not as many people went there. A lot of people went to Canada. That was probably the most preferable place to go. A few people went to Australia. It was not preferred because at that time they had apartheid against minorities. It was not as bad as South Africa, but similar. Immigration policy was very restrictive.
In my case, maybe because I was supposed to come to the U.S. when I was eight but didn’t, my mother and I always thought about that. Funny how things work out. Then an opportunity came up, to apply for school in the Seattle area. We happened to have a friend who went to school at the UW. At that time, UW didn’t accept international students as freshmen in undergraduate programs, only graduate students. So I couldn’t go to UW. But there was a place called Seattle Pacific College. I applied and was accepted. So I came to Seattle Pacific. At that time, you had to show you had money in the bank. I think you had to show a deposit of $4,000 US, and they’d let you come as a student. So I got a student visa.
It was a hardship to get the $4,000. My mother sacrificed a lot. We were able to do that, but it was a big stretch. So I knew that was all I was going to get, no more. So when I got here, I had to take care of the next four years, however much it cost.
My sister had gone to Japan. She got a full scholarship to International Christian University in Japan. She met her husband there. They also met Jay Rockefeller there. Interesting.
I took a boat here. That’s another story, it was like the Life of Pi. I was on the boat for 16 days. It was a passenger boat. They had first class and third class. All the students were in third class. But it was a good experience.
Taking off was fine; friends came to see me off. But once we left Hong Kong, on the second day, the weather got bad, and the waves came, and the crew had to go down to the bottom and stayed there. There was nobody on the deck; I was one of a handful. Everyone else got seasick. So that was 3-4 days of wild waves in the Pacific Ocean. We got to Yokohama and left the ship there. My sister was in Japan so she met me in Yokohama, and the boat continued over to Tokyo. I stayed with them. We took the train from Yokohama to Tokyo and I visited my sister and her school and campus, and then I took the train to Yokohama to catch the ship a day or two later. Knowing me, I was always the last person to get off. I was late, catching the train all by myself, and when I got to the boat, the ship was leaving. They already took the plank from the third class and the first class was still open so I got onto the ship. They said if I hadn’t caught the ship, they’d have to fly me to Honolulu or something. That would cost more money, but I caught the ship.
The good experience came when we got into Honolulu. That was fun. We went to the zoo, spent a day there, saw the white peacock. The Honolulu zoo was famous for its white peacock. I don’t know if they still have it. We left Honolulu for San Francisco. One thing that’s interesting is that the seagulls follow you all the way from Asia and somewhere along the line, I think it’s after Tokyo, when you’re approaching Honolulu, they change guard. The Asian seagulls left and American seagulls took over. It was a distinct change.
When we got into San Francisco, it was an amazing sight – the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s all you think about, all you remember, just like in the “Flower Drum Song.” It was fun. We got to San Francisco, saw the clock tower, got off the ship. Then I stayed in San Francisco for about two months. I was kind of assimilating, adjusting already. I had an uncle there, my father’s cousin. He had three daughters, a few years younger. The oldest one was in high school, one was in grade school, so I stayed with them. That was a very interesting place, San Francisco, all Chinese and they all spoke English, second generation. They kidded me, joked with me about my accent. I spoke with an accent, obviously, a British accent as well, so they made fun of me. But they took me around. We visited the Stanford campus, we visited the Bay area, it was a good experience and I saw firsthand how some typical American teenagers lived. Chinatown was different, very different. Before, Chinatown was the Italian district. It’s interesting how the Italians and Chinese were all merchants, all the displays and bread. It was a good thing, it was fun. Then I came to Seattle.
My mother knew I was leaving for years, so they bought many things, to prepare me for the next however many years. I had a trunk and a suitcase and we bought winter clothes, including a heavy coat. In Hong Kong, I made a coat of nice thick heavy material. Things were cheap there, so you buy the most expensive English wool. When we thought of Seattle, Washington, we thought it was next to the Arctic Circle/North Pole. We figured it was way up north, so it must be freezing cold. We watched the movies, like Washington DC, where it’s always snowing. So I was prepared to survive under a freezing climate. I don’t think I’ve used those things even today. I even had wool underwear.
Seattle Pacific College was an interesting experience. It’s a Christian university. Very Christian, very religious. People are very nice.
My family was not Christian, but I was. I went to high school at a Church of England school, so I was baptized and confirmed there. I was in the church choir, did all the right things. I met the bishop of Hong Kong, Bishop Ho (何主教). One of the headmasters was Chinese, but English-trained and was a priest in the Church of England. As Episcopal priests, they could get married.
So being in a Christian college was comfortable because I’d already been in a Christian high school. But the Methodists are very strict. The college kids didn’t even hold hands. They weren’t encouraged even to go to movies; that was 1958/1959. Movies were taboo. Many years later, after I found out that SPC students dated each other, fell in love, got married, had kids. I always wondered – “How did you guys have kids? You can’t even hold hands! You couldn’t even go to movies! How does that happen?”
