What Have I Done For My Country?

American president John F. Kennedy: Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country. 

Here is the complementary piece to What Has My Country Done For Me? on the occasion of the 59th anniversary of the People's Republic of China.

(Southern Weekend)  What Have I Done For My Country?  September 28, 2008.

(Hong Kong university professor)

During the early stages of the reform, I was a young intellectual who actively promoted the liberation of thinking and the opening of the reforms.  In the late 1970's I published essays to criticize the "Gang of Four" and ultra-leftism.

As a scholar, I lived overseas many years and the two best things that I did were: First, I studied and researched in order to provide the information and knowledge for China to advance and move into the mainstream of global development.  Secondly, I returned to Asia in 1993 and I spent a lot of time to obtain overseas research funding to help the poorer provinces and autonomous regions of western China.

(Guangzhou non-government educator)

I founded the first ever school for migrant workers' children and also more than a dozen schools for poor people.  I did my best to introduce advanced teaching methods and free education for the children of migrant workers.  I invited a large number intellectual elites to come to speak at forums in southern China in order to come up with creative ideas about cultural education.  I am also actively involved in charity works in China, having founded retirement homes and children's homes.

(Fujian non-government educator)

I pursued the dream of Yan Yangchu of establishing schools in rural China.  I founded training classes in rural China to help the farmers learn to establish economic co-ops, cultural brigades, senior citizen associations, reading clubs and mutual economic aid co-ops in order to use the strength of organization to create more public space in the economic and cultural lives.

Today, I am living in a village within a city.  There are migrant workers from all over China living in this village.  Most of them completed only middle or high school.  They are the core labor force in building the cities and the rural areas, but they lacked the opportunity to learn during the best years of their lives.  Their legal rights are often trampled upon.  I am running night classes in order to deliver cheap and quality education to them.

(Beijing university teacher)

The most meaningful thing in life is to promote democracy and the rule of law.

After the case of Sun Zhigang in 2003, a group of us in the legal profession established a public alliance.  We offered legal aid in cases such as the compensation for the Shanxi illegal brick kiln victims.  We proposed reforms for the Beijing residency permit system.  We made recommendations on the tax code.  We wrote reports such as <The study of the Chinese petition system>.  At the moment, we are trying hard to push for direct elections within the Beijing Lawyers Association as well as organizing volunteer lawyers for the Sanlu milk powder case.

I admire the legendary martial arts knights who seek justice and vengeance.  Our weapon is the law.  Although it is weak, we will see light and hope if we persevere.

(Beijing public servant)

I have spent a few years at a state government department.  Is an ordinary public servant someone who is concerned about the welfare of the people?  Or just someone who toils to death without getting any appreciation?  That is a big question.

Over these years I have immersed myself with writing reports that have jargon such as "advancing firmly," "raise continuously," "noticeable effects."  I use typical phrases such as "we must accomplish it," "we will do our best to advance it, and "we must seriously increase."  If the criterion is "completely satisfying the various assignments from the leaders," then I can say to have done my job.  But upon careful analysis, I found that the leaders are talking for longer and longer periods of time but fewer and fewer people are listening to them; their essays are getting longer and longer, but fewer and fewer people read them.  If this is serving the people, then this is like scratching an itch on your foot while you are still wearing shoes.

(Beijing CCTV worker)

The only thing that I did for the country is to resign from my job in the winter of 1994.  That year, I was eating dinner and I tore off a page from the newspaper on which to put the fish bones.  My eyes caught an employment ad at the corner of the page.  The next day, I went to the hiring conference.  Then I resigned from the government department office and exchanged my unbreakable iron rice bowl for a breakable ceramic rice bowl.  Thus I began a professional career outside of the system with no housing and guarantees.  Late one night, I rode a tricycle with my friends to move my possessions.  As we went from the desolate Liuliqiao to a rural bungalow in dark and somber Four Seasons town, we sang loudly.

At the time I was young.  I was not satisfied with the system, and I used my actions to change things.  I did not get any housing assigned within the system, I did not receive any medical benefits and I did not become rich outside of the system.  But I am still very happy about that indescribable passion.

(Hangzhou housewife)

This is a big topic.  The first things that comes to find are the various fees and taxes that I pay.

