Ambition and why it's important.

A country is only as great as the ambition of it's individual citizens.
This is the story of one who lacks the above, and why it matters.

My wife knows a 24 year old boy.  His English is ok, but my expectations are low.  This boy was accepted into a rather prestigious Engineering program in the USA.  I use the term “boy” in a most condescending manner.  Through a friend of ours, we were asked to take care of this kid.  That is to pick him up at the airport, and take him to his new digs, etc.  I told my wife to ensure that if he had any needs, or what have you, to just ask.  He’d be welcome in our home for weekends, dinner, etc.

Well a semester passed and I finally had the chance to meet this dimwit.  Yuanxiao was here and we invited him to hang out with us for dinner.  We went to friend of ours house, which was a nice big house, perhaps even bigger than mine.  We have 5000 sq. feet (approx. 500 sq. meters.  Never mind we have a pool and he doesn’t), but the fellow in residence is in my view a very successful Chinese fellow, with a good family and a bright future in America.  Actually, the house was full of bright Chinese, all in their early 40’s, who had come to America many years ago, when actually getting a visa was difficult.   Back then, the disparity in wealth wasn’t to put it mildly, nearly as great as it is now, and one actually needed talent to get into an American school, as nearly the only way was to have a scholarship.  Nobody had a rich father to pay your way.
 Quite often what I hear today from those who arrived 20 or 15 years ago is that the new generation of kids is soft, and lack drive.  Ambition.  This isn’t exactly what this post is about.  I will save that for another day.  
So I picked this kid up at his college apartment.  A nice young fellow, and once we started off in direction of our house I begin with a basic question:
“Congratulations on getting into such an elite program.  Do you have an internship yet?”
“No”, he answered.   “I won’t be here this summer.  I’ll go back to China.”
“Oh”, I answered, a bit surprised.  Perhaps he had an opportunity there.
“What do you plan to do with your degree?” I asked.
“Nothing” he answered matter of factly, and quite nonchalantly. “I plan on going back to China upon graduation.”
Not quite taking in what I was hearing, I asked if he had a job there.
“No, I don’t.  But I’m sure I can find something.  I do plan on going into business within a couple of years.”
This was admirable I thought.  Everyone knows that if possible, it’s always best to try and go into business on your own, whenever possible.  Still, I thought him a bit young.   After all, don’t you need a portfolio of accomplishment before this should even be attempted?
“Don’t you think it’s a bit early to do that?” I asked.  “You’ve just gotten accepted into an elite program, and have a spot that other kids would die for”, I said.

“Well, you see, I have a girlfriend, and I promised her I’d return to Shanghai once I graduated.”
I was dumbstruck but what I heard.  After all, pretty girls are everywhere, and quite frankly, this dumb kid was too young to get married.   Yet it seemed this kid apparently had the passive approval of his parents.   They apparently wanted him to get married soon as well.   And it was ok if they spent 100 grand on his education and life in America if he could come home and get married in a timely fashion. 

But he was my prisoner for the next 20 miles, and as a father myself probably roughly the same age as this moron’s dad, I felt obligated to say to him, for his own benefit what his father obviously hadn’t told him yet.

“First of all kid, don’t be so stupid.  With a degree as highly valued as yours, you would be an idiot to go back to China upon graduation.   You’d probably make only 10k rmb in Shanghai per month, and quite frankly your degree wouldn’t be as highly valued as it is here.   Tonight you’ll see what you can buy with the money you’ll make.  Giving up such a highly valued engineering degree for a girl is stupid.  You can always get a pretty girl.”

“Aren’t there any pretty girls in school?” I asked.

 “I don’t know.  I haven’t noticed.  I have a gf already so I don’t pay attention to any of them.” 

Another hint he’s more a boy than a 24 yr old man.

The more I spoke with him the more disgusted I got with him.

“What does your dad feel abt you wasting his money?”

No answer.

“Does your dad know you are coming home for a girl?”

Again, no answer.  He knew he was trapped. 

“Going home and giving up your American visa and career for a girl is not only childish but foolish”, I concluded.

Then I plunged the dagger: 
“I’m only telling you what your father already should have said.”

No answer.  Of course none of this was my business. I don’t care.  My condescension for such a kid was easy to read.   Neither one of my parents graduated from high school.   You can say I left the nest at an early age.  Yet at this point of my life, I’ve done well enough to reach the point where quite frankly I don’t have to 
take shit from anyone but my wife and the IRS.    

Then I run into this punk ass kid who doesn’t value a thing he has achieved.  

We switch the topic.  By this time he’s been in America for 6 months.  He lives downtown within easy walking distance of several restaurants.   I decide to take it easy upon him as we near my driveway.

“What do you think of American food?”

“I don’t know.  I’ve never tried it.”

The country is full of Chinese like him.  People that come to America, and never have to speak English, or assimilate.  (He actually mentioned this as well.)   No or little intellectual curiosity as to how the country they live in works.   If based on his education he is able to go back to China and become an official both countries will be in trouble.  

But for now he just goes to class, and gets straight A’s, and counts the days to when he can leave for his 24 yr future wife.   She’s in a hurry to get married before she reaches 25, and she longs to brag about how her useless husband graduated from a prestigious American engineering school. 

Completely ignorant of women as well.  He didn’t quite get it that this selfish bitch thought her having a baby was more important than his establishing a career.  And ironically enough, nor did he quite get it that as the girl got older, she would be comparing him to other men, for the rest of his life.   Especially to men who were sent back to China by their American companies to serve as Sr Executives.  He probably wouldn’t stack up so well than. 

It was good I met him.  The next day we fed him the first American breakfast he’d ever had.  He liked our house.  I reminded him of what he could accomplish with a few years of hard work here, but then I realized that I was the ignorant one all along.  He had long since decided that he didn’t want to work hard.   That he didn’t have to.   So why should he?  His father had long ago set his son up with a comfortable lifestyle.   

I compared him to my two nephews.  19 and 21.   I decided that though he was far more intelligent than they were, he had the maturity of maybe an 18 year old American.   Maybe America wasn’t best for him after all.   I decided my two nephews weren’t so bad either.  In fact I’d be ashamed to call this directionless, unfocused fellow my son.  

 I would certainly consider myself a failure as a father if he was.    
If China is full of people like him, than America as a country competing against China has nothing to worry about.  I’d rather we let someone else in who wants to stay.  Someone with ambition who may someday have an idea that can create jobs back in my own country.   Just don’t send us the soft son of a rich family.


  1. Dear Fletcher,

    Your blog and articles are your opinion and are respected but here are my opinions:

    1) Not everything in life is money and a house or a pretty girl. If you dump your Chinese GF, your US counterpart can easily dump you. Some Chinese kids don’t understand that there are apparently very good looking ladies who want one day or one month relationships.
    2) China is a country with a lot of ambitions people. It is true that a country is as good as the ambitions of its people. Just that really ambitions people tend not to come from “FUERDAIS” but rather very humble families.
    3) It is true that my generation of Chinese (born in the late 80s) are really retarded because of the failure of our parents. Overprotection and looney toon world is a very dangerous education for the grand future of your kids. Poor kids seems to have better talent and much higher ambitions. I really hope they govern our country and not morons like your friend.
    4) As a Chinese migrant kid living in Europe, the west also has a quite large group of weed smoking social disgrace. There’s a Chinese saying that the wealth never passes three generations..

  2. Much thx for your comments. Your insight as to the differences between wealthy Chinese kids as opposed to poorer Chinese kids is well taken. Unfortunately, they also are the ones who usually lack the means to fulfill their full potential.


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