There were a surprising number of foreign students at Seattle Pacific. When I got to campus there were a lot of Chinese walking around. We got along very well, because people noticed you right away when they drove by. The Chinese students often got together. I remember the first Oscar awards I saw on TV. I came in March, and I saw the awards in April. On a TV set, which was not common. That was 1958, and I watched the Oscars in my friend’s apartment. We all got together, all the Chinese students on campus got together for Christmas dinners and other events. When we went to movies, we had to make sure nobody knew, because we didn’t want others to think the foreigners were the ones that corrupted the morals of others students.
Most of the Chinese students were from Hong Kong. It was undergraduate, so mostly Hong Kong. (Students from Taiwan could not study abroad until graduate school.) At that time there were a number of undergraduate Chinese women at Seattle Pacific. So every weekend you’d see all the cars from UW driven by older Chinese men to pick up the ladies because it’s all graduate students. That’s how I got to know people from Taiwan. They were studying for graduate studies or teaching or working, and they come to pick up young women at SPC. There were very few Chinese female students in those days. So it was hard. If you were a woman student from China, you were popular. So they’d come, park the car there and see if they could make connections.
I worked on campus. They had one maintenance guy, a nice, older person, and they hired a bunch of foreign students to do all kinds of stuff. We cleaned floors, swept, buffed floors and worked on the campus, dug ditches, broke rocks, fixed things, at 90 cents an hour. It was a good job. At that time, movie theaters cost 90 cents a ticket. Now if you go to a movie you pay what, 10 dollars? $6-10.
In those days, Seattle was very provincial. Compared to Hong Kong, it seemed very small, very slow. But it was nice; you could go places. Friends always had a car, and you could drive someplace.
At college, people handled foreign students with kid gloves. At the dorms, they always assigned you to a roommate. They were very careful about that. They didn’t assign you to just any 18-year-old kid who wanted to go out and party and have fun. They assigned you to the proctor of the dormitory. It was usually an older person, a veteran, who had some world experience because they could be more sensitive to cultural differences. At the same time, it was good and bad. The good was that you’re not going to run into unexpected things; but the bad was that you missed a lot of young kid experiences, like wild parties.
So I always had an older, more mature roommate. They were all very good Christians. Especially if you were a proctor of the dorm, I’m sure you had to demonstrate maturity and values. The experience was good, except that they were protective. I was 18.
One time in the room, we smelled a very stinky smell and we found out somebody had put a stinky fish in the drawer. But I knew it wasn’t against me, it was against the proctor. That’s the only bad experience I had.
I was there for only three quarters, because they didn’t offer engineering. I could either apply to UW or go somewhere else, so I applied to the University of Michigan. It was, at that time, even today, a better and bigger school. Michigan has an international reputation. In China, everyone knows Michigan. It’s on the same rank as Harvard and MIT. It used to be that there were more foreign students at Michigan than countries represented in the United Nations. Many professors there had a long history with China. They have a library in Angels Hall with a lot of Chinese stuff.
When I was finishing up my first year at Seattle Pacific, I applied. My second year I went to Michigan to study electrical engineering. So my life changed there.
I stayed at Michigan from 1959 to 1962, to finish my undergraduate years in electrical engineering. Things were different there. You still had your own Chinese group, but at the same time you started to assimilate more. Since you were in the dorms, you had more different friends. You still make friends with people in the Chinese-American community because the students there have groups.
I had a Chinese passport issued by Republic of China government on Taiwan. But I had never been to Taiwan. You had to have a passport, and you couldn’t get a Communist passport, as there was no relationship between Communist China and the United States in those days. I couldn’t get a British passport because I was not a British Subject, since I was not born in Hong Kong. So I applied for a Chinese passport, which was issued in Macau. Taiwan had relations with Portugal, so they had an office in Macau, so I got a Chinese passport. Hong Kong was British. The British had no diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
I took engineering; maybe I should’ve majored in religion, or politics. With my background, I would be probably just as happy and content to be an Episcopal priest in the Church of England, because it’s a good life. You do all the same things – teach, become a principal, headmaster, a professor, a community leader, even a bishop. That’s a pretty good life. You get to know people.
But I needed to have a skill that would give me a good chance to stay in this country, to find a job opportunity here. The Chinese people who came to the U.S. were not pretending we were just going to study and go back. No. When people went to England, usually when they finished they would go back to Hong Kong, because they had family, brothers and sisters. In my case, I had no family, just my mother. I really didn’t have roots in Hong Kong. That’s why I didn’t go to England; plus, it cost more money. If you went to Canada, or Australia, or the United States, you didn’t normally intend to go back – because there was opportunity there. The purpose of leaving in the first place and coming here was to create a new life in a new country. I could’ve studied law, or medicine, or ancient religion, but my degree had to be a skill that is needed in this country. In those days, the skills that were needed were strictly engineering. Today we’re still harping, ‘We need more engineers!’ No, we don’t need more engineers. We need people who are smart, who can be creative, who can make us successful. Skills can be hired. We can get all the engineers we want from India and China.
