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June 2, 2009 in The China Beat


Copyright June 2, 2009 Xujun Eberlein. Used by permission.


In Sunday’s New York Times, Ha Jin reflected on his decision to remain in the West after graduate school and to write primarily in English:

That was when I started to think about staying in America and writing exclusively in English, even if China was my only subject, even if Chinese was my native tongue. It took me almost a year to decide to follow the road of Conrad and Nabokov and write in a language that was not my own. I knew I might fail. I was also aware that I was forgoing an opportunity: the Chinese language had been so polluted by revolutionary movements and political jargon that there was great room for improvement.

Last week, Singapore reader Drifting Leaf asked how I see myself. If you read her letter, you will see this question was about cultural identity. She says:

When I see old CCTV/HK/Taiwan TV programs, it brings me back to my childhood. I’m not sure how far I should identify with or support Chinathough. I love classical Chinese culture but the present China/government has quite a negative image.


When we watched the 2008 Olympics, we were uncertain whether we should feel proud of Chinaor not because we are foreign citizens and am not sure if we can lay claim to Chineseness. I believe you still love China despite all its political problems.