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China Rises, and Checkmates

15 January 2011


A friend emailed me this article which somewhat restored (to some degree) my faith of the Americans. It is an article written by an American and published in the New York Times on the latest world chess champion - a 16 year old Chinese girl!

However, the article is not just about the young lady who is very good at her profession. He went on praising the achievements of the Chinese as a whole. I like his reminder of Napoleon’s famous quote “When China wakes, it will shake the world.” I came across it at school- that was years ago and forgotten. But just what made Napoleon say that? Clearly a man who was something of an extraordinary individual himself must have seen the greatness in China and known its potential.

The article's talks about "Chi ku" reflects the writer's understanding of the Chinese mindset. They who are schooled by long bitter struggles for survival are prepared to rough it out and come out tops. I think this is the gist of many classic Chinese tales.

The author writes with respect for the people of China without the usual slanted derogatory negative remarks. He says China was known for its sexist attitudes towards women but recognises that has now changed. There are still other US/western writers who are trapped in their 1950s mindset on China! [In fact the change, in particular with regard to women's liberation and gender equality, started since the beginning of 1950s, so some Americans are really trapped in their 1940s mindset on China - Admin]

It ends by comforting Americans by saying not to worry because China is still far behind! I think China is 5000 years ahead of U.S. in many aspects!

China already checkmated US in Korea, broke US encirclement by world diplomacy, become more respected than U.S. in 3rd world countries. China is renewing itself whereas U.S. is on the decline. It reached its present day development within 60 years despite all the upheavals.

5000 years of inventions- (my criticism is that they did not progress further because of the imperial monopoly of inventions. How true is that I have not found out. Also I always wonder for all their inventiveness they never invent the sewer and aqueduct systems like the Romans - is it because they re-cycled their waste? - [Just so. China was an agricultural kingdom and sewerage was one of the most precious commodities to farmers - Admin]


The following is excerpt of China Rises, and Checkmates by Nichlas D. Kristof published on NYT on January 8, 2011, and its Chinese translation. The full article in English can be read at this address:

China Rises, and Checkmates


16岁的侯逸凡是新登基的国际象棋女王,亦是迄今为止最年轻的世界冠军(不论男女)。她的成就反映了中国在教育和人才 - 尤其是女性人才 - 培育上的大量投资是如何成功地让中国的影响涉及到了世界的方方面面。众所周知,拿破仑曾说过这样一句话:“当中国醒来时,世界将为之发抖。” 这句话不但在中国人拿手的传统领域里被证实了,而且在中国新近才涉及的领域里亦被证明是真理,比如国际象棋、篮球比赛、稀土矿业、网络战争以及原子能研究。侯女士的加冕为拿破仑的批语做了最好的注解。大约只有百分之一的中国人玩国际象棋,中国在国际象棋赛中一向并无建树。但自从1991以来,中国呼啦啦一下子冒出了四位女子世界冠军,侯女士只不过是其中最有潜力的一位而已。

说到这儿,我得先把我一个大老爷们的自尊在犄角旮旯里放一放。你看,当我采访侯女士时,我提出和她比试比试,她满不在乎地答应了。她当时刚拿了世界冠军后飞到北京,满脸地疲惫 – 但她依然只用了21招就把我打了个稀里哗啦。最让我受不了的是,正当我准备无条件投降的时候,她的教练恶作剧地跑来建议我俩交换场地。我这边的局势已到了万劫不复的悲惨境地,而她的教练似乎仍然对她能帮我绝处逢生充满了信心。这下我的小自尊心真的受伤了,并对此表示了我的强烈愤慨和坚决反对。被一个女中学生打败虽不光彩,我还总算能勉强忍受 – 但成为一个猫爪子底下被玩弄的耗子,那我干脆就不活了。于是侯女士很慈悲地点了点头,几步之后就把我给将死了。


