Mark Zuckerberg Discovers China through Love

January 16, 2011

Near the end of December Mark Zuckerberg and his girlfriend/fiancé, Priscilla Chan, went to China on vacation.

There’s a saying, “You can take the Chinese out of China but you can’t take China out of the Chinese.” Priscilla is Chinese-American from the Boston suburbs — a Braintree native, who graduated from Quincy High School in 2003.

Most Chinese, even in America, stay close to their roots, which is Chinese culture. It’s easy to measure how close. From the evidence, Priscilla Chan, even if she doesn’t know it, is still very close to China’s culture. The clues are the fact that she speaks Cantonese along with English and Spanish.

I’ve learned that Cantonese is taught in some US schools. However, in China, Cantonese is a minority language found only in Guangzhou (Canton) a major city in Guangdong Province and Hong Kong, which is about seventy miles from Guangzhou.

My 80-year-old father in law, who is from Shanghai, says most of the people in Guangdong province outside Guangzhou (Canton) speak a different language/dialect and cannot understand Cantonese.

I thought Cantonese was also spoken in Taiwan but my father in law said no. He says the language in Taiwan comes from a province north of Hong Kong and is different from Cantonese and what is spoken in the rest of Guangdong province.

The odds are strong that Chan learned her Cantonese at home in Massachusetts from her family.  You see, most Chinese in America are Cantonese since it was easier to reach America through Hong Kong than other ports in China during the 19th and 20th centuries. If you visit San Francisco, most Chinese-Americans living there speak Cantonese.

The second clue that Chan is still true to her Chinese roots is she hasn’t lost her respect for education.  Most races and ethnicities are absorbed into American culture by the third or fourth generation and by then have lost any respect the old country may have had regarding working hard to earn an education.

The Jewish and Chinese hold onto the belief that education is more important than following your heart and having fun.

Chan graduated from Harvard in 2007 with a BA in biology and is nearing the end of graduate school at the University of California, San Francisco where she is majoring in medicine. To make it to Harvard Chan had to compete in school and most Americans will not compete for good grades.

I should know. I taught in the American public schools for thirty years and my best students were usually Asians. The rest were mostly too busy avoiding reading and homework while chasing dreams of becoming rich and famous but seldom achieving that goal later in life.

In fact, all of Asia, which are collective cultures as is China, has been influenced by the value the Chinese place on gaining an education.

The relationship between Zuckerberg and Chan insures that Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, which is also a collective culture with deep roots, will be influenced by his love of Chan to learn more of China meaning he will leave the Sinophobe stereotypes that surrounded him while growing up in America in the dumpster and will see China with different eyes than most in the US.

Zuckerberg even spent most of a year learning Mandarin before the vacation to China with the woman he loves, which is another clue how important this relationship is to him.

The Huffington Post, along with other Blogs and media, focused on Zuckerberg’s lunch with Baidu’s founder and CEO Robin Li as if there might be a business deal in the works.

I suspect it was a lunch between friends and Zuckerberg had a chance to practice his Mandarin with someone he trusted.

The New Yorker reported that Zuckerberg drives a lot to relax and unwind, his friends say, and usually ends up at Chan’s apartment (before they moved in together). They spend most weekends together; they walk in the park, go rowing (he insists that they go in separate boats and race), play bocce or the board game the Settlers of Catan. Sundays are reserved for Asian cuisine. They usually take a two-week trip abroad in December.

Zuckerberg’s trip to China in December was a vacation and was about bonding and love—not business and for sure if this couple has children, those children will grow up with a high regard for earning an education. Chan will see to that.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

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