To Mothers ('Tiger' or Otherwise)

by Ella Chou

Before leaving China for the States, I installed Skype on my mom's computer, signed up an account for her, and added myself as her first and so far only friend. I hardly ever talk to her on Skype, however, because soon she changed her status to a line from an ancient Chinese poem, which translates to: my child is on a journey a thousand miles far, oh how I worry and grow weary. It made me so sad every time I saw this line, I just couldn't stand using Skype any more and opted for cell phone.

Here is a commercial from Tencent QQ about a mother and a son, which resonated deeply with me and many overseas Chinese. Like the mother in the commercial, my mom also types by pressing the keyboard with her forefinger and has a dictionary by her hand to check the pinyin (the Chinese equivalent of spelling). She has accompanied me to the airport several times but she herself has never been abroad.

I subtitled the video over the weekend and jotted down some thoughts on what I see from this commercial about China's IT industry and the typical "American Dream" many young Chinese used to share, yet may not continue to dream.

Thanks to Deb, author of this extraordinary book, for suggesting this post. Deb, I wish you a safe flight and fantastic travels in China!

Ella Chou, who grew up in Hangzhou, China, is a graduate student in Regional Studies-East Asia at Harvard, studying law and comparative politics.

Presented by

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


The Horrors of Rat Hole Mining

"The river was our source of water. Now, the people won't touch it."


What's Your Favorite Slang Word?

From "swag" to "on fleek," tweens choose.


Cryotherapy's Dubious Appeal

James Hamblin tries a questionable medical treatment.


Confessions of Moms Around the World

In Europe, mothers get maternity leave, discounted daycare, and flexible working hours.


How Do Trees Know When It's Spring?

The science behind beautiful seasonal blooming

More in Technology

From This Author

Just In