by Frank Li
Do you remember what you were doing on October 6, 1982? Perhaps not, as it was 30 years ago! But I do, because it was a special day for me – I left China, finally, on that day!
I left China for Japan on October 6, 1982.
No, I did not leave China in a boat. Nor did I sneak out of China in darkness. Rather, together with other 149 “special” Chinese students, I left China with a huge honor: we were chosen by the government to pursue graduate degrees in Japan! We were warmly sent off by some Chinese officials, in anticipation that we would all come back home for the modernization of China, upon completion of our studies.
1. How were we chosen?
Via the exams for graduate schools before we finished college in early 1982! Yes, we were part of the Class 77 (My 30-Year College Graduation Reunion).
My graduate school exam consisted of five parts as follows:
English (a national exam)
Political Science (a national exam)
Advanced Math (Zhejiang University’s exam)
Advanced Electrical Engineering (Zhejiang University’s exam)
Advanced Electronics (Zhejiang University’s exam)
I scored the best in my major and earned a slot to Japan. The other 149 folks went through a similar process in the top universities all over China.
Here was a big problem: many of us, including me, did not know a single word of Japanese … No problem – The government planned it way ahead already!
2. How were we prepared for Japan?
In March 1982, all 150 of us were gathered in two places in Northeast China (100 in Dalian and 50, including me, in Changchun) to study Japanese. It was a crash course in Japanese: 10 hours a day, five days a week, for six months, with all the teachers being Japanese! What a great way to quickly learn a difficult foreign language!
Ready or not, all 150 of us boarded a giant chartered plane to Tokyo on October 6, 1982.
3. To which universities did we go?
Because we were absolutely the best and brightest students from China, and the first large group of graduate students ever sent out by the People’s Republic of China to Japan, we were entitled to attend the best universities in Japan. Otherwise, it would have been an intolerable insult to China, would it not?
No problem – The Chinese government worked it out with the Japanese government way ahead: We were assigned to the seven “Imperial Universities” (i.e. Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya, Tohoku, Hokkaido, and Kyushu), plus Tokyo Institute of Technology (a.k.a. Japan’s MIT) and The University of Tsukuba (Japan’s new all-tech university).
I was assigned to the University of Tokyo (a.k.a. Japan’s Harvard), and was very happy about it – It must have been the exam score(s)! See, “just do well in school, good life will follow,” as an old Chinese proverb says …
The picture above shows the author in 1982, shortly after arriving in Japan.
4. Where are we now?
In 1985, I was the first, out of the original 150, to leave Japan for a better place called “the United States of America”, on my own. About 10 folks followed me to the U.S. in their own ways later. Most of the rest completed their degrees (mostly Ph.D.) in Japan and went back to China. Many have since become VIPs in China, as they helped China fundamentally change itself for the better over the past two decades.
As for me personally, read: My American Dream Has Come True! I have devoted a lot of effort to the positive development of the U.S.-China relations over the past decade, and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.
Some day, we will have a re-union. I am sure all of us will have different stories to tell. But one thing in common is that we all shall remember October 6, 1982. It was what we all worked hard for throughout college and it was the date that profoundly changed us all …
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About this Author
Frank Li is the Founder and President of W.E.I. (West-East International), a Chicago-based import & export company. Frank received his B.E. from Zhejiang University (China) in 1982, M.E. from the University of Tokyo in 1985, and Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in 1988, all in Electrical Engineering. He worked for several companies until 2004, when he founded his own company W.E.I. Today, W.E.I. is a leader in the weighing industry not only in products & services, but also in thought and action.