After I graduated from Michigan with a degree in electrical engineering, I started looking for jobs. In electrical engineering, most of the jobs are government projects, defense projects. So they require security clearance. Not being a citizen, you can’t get security clearance. I was interviewed on campus, and they offered me jobs. Boeing had a commercial airplane division, and they offered jobs to everybody. Not to everybody, but to non-citizens as well as citizens, because they had a division that was not defense-related. So they did not require security clearance. I got a job offer with National Cash Register, NCR. They were just starting to get into computers at that time, so having electrical background I could work for them or go to Boeing. But I knew Boeing. I had been there before in Seattle and had a good experience; I liked the place. It was nice, a good environment. So I chose to come to work for Boeing. You had to have a sponsor and a job, and they had to apply for citizenship, even for permanent residence. All that time I was on a student visa. So a student visa, you have to extend every year. As long as you’re studying, you can extend it. All that time I was on a student visa, and without a permanent visa you cannot leave the country. It’s more temporary, so all the time you have to stay here, live here.
After I worked for Boeing, they sponsored me for permanent residency. The way it worked in those days, because of the immigration laws, was that people were admitted into this country based on national quotas. And the quota was determined by the population (in America) during a certain time in the colonial days, how many people were in this country. Of course at that time, the majority of people were from England, from Europe, so they had the biggest quota numbers, like maybe 80-90 percent. At that time, there were just a few Chinese here, so the quota for immigrants from China was like 200 per year. So you could apply, but the chance was very limited – or nil. If 10,000 people applied, your chances were practically nil. At that rate, it would take 50 years to clear the backlog.
There was no quota limit on citizenship, there was a quota limit on immigrants and permanent residents. So the way they did it was that every so often, because of critical skill needs they determined, a whole bunch of people that were potentially eligible to fill the needs were on the waiting list to become immigrants. So we were all being applied for by critical industries in critical job areas. Every so often when the numbers got piled up so big, they would have a special Congressional act. This would be tagged on to the end of some bill, normally, such as an omnibus budget bill. At the end of the bill, somebody introduces an amendment saying that people on the waiting list for a certain skill would be eligible to become citizens. Every so often, it never was fixed. It was not determined, it just depended on whoever felt they wanted to do it or however the numbers spread out.
Mostly it depended on what skill you had. It didn’t matter where you were on the list. If you’re on the list, you’re all equally considered. So it was luck. If I applied a month before they cleaned up the list I would get my permanent residence in one month. But in my case, the day before I applied they cut off the list. They picked a date, which was a Sunday arbitrarily. Robert Kennedy was attorney general at that time. They picked a Sunday, say it was June 10th. They picked the date June 10th and I applied on the 11th, Monday. So all the people who applied before June 10th all became permanent residents under this particular category of electrical engineer skilled technical. So I said, “Gee, I just missed it. I have to wait until it fills up until however many the next umpteen years.” So I wrote Robert Kennedy said, “Hey, you left me out!” Normally, you pick a non-holiday. I don’t know what was the practice or rule, but if the day falls on a holiday the next day is when you use. But he said no, it’s not the next day. At that time, I didn’t know any congressmen. I thought they should adjust the date, but who cares? I was not in politics. You go along with whatever somebody decides for you. No reason, no rationale. Well, I’m sure there was some reason. So I had to wait. And wait wait wait wait wait. And I don’t remember how many years – five years? A number of years. Finally they passed another bill, and I was one on the list. During that time, when they applied for you and accepted you, you could become a naturalized citizen. But before that, you were considered a stateless person, because you were waiting.
I was a stateless person for five years, a long time. At that time, I couldn’t leave the country. I had no passport, no permanent residence papers, no nothing. The only thing you’ve got is your driver’s license and you pay taxes.
When you are waiting status, they just automatically extend you every year, as long as you are employed, as long as your employer is sponsoring you. All that time, I was serving as an indentured servant to the Boeing Company. If they said “You’re out of a job tomorrow,” or “you’re leaving” – If Bill Gates offered me a job and I knew I was going to become a billionaire, I couldn’t accept the job. If a new employer wouldn’t sponsor me, or was not in a position to, I couldn’t accept the job. And of course I could not become an entrepreneur.
I had to work for a company that would sponsor me to stay. My wife, Winnie (陳婉麗), happened to work for the UW, a big organization. In my case, I worked for the Boeing Company. So I had to keep working for Boeing. Generally speaking, Boeing is big. They’ve taken care of many people in the region, including us. You’ve got to give them some credit for sponsoring people like us. If they didn’t offer a job to us, and sponsor us, we would not be able to stay here. They didn’t have to sponsor us. But they did, and so I stayed on and finally got permanent residence. That’s when you breathe a sigh of relief.
