Recently, I read a news about a guy who was called the most beautiful village official in China. As the first Ivy League village official in China, Yuefei Qin, a 32-year-old man, has recently received the annual Touching China award by China Central Television.
Qin graduated from Yale in 2011 with a bachelor degree in political science and economics. Unlike most overseas Chinese students who take up high-paid jobs in New York or Beijing/Shanghai/Shenzhen, Qin has been making less than 2,000 RMB a month as a village chief in a remote Chinese rural village for over six years.
During the past years, he managed to raise over 800,000 RMB from the higher-level government and private donors for local infrastructures such as the canal and streetlights, co-organized a non-profit organization to help villagers launch their own business, and also collaborated with the Sunshine Library to bring tablet computers to the classrooms in the rural village.
These amazing and touching stories resonate with me a lot, and make me recall my days in the Army. When learning about villagers’ misunderstanding about Qin’s purpose of coming to the village – people are always trying to understand things in the way they are familiar with – I recall the days when my commanders and soldiers kept asking why I left my university to join the Army. For most of the rural people, they believe they would never come back to the villages if they could graduate from a top university and find a life in the city, as they have suffered a lot from the poverty. People have many questions in their minds: why does a Yale graduate come to serve the village with a salary of 2,000 RMB? Why does a university student leave his school to serve in the Army? Are they wasting their time?
For those WHY questions, I believe I can understand Yuefei Qin’s feeling when he first arrived at the village. He believes it is his dream to serve the society and help the poor people, while I also believe joining the Army is my unique way to show my thanks to my country and the society that has provided me so many opportunities. Without the help and support from the society, I would not have all that I have today.
Learning about the difficulties that Qin faced during the past years, I believe he has suffered far more than those have been reported in the media. For him, the challenges come from not only how to help the villagers improve their lives or how to collect more donations for the children, but also how to fight with the vested interest groups – the governors and some of the villagers, and how to challenge the basic political system in China.
In my opinion, he is trying to change the whole system through a unique way. Although he did not mention in any interviews, I can see his effort to get more power and voice by participating in different official activities and by keeping a good interaction with the governments. In such a rule-by-men rather than rule-by-law society, it is easier to achieve some changes by getting the support from the head of the government than by submitting his proposal in the fake People’s Congress Meetings. When he has the support from the central government, he will not have too much difficulty in registering a non-profit organization, he will receive full support from the lower-level governments, he can have more resources to help achieve his dreams. When he achieves something, the central government will see his achievement and may then apply to the whole system.
However, things are far more complicated than we can imagine. Nobody knows whether his efforts will make any change to the society if the vested interest group make no concession. Will the political elites drop some of their interests as a compromise? Many people believe only peoples’ uprisings or another industrial revolution will help to end the totalitarianism in China and eventually change the fate of this country. If Qin’s efforts only help to change the lives of a small group of people, does it worth to do this? Can he find a better way to make a greater change with his knowledge and resources? Will his efforts be doomed to failure? Some people questioned.
As a conclusion, I admire his courage to serve the remote villages, and his stories resonate with my military experience very much. I am inspired by his experience – this is why I want to learn more to help solve the urban problems. Though the way to dreams of bettering our society/cities is full of risks and uncertainties, I still believe that we should have a try rather than following the existing order.
Desmond Tutu says that ”Si eres neutral en situaciones de injusticia, has elegido el lado del opresor” (If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. 如果你在不公正的情形下保持中立，那你其实已选择站在压迫者一边). This is why we need to fight for a change.