一些美国愤青愤老总爱说中国的成就得益于中国政府操纵人民币汇率及贸易规则.. 但事实是中国实实在在地将大笔投资用于为民众创造更多和更均等的机会。更重要的是,由于孔夫子的儒家传承,中国一向重视国民教育和自我完善,并强调保持自律和“吃苦”精神。侯在夺冠的路上不知吃了多少苦。她成长于江苏省的一个偏僻小镇上,父母都不会下棋。但作为有小皇帝之称的独生子女一代,她父母花了大量的心力和财力培养她成才。中国曾经是男女最不平等的社会之一 – 溺杀女婴、裹小脚以及纳妾等等不一而足 – 但中国社会的华丽转身竟然可以完成得如此迅速,现在男孩和女孩都享有平等的机会了。当侯的父母注意到她对商店柜台里的棋盘表现出特殊兴趣时,立马就给她买了一套,并专为她聘请了教练。中国国际象棋总教练叶江川告诉我他自从7年前就开始和侯女士下棋了。那时她才9岁,但她的棋艺着实让他吃了一大惊。“这孩子不一般啊!”他说。于是叶把侯请到了北京国家队。三年后,侯成为有史以来最年轻的国际大赛选手。

中国还需要很多很多很多年才能真正超过美国 … 但在很多方面中国已经是世界第一了,这包括控制碳排放和女子国际象棋。中国在教育、创造均等机会和倡导吃苦耐劳精神方面的经验值得我们学习。不学不行,侯逸凡已经在将我们的军了。

If there’s a human face on Rising China, it belongs not to some Politburo chief, not to an Internet tycoon, but to a quiet, mild-mannered teenage girl named Hou Yifan.

At 16, Ms Hou is the new women’s world chess champion, the youngest person, male or female, ever to win a world championship. And she reflects the way China — by investing heavily in education and human capital, particularly in young women — is increasingly having an outsize impact on every aspect of the world. Napoleon is famously said to have declared, “When China wakes, it will shake the world.” That is becoming true even in spheres that China historically has had little connection with, like chess, basketball, rare earth minerals, cyber warfare, space exploration and nuclear research. This is a process that Miss Hou exemplifies. Only about 1 percent of Chinese play chess, and China has never been a chess power. But since 1991, China has produced four women’s world chess champions, and Ms. Hou is the one with by far the most promise.

At this point, I have to put my sensitive male ego aside. You see, Ms. Hou gamely agreed to play me after I interviewed her. She had just flown into Beijing after winning the world championship, and she was exhausted — and she shredded me in 21 moves. Most dispiriting, when I was teetering at the abyss near the end of the game, her coach nudged her and suggested mischievously that we should switch sides. Ms. Hou would inherit my impossible position — and the gleam in her coach’s eye suggested that she would still win. I protested that I could survive being beaten on the chess board by a schoolgirl. But to be toyed with, like a mouse by a cat — that would be too much. Ms. Hou nodded compassionately and checkmated me a few moves later.

Women in general haven’t been nearly as good at chess as men, and the world’s top women are mostly ranked well below the top men — but Ms. Hou could be an exception. She is the only female chess player today considered to have a shot at becoming one of the top few players in the world, male or female.

Cynics sometimes suggest that China’s rise as a world power is largely a matter of government manipulation of currency rates and trade rules.. But China has also done an extraordinarily good job of investing in its people and in spreading opportunity across the country. Moreover, perhaps as a legacy of Confucianism, its citizens have shown a passion for education and self-improvement — along with remarkable capacity for discipline and hard work, what the Chinese call “chi ku,” or “eating bitterness.”

Ms. Hou dined on plenty of bitterness in working her way up to champion. She grew up in the boondocks, in a county town in Jiangsu Province, and her parents did not play chess. But they lavished attention on her and spoiled her, as parents of only children (“little emperors”) routinely do in China. China used to be one of the most sexist societies in the world — with female infanticide, foot binding, and concubinage — but it turned a corner and now is remarkably good at giving opportunities to girls as well as boys. When Ms. Hou’s parents noticed her interest in a chess board at a store, they promptly bought her a chess set — and then hired a chess tutor for her.

China’s national commitment to education, opportunity and eating bitterness — those are qualities that we in the West might emulate as well. As you know after you’ve been checkmated by Hou Yifan.

Prev: J10 on 11/1/11
Giant Helicopter Lands on Himalayas


The current reigning queen in the chess world Hou Yifan was born in February 1994 in a chess-illiterate family in Jiangsu Province (江苏泰州兴化). She first showed her chess play talent at five when some big kids taught her to play a simple children’s chess game (Five-Piece Chess 五子棋),As soon as she learned the rules, those big kids found they were no longer her match. Later that year, her parents bought her a set of chess and hired a coach to train her. After three years training, at age of eight, she became the youngest grandmaster at Chinese Chess Association, and after another four years, at a tender age of 12, she became the youngest international grandmaster.

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