I got my citizenship in 1972, so I got my permanent residence five years earlier, in 1967. I started working for Boeing in 1962, and it took me five years. I applied right away immediately so from 1962-1967 I waited five years for my permanent residence. During that time, I couldn’t even go to Canada. I couldn’t go to Mexico. Because I had no paperwork, no passport. Of course, I was separated from my family at that time. Once I came here, that was it. I didn’t go home, I stayed here. Money was another thing. If I wanted to go back, it would cost me I don’t know how much.
When I came back to Seattle, I drove from Michigan after I graduated. First thing I did was buy myself a Buick LeSabre, with a white top and maroon body. It cost me $3,000 US. I had a friend in Port Huron, so I went there and picked up my car. I got my driver’s license and then of course you didn’t have to pay in full, just a down payment. The monthly fee was something like $50. I put down probably a few hundred dollars.
So I drove from Michigan to Seattle all by myself. I drove through the southern route because it was in March or April, and I was afraid of the snow. So I went south. I took Route 66. I don’t remember too much of Route 66. When we were going to school, we were working too hard, and didn’t watch much TV, but after school we learned about Route 66 on TV. The one thing I remember is going through Flagstaff, way up high. I was on the freeway at night, and it started to snow. It was so dark, with so much snow, and the car was sliding back and forth, sideways. I turned my headlights on, but it didn’t help. Finally I saw a truck coming from behind, and the truck passed me. I was on the freeway, and it was a good thing. In those days, there weren’t too many cars, also the middle of the night. He went into a place, I didn’t know what it was, it couldn’t be a truck stop. Maybe it was a weighing station. So I went in there, too, and they said “You can’t stop here. You gotta go.” So I managed to keep going, just by crawling along. Lucky it was fresh snow, not too slick, pretty sticky. So I was able to get off the snow. That’s one memory I remember.
The second memory is after driving three days straight, I stayed at night by myself. Nobody talked to you. I didn’t remember how to talk after I got to Las Vegas. Las Vegas was the first stop I made and I came in there and had to speak. It’s amazing. I don’t remember what I did, maybe spent a day there, a few hours, then I went on to Los Angeles. I had friends there so I visited with them and I drove all the way up, through San Francisco, to Seattle. That’s when I met Winnie. At that time, when you were a new bachelor coming to town, a new engineer with a fancy new car, I had an edge with the ladies. So that’s how I met her, at one of the parties.
It was a social party. I was an engineer, working, and there were the normal social events, social get-togethers with the local Chinese students, college students or people who were now working or had other friends. There were lots of parties. Weekend dancing parties, mostly. Dancing, socializing, eating. The thing that was very different then was that there was usually some focal point. At that time the focal point for young people was one family of three sisters. The first time I lived in Seattle, I already knew of these sisters, but as a freshman in college I didn’t have the condition to be involved in these social circles. But when I became employed at Boeing as an engineer, making money; they offered me $580/month salary. Good money. So these three sisters had a home, and their parents were very supportive. They were very sociable.
Their parents came from Hong Kong and studied here, graduated. Just half a generation before us. Winnie’s father knew the father. But they didn’t know that until our wedding, when her father came and they recognized each other. That generation’s interesting too. They couldn’t get jobs during the Korean War. They graduated in the 1950s and I graduated in the 60s. The 1950s graduates were engineers, too, the same criteria. To get a job, you had to be an engineer. You had to have a skill. But they couldn’t get jobs in the 1950s because of the Korean War. All the Chinese were discriminated against. In the 60s, it wasn’t discrimination, just the way it is. But in the 1950s, Korea was the reason.
The people who came from Taiwan were older, the graduate students, the PhDs. They had more credentials. The girls wanted the guys with money, stability. So the younger people, the ladies were organizing parties. The Taiwan groups knew about this. They came, they joined. But the younger people were from the Hong Kong group. So that’s when the Taiwan and Hong Kong people mixed – the Mandarin-speaking and Cantonese-speaking people. The group I was talking about were the Hong Kong Cantonese people. The Taiwanese were older, a different circle.
When I came I don’t think it took very long to start going to parties. I’m active enough to get involved quickly. I knew these folks. Winnie and I were married in 1966.
I was with Boeing from 1962 to 1970 or 1971. That’s when things started changing. In the 1960s, Boeing had the Dinosaur project, built the 747. They had a big layoff in the mid-60s. But that didn’t affect me; that affected the military projects. In those days, it affected real estate here. Some was built in the early 1960s and a friend of mine bought a house on the same street but on top of Somerset hill for $30,000 because nobody was buying homes here. Builders were just giving the houses away. In 1969, they started the major layoffs because the 747 project came when the economy was bad, in the whole country. They cut total employment down from almost 100,000 to 30,000 people.