When I was young, my parents spent all their income in order for us to go to school.  When I grew up, I had to pay the various fees for non-residents.  When I paid rent, I had to pay the family planning and temporary residence fees.  When I worked, I had to pay income taxs.  I had to pay file management fees for my personal file.  When I bought a house, I had to pay a sales tax.  When I moved in the house, I had to pay maintenance fee.  When I bought a bicycle, I had to pay a license fee.  Then the bicycle lanes got narrower as the motorized vehicle lanes got wider.  I bought a car and I had to pay all kinds of fees and taxes.  When I used the road, I had to pay toll fares.  When I go on leisure trips, I have to pay admission fees.  When I want to dump my garbage, I have to pay cleaning fees.  Anyway, I have to pay on everything from drinking to eating to urinating to defecating.

(Beijing photography editor)

I stabilized the emotional lives of my family.

(Overseas Chinese student in Paris, France)

I grew up in a rural village where I tilled the land.  In the past, the farmers were obliged to turn in food to the state.  Thus, I have toiled to feed the Chinese people.  Before going overseas to study, I worked for six years.  I paid several hundred yuan per month in income taxes which were withheld from my pay.  I am proud to pay my taxes.

After the riot in Lhasa, western public opinion went against China.  I and my fellow students wrote to the French president and we debated the French media in order to tell the people of France about the truth in Tibet and the support of the Olympics by the Chinese people.  We spontaneously organized to welcome the Olympic flame in Pais.  We organized the 10,000 Chinese person rally on April 19 in Paris.  We held a candlelight memorial at the Eiffel Tower for the Sichuan earthquake.  We collected donations of more than 10,000 euros for China.  I personally donated 1,500 yuan from my bank account in China.

(Shenzhen non-government research organization leader)

In 1984, China was facing the difficult problem of reforming the system of prices.  I organized and participated in the Moganshan Conference and I drafted the report "Two ideas about price reforms."  I suggested that there should be both "control" and "freedom" but with freedom being the main direction.  The suggestion was accepted by the State Council which put forward the dual system of price controls.

After I left my government post, I found that the mental health of the Chinese people was deteriorating with rising suicide rates.  I proposed to set up a "protective system for feelings" and I implemented it.  During the three years that the "Center to Care for Feelings" was in operation in Jinhua (Zhejiang province), more than a dozen suicide/murder cases were prevented.

(Guangzhou software engineer)

My greatest contribution to the country is to be able to act brilliantly under relatively adverse conditions.  My qualities of perseverance and devotion are bonuses for the country!  The education system is flawed, but I was not severely twisted; family poverty meant that I could only attend an ordinary middle school instead of an elite school, but I still made it into university.  I worked for eight years after graduation before I went overseas to study.  When I saw that the large tax amount on my pay stub, I became naturally proud of my "contribution."

My greatest contribution to the country is not just being able to come out of a remote mountainous village through my hard work and into a promising career.  It was not just because I obtained a salary several times that of my parents so that I would be the "small government" for my family to provide them with benefits such as education, medical care, social security and so on without ever requiring them to pay taxes to me.  It was not because I let the foreign friends see that I am a high-spirited and courteous young man as an overseas student.  It was not because I love my family and children, or I write poetry and songs, or I love my students, or I sculpt ... It is instead the fact that I have always been an independent person with my own interests.

(Changsha freelance worker)

It is very embarrassing that I have done nothing to be proud of except to cheer in front of the television set for the Olympics and the Shenzhou 7 launch.  These actions are known only to me.

(Guangzhou commentator)

First, I pay my taxes.  Apart from the income taxes, there are also hidden taxes in my daily expenditures.  These are the most direct contributions to the country.  No matter whether it is the glorious accomplishments of the Olympics of Shenzhou 7, or the economic aid from the central and provincial governments to the earthquake disaster area, or the ordinary spending by the government departments for building, transportation and others, my contributions are in there.

Secondly, I obey the laws to help the country maintain the basic public order.  As a citizen, my special contribution is that I have a keen sense of my rights.  I have been writing for many years to fight for the civil rights guaranteed by the Constitution.  Although the practical effect is far less than lawyer Zhou Litai who sought back pay for migrant workers, I am doing one small thing at a time.

