Pan Qingzhong: the caretaker for future global leader

China Plus Published: 2018-12-13 14:43:18
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In what sounds like the beginning of an unlikely adventure story, Pan Qingzhong started his first trip to the Big Apple with 30 U.S. dollars in his pocket. After moving to the United States, Pan earned a Master's degree, married the woman he loves, and started a family. He also started a company that he floated on the stock exchange.

Pan Qingzhong: the caretaker for future global leader

Pan Qingzhong, Executive Dean of Schwarzman College of Tsinghua University, takes an interview from China Plus. [Photo: China Plus]

Life was good. But that didn't stop him from making the decision to return to his alma mater Tsinghua University. What was it about China that drew him back? Pan shared his story with China Plus for our new series "Deep Dive: Talks with Chinese Internationals".

You can also find the shows on Apple Podcasts.

The United States

The United Kingdom