I was one of the last bunch that got laid off. As an entrepreneur at heart, I tooked it as a good opportunity to do something else. So I decided to go into business. I had to decide whether I should go back to school to get my MBA to learn about it, or to just get into business somehow. So I was visiting with my stock broker, even during that time the stock market was up and down. I remember how quickly stocks changed – from $6 per share, the price would fall to 0. All this crazy stuff happened. So I was visiting with the stock broker, and he said, “Do you want to be a stock broker?” In the stock brokering business, you can get to know the industry, some of the people, learn more about business. I talked to the manager, who said “I have a couple minutes, let’s talk.” The manager said I was an engineer and I didn’t know how to do social skills and had a narrow focus. So I was challenged. After half an hour talking, he said “Yes, you’re pretty good. I’ll hire you, but you’ve got to pass an exam.” For an engineer, exams are easy. So I decided instead of going to school for three years to get an MBA, I had an opportunity to get into business right away. So I did that, became a stockbroker.
For the next three years, I worked as a stock broker, and I think it was a very good experience. I learned about how to start with nothing to get something. You start with a telephone book, and you call people and ask them to give you thousands of dollars. That’s cold calls. Every day you do that. If you can make a living as a stock broker, there’s nothing you can’t do. Because they don’t pay you anything; you have to earn everything off commission. The first six months they give you a draw, but that was less money than I made as an engineer. Going from $580/month at Boeing after almost eight years, they give you a draw for six months, and train you for three months in San Francisco, which was good. When I was in San Francisco I found more friends. That’s when my son was born.
Winnie was working. I was lucky. All this time, Winnie has been there, steady, so I was able to switch jobs. She was a medical technologist for University of Washington hospital. During that time, I learned about dealing with human psychology. I learned about the market psychology, a lot more about the world, hard work and risk. Under Mother Boeing, everything’s safe and secure. You just do your job. Outside, as a stock broker, you’re on your own. It’s a real dog-eat-dog world. People are different kinds. Some are real honest, hard-working; they do bonds and mutual funds. They work for their family trust, institutions with millions of dollars so they are steady, gliding along. But there are people who are lying as well, saying you can give them money and in two days come out with magic. So it’s a tough world.
Also you learn about other people, clients, customers. Most people really don’t understand the purpose of playing stock market. I say playing, it’s really just want they want, to play. It’s a gamble for them. If you make money, they stay with you. If you lose money, they go to somebody else. If you tell them the right thing to do, but it doesn’t look like it’s making money, they won’t do it. So it’s hard to really serve and advise for the benefit of wealth creation. Basically, for most people, the stock market is a game. They go there and play and hopefully they make money and play more. If you lose money, they won’t give you more money to play. They can’t. If you’re lucky, you strike a rich one to play. If not, you’re done. When the market’s going down, if you say “Don’t buy,” they don’t listen to you. What do they do? If they have $5,000 in their pocket, it’s burning a hole there. They’ll buy from the next person who tells them a good story. So the psychology there is, Why let somebody else make the money? I might as well tell them the story and get that money. So that’s the psychology of it. It’s a very interesting fun thing.
But after a couple years I felt there was no real role for me to help people. But I made some friends, had some good experiences. There’s a Boeing manager I had as a friend, he said “Come back to Boeing again.” I said I didn’t want to be engineer. I wanted to be a marketing guy, in sales. He said I could sell an Eskimo a refrigerator if I wanted to. So I went back. They said “Yes, I can work something out for you.” In the old days if you wanted to work in sales, you had to be handpicked. But if you’re not handpicked, it’s hard to get in. So I went in as a technology sales person. But after a couple years, one of the things they said I needed was to have an MBA.
I started an MBA program at Seattle U because at that time UW didn’t offer part-time MBAs in evening classes; you had to go full-time. So after a year taking courses, I went to marketing and said I was taking my MBA and asked if they’d have a job soon. They said I needed an MBA from the UW because it’s better recognized. So I said okay and tried to figure out how to get into UW. With more experience on the outside, like stock brokering, I developed more personal skills and talked my way into UW business school, part-time. When I was about to graduate, I went to the marketing people and said I was in UW, what do you think? They gave me some excuse. So I said I didn’t want to wait anymore.
I decided to leave Boeing and go somewhere else. I decided that one industry that is growing is the garbage industry, solid waste. The organization that’s never going to go away is government. So I went to work for Seattle Solid Waste Utility, a city government entity that’s involved with management of garbage, solid waste. I worked there, and that’s where I learned about politics. Because garbage is all politics. In government you learn about politics, about how to get people’s support, the public support, all that stuff. I think I prepared myself on the inside, gaining the understanding, the confidence of taking risk. You don’t have to work for Mother Boeing, you can do other things, take risks, get things done, and I learned about politics.