(Shanghai professor)

I think what I can do for my country is: Never forget about the concerns of the country even if I am a insignificant person.  Ultimately, a patriot must be concerned about this country, and the kind of concern must be as Han Yu said: A good person worries about the country just as he worries about his family.

(Guangzhou IT company worker)

As a professional, I pay my personal income taxes every month; as a member of society, I donate when an earthquake strikes or for the poor students; I give alms to beggars no matter whether they are real or fake; as a citizen, I have only one child in order not to create a burden for the country.  I don't spit on the ground.  I yield my seat to senior citizens.  I support national brands, including drinking one or two Yili/Mengniu milk every day for the last five or six years (I now drink plain water).  I will not visit places with too many people; I rarely go to entertainment venues; my night life is mostly spent on reading books; and therefore I have not been a burden for fire fighters.  Although I am good at taking exams, I did not enter the public service entrance exams.  Otherwise the techniques that I learn from the books would make me a formidable menace if I worked at some government department or the other.  This counts as a contribution to my country.

(Guangzhou bank worker)

Many years ago, my parents gave birth to a healthy me.  Last year, I gave birth to a healthy girl.  Apart from the day when the baby girl was delivered, I and my family did not take up any of the tight bed space at the hospitals.

(Beijing media worker)

Unfortunately, I had investigated the milk problem last year but the most "sensational" part was "harmonized" by the leaders.  I might as well as not have done the work at all.

(Beijing military serviceman)

I joined the army after I graduated from university and I was sent to the toughest posting up in Kunlun Mountain.

I have been with the Army for twenty years.  I believed that "revolutionary work is like a brick which should be moved to wherever it is needed."  I have traveled all over Ch ina.  I have been responsible for the ideological training of the soldiers for the past 20 years.  When I became an officer, I disapproved of the corrupt phenomena of selling job positions and violating the rights of the soldiers.  I refused to compromise and I fought them irrespective of the personal harm to myself.  I believe that I am a genuine Communist Party member and a good soldier.  I have done right by the Army and the Party.

(Beijing prosecutor)

I was always been a good child.  I never required psychological counseling and I did not need special lessons from educators.  Even my mother could not find any excuse to nag me.  I make a living in Law, but I have never defended my own personal rights.  When I have a conflict with someone, I just laugh it off and refuse to waste the legal resources of the country.  When I got married, everything was harmonious.  I did not conflict with my wife.  Even the most difficult problem about the relationship between my wife and my mother was easily solved.  As a result, I have lightened the burden on the woman who is responsible for social mediation in the neighborhood.

Perhaps I have done anything grandiose so far in my life.  But if everybody lives my kind of life, how can we fail to build a harmonious society?

(Ding Lei, CEO of Netease)

As entrepreneurs, our job is to come up with good products that satisfy consumers.  As entrepreneurs, we actualize our values during the course of business.  The entrepreneurs and their enterprises continuously sent out healthy values to society.

(Bangbu (Anhui) media worker)

Including this term, I have served three terms as a member of the Communist Party Political Consultative Conference.  I do not regard that job as an honorary position.   Being in the Communist Party Political Consultative Conference means that I can "speak out" and I will speak out even if nothing happens.  The facts showed that my words did not all fell on deaf ears.

(Urumqi Writers Association member)

I worked first at a state enterprise on the television set production line.  I could say that I did something for the state.  I was laid off when the enterprise went bankrupt.  So I had to look for a job in mid-life.  At that time, I thought that even though I wanted to something for the country, it did not seem to need me.  You can see all the job-seekers in the street.  It was not easy trying to earn a living as a writer.  I have finally joined the district Writers Association.  What I can do right now is to write good works to encourage more people to improve themselves, to fight hard and to love life.

(Hecaitou, famous Kunming blogger)

I have never profited even one cent through corruption.  I have accomplished every task.  I have never press any female subordinate on the office desk.  I once received an award for "exemplary hygiene," but it was hard to convince myself that this was done in sarcasm.  In order to relieve the burden on the state, I resigned from the state enterprise eleven years after I joined.  When I left, the boss did not say "Thanks" to me.  He did not know me, and I have never met him.  They changes bosses very rapidly over there.