I think it’s important to know politics. No matter where you are or what you do, it requires politics. I know a little bit about politics, how to play the game, how to get public support. I feel that there are not enough Asian-Americans in politics. But the power, the policies, everything rises from public policy from public politics. I think we need to be more involved. We need to have a place at the table. At the time I talked to other political folks, and basically they all agreed that if you want somebody who can represent you, which we should have, you have to be at the table yourself. Because when you come down to the gut decisions, other people can never represent you. They don’t understand; they’re not committed. You have to tell your own story. And you have to feel your own story. You can give people money, they can help you, represent you, but only up to a certain point because they don’t know how committed you are, how important it is to you. So I think that’s important. I decided I better go into politics.
I took a run in 1990. I figured Bellevue was a good place to begin because it’s a new city. I could start from fresh, with no baggage. I had been living in Bellevue since 1967. There was no organization like minority groups, you don’t have to placate, you don’t have to play to their game, by their rules. I mean it’s politics. It’s tough. And in Bellevue, if you can do a good job, you can begin the process. So I said I wanted to give Bellevue a shot. If I’m going to live here the rest of my life, if my kids are going to come to live here, I might as well devote my time to Bellevue. Because to be good in politics I need to serve the community for all the right reasons. So I decided to go into politics.
When I first ran, I didn’t win. I lost because people didn’t know me, even though I lived here for awhile. Just like anything we do, we are new. It’s the first time any of us is doing it, we have no experience, no idea of what you would do, how you would do it and whether it would be good or bad for us. There’s no experience. And today I think, if no Chinese had been the governor in the State of Washington, how would we know that somebody like Gary Locke could come in and actually speak like an American? To think like an American, act like an American, make decisions like an American like the rest of us. Nobody knows. So now, one of us has done it — stood up at some level. I’ve done it at my level, so I think that’s a good thing, that’s important.
I think it’s culture, the reason most Chinese immigrants from my generation have not gone into politics, generally. I hope it’s only limited to my generation, but by looking back, it hasn’t changed. And looking forward, I’m not seeing too many indications that it will change. Chinese people have been in the United States for many years, as I remember from history, with some of the immigration stories dating way back to the 1800s. Some of the good legal work was done by Chinese. But they’re never politicians. They’re good people who can research, do work, produce, make money, but they don’t do politics.
In China, politics is dangerous. The saying is everywhere that grass sticks out, it gets cut. Thousands of years of Confucius’s teachings tell you, ‘Behave.’ ‘Keep your place,’ ‘Don’t step out of bounds.’ That’s the rule that’s taught to Chinese. And China is a big country, hard to govern. So the culture, the people, the government, rulers are trained – you stay within your bounds. You don’t do anything because that’s the way to make it easy for people who govern. People know that, people learn that. Also, the environment justifies that. That doesn’t mean the system is lousy. No, the system is right for a society like China. When you have a society like China that could create a lot of confusion and chaos and unruliness, that’s the way you have to govern it. So it’s right, but it’s not right for here, for this country, for the United States.
Confucian culture works in China because culturally, opportunities are limited because there are so many people. If everyone’s trying to fight and compete, nobody’s going to pay attention to the basic business! The country would be completely off all the time. So the risk is, if you don’t behave, what are you going to end up with? You’re going to starve to death. You’re going to create a lot of social upheaval. So the reward is nil because of too much competition there. It’s cost versus benefit.
In this country, it doesn’t work that way. In other countries, it may not work that way. Because the risk in China, if you run for politics and don’t succeed, you don’t just lose, you actually lose your head, in the old days. But here in this country, even though politics is the most risky thing you can do of all things– including being an entrepreneur in business — because only one person wins. In entrepreneurship, more than one person can make money. In this country, even if you go bankrupt, you don’t lose anything. There are many people who become trillionaires, billionaires after many bankruptcies. I mean, it’s nothing. Also, you don’t lose everything. Hopefully if you put in so much effort, there is something you get back. It’s not all or nothing, unless you’re foolish enough to put everything in. But still, you can control the risk-to-reward ratio. But in politics you cannot control anything. You run, you win, you are the winner. You run, you lose, too bad. People don’t remember who the losers were in the last few presidential candidates. Where’s Clinton today? He’s still out there because his wife’s still there, but before him, who remembers Jerry Ford? Only when he dies do people remember. So politics is the highest-risk entrepreneurial venture. So that’s why people said you have to have holes in your head to go into politics.
Two years later, in 1992, I won a position on the Bellevue City Council. The term began in 1993. I’ve been on the council ever since. In the meantime I took a few shots at other positions. You always want to be more influential, be able to do things on a wider basis. I ran for state legislature a few times but did not succeed. That’s okay. I think that’s a characteristic of this generation, we don’t look at things too negatively. We didn’t have many choices, the choices were made for us. When we came here, it was on a one-way ticket: what other choices did I have? Anything was better than the alternative: going back to where you came from – which was chaos and wartime.
Today, in China there are many job opportunities. But not so for us. I was prepared to come here because we didn’t really have a country to identify with. Now when people say they’re Chinese, they’re proud of it. In my days, a Hong Kong person was called a British subject. You were not even a British citizen. They had to fight for it when the Chinese took over. People were saying they wanted to be British citizens. Some of them couldn’t because they weren’t born there, so there were a lot of problems. I remember when people were on the ship and nobody wanted them; they were being pushed back and forth. We didn’t have a passport; we had to get a passport of convenience, really. I had no right as a Chinese.
For a long time, I was a man without a country. When the Japanese were beating us, we were refugees. I was fortunate enough, I was in a place that I didn’t have to run. But people from the rest of China, 90% of them had to run as refugees from someplace in China to either Chungking or Kunming. The whole generation was running. And after the war, they all went back to where they came from when the Japanese surrendered. And then the Communists came. So that caused another wave of refugees. Again, maybe not 90%, but 70% of people escaped, ran somewhere – either to Hong Kong or Taiwan or somewhere around the world to escape from the Communists. So we got to a place to reestablish ourselves. All our lives we were trying to find our identity, to find a place to call home. I think that’s a difference between the generations. Some of the more recent immigrants, they still think of themselves as Chinese, and think about going back home. They could drop everything and go back if they wanted to, but we couldn’t.
I’ll give you an example of that refugee mentality. When you go to China or Hong Kong, why do you think everyone’s crowding you? Everyone’s pushing you forward? They’re all wanting to get on the next boat. If the boat leaves, and it’s the last one, it’ll never be there again. I’m fortunate, I haven’t taken on that kind of mentality. I’m the one who always says, “Stand back, don’t rush. There’s another boat coming. The best is yet to come.” That’s why I feel I’m very different, that’s why I’m strange. In spite of all these conditions of our environment, I believe in the human naturalness of wanting to be free and independent, to be free and happy. I don’t buy into all this refugee stuff. But it’s a fact, and many people develop that mentality.
They are unwilling to take risks, because they work their butts off. They do. They come here with nothing, raise families, raise kids to go to Harvard and MIT, to become doctors. Chinese men have to tolerate all that stuff. Americans think, ‘Hey, it’s free, so if I don’t like this I’ll walk away.’ Hey that’s wonderful. Chinese, no, we can’t do that. You’re stuck with this, you better take it. And they’re working against all that.
I think I was different from the beginning. I’m fortunate in a sense. People might think, ‘Oh, you’re spoiled’ because you had a good environment, a mother, a family. I was the only son, the only grandson. So I was given a lot of encouragement. Another interesting point I’ll tell you. In our family, the men ate separately in the dining room. The women ate in a back room, near the kitchen. As the only grandson, I was the only kid who could sit at the table with all the men for dinner. My sister was older than me, but she didn’t get to do that. So I was spoiled in that sense. But the fact is it’s not spoiled if it’s given the right perspective, the right nurture, the right support. I think I’ve been given that.
I also feel a greater sense of responsibility. I am a very responsible person. I’m obligated. The same way, I look at my job with a sense of responsibility. Because I’m not going to do anything if I’m not willing to, so if I’m willing to do something I had better be serious about it. That’s all I am. I fight for this job, every four years.
So this generation of Chinese immigrants is tired. They made it, they deserve to sit back and relax. That’s why some of them play mahjong, play karaoke, they go on boat cruises, they have to spoil themselves. And they deserve it. But I don’t, because I feel additional responsibility. In general, they are enjoying life now. They’re the generation that haven’t complained a lot. I missed the whole Civil Rights movement, even though I was here. I would be the first one, out in front marching if I were born in this country. But I was in school, studying, working.
So the Civil Rights movement had no effect on us. Our generation was busy just working, becoming engineers, not of our choice. I know engineers who studied English, who studied literature, any kind of stuff, without the slightest connection to science. But they’re good students. They could handle math, they could handle science, so they chose engineering. And I did the same thing. They had no choice. Even in China today, I don’t think engineers are necessarily making their own choice. Their family pushed them to do it because it was the practical thing to do.
But now, for our children’s generation, it isn’t the only choice. Our U.S.-born children can study law, engineering, medicine, even become a professor and become successful. So this is a tough generation, the immigrants.
What I talked about, this Confucian mindset, I have not seen that change drastically.
Even when U.S.-born Chinese go into politics, they are in the intellectual positions. They take on staff jobs, as lawyers, as researchers. They usually are not the ones who take the risk of running for office.
The biggest difference between U.S. values and Chinese values I find is that the U.S. is Christian-based, and China is Confucius-based. And that’s a world of difference. It shows up in everything. We just talked about today, this guy is volunteering for First Tee, a golf program Tiger Woods began. He’s making golfing available to all young kids. He’s a minority in golfing, he said “Why not?” So he started this program and this guy has traveled for the last four years to train and get involved with the program. They’ve got people who volunteer from every race, every color, every religion, but no Asian Americans going into volunteering.
There’s no Chinese word for volunteering. Because nobody volunteers. You take care of your own. It’s my obligation to take care of family. That’s why you don’t see volunteers in government, sports, school. People who are doing that, they are there because that’s the only motivation that’s strong enough to volunteer. But Chinese would not find volunteering to be an outlet. If you are driven, you are driven more to make money.
Americans volunteer because of Christianity, the message to give yourself.
What we learn in study affirms what our natural self is, I think. Naturally, we are one way or the other but you can’t change your nature. Education and teaching affirm it; they give you validity, legitimacy.
I do not have Confucian values. That’s why Communism rejected Confucian values for a long time. But now Confucianism’s coming back.
I shouldn’t say I don’t like Confucian values. Confucianism is probably the best thing there is for China. But China’s changing too. There should be less of that. Chinese need to learn more about Christianity, how to help others, help the community. The day might come. If you bring all the wealthy, all the people with ability of the United States to China, it won’t do much good. They will gobble it up, just like that. Suck it clean, a big vacuum. If we act like Chinese do in the United States, we’ll all drown one day.
Why? Because there are so many people, 1.2 billion people. With the knowledge, attitude, mentality, the philosophy they’ve got, they’ll swallow us up. There is not enough money to make any difference. So you need to have a system like they have to do business. When I look at people that don’t do the things we do, I don’t look at them with disrespect, they’re not wrong. They’re doing the best they can. Managing the best they can. The only time they’re wrong is when they say ‘We’re going to fight you or beat you’ or be immoral, do the wrong things for you. That’s different. I mean, they have different ways of doing things. I’m not questioning the way they do things. We’re talking about the philosophy. That’s the way you have to do it in China, because there’s so much poverty. If we give everybody $1,000, to 1.2 billion people, how much money would that take? Who’s going to produce all that money to keep that going? For how long?
But in this country, Confucius doesn’t work. I know that for sure. There are some countries where it will work. The thing that works here is Christianity. As a country, we are independent, prosperous, educated, self-sufficient, we don’t have to stop learning. It works here. People who are cultured, trained, brainwashed with Confucius ideas still practice Confucian beliefs. In this place, that’s completely wrong.
When people practice Confucian values here, they don’t volunteer, they don’t care about what happens to you. ‘I follow my rules, follow the laws. If the boss says this, that’s it. If the government says this, that’s it.’ That’s why Gary Locke is treated like a king in China. In the U.S. he’s just a governor, one of us. No big deal. That’s fine. If I want to get things done, like in China, yes, I’d want to be the king. But it doesn’t work in our system. We have the right of independence, to question, come up with decisions. In order to do that, we have to have common values that we all share. We cannot just say this is mine; it just doesn’t work. That’s why they still have the Confucian values. They can see something happening next door, and say, ‘well, it’s okay as long as I’m keeping my home safe.’ No, because if the fire spreads, someone needs to put that fire out. Being selfish is human nature, you’ve got to think of yourself. But the key is, how do you handle it so that the overall social good is being maintained? The way to do so in this country is to help everybody else.
The example of Jesus Christ is what? That he died, the ultimate sacrifice, for what? For himself? No. He died for everybody. It was nothing to do with him. He was the Son of God. He didn’t want to die. Before he died, he said, ‘Father, spare my life, don’t kill me.’ So he didn’t want to die. But he did it despite all that. Why, what did he get? Nothing. He didn’t know that he was suddenly going to be worshipped. Even if he knew that eventually everyone would look at him as the start of a religion, was it worth dying? Probably not.
And Chinese don’t have long-term planning either, it’s all very short-term. What I can get now, today. Americans actually are the most long-range planning people in the world. Everything we do, we have three or more contingency plans. It’s a process. We know how to do all these things. Chinese don’t. You buy stock, say tomorrow it’s going to go up 50%, what do they do with the money? Save it. Because they don’t know how to plan for long-term. Because they cannot count on what happens tomorrow. That’s what they had to do in the old days. If you keep the money, tomorrow it’s worth nothing, so why hold on to it? If you have it today, tomorrow the world is changed. Even the government, the policy can change overnight. So they can’t plan long-term. Whatever they’ve got, whatever they have, they got it now and that’s why the investment sector doesn’t have what we call investment banking in China. Long-term investments are made by insurance companies. Why do they have money to provide for long-term? Because they invest in companies, in business over the long run. Everyone gives them money to invest in savings to help the economy. Chinese don’t do that. The government does it directly. Everyone is hiding their money in their mattresses, in their beds. Some don’t even trust their banks. The Chinese savings rate is 20% .
Another thing is volunteerism. More than 50% of the things that go on in this country are by volunteers. Volunteers handle everything to do with kids. Youth activities. Soccer, baseball, Cub scouts, Boys & Girls clubs, YMCA. You have professionals there, but it’s mainly volunteers. Giving it money, hope, time, that’s what works. You don’t see Asian-Americans, specifically Chinese-Americans participating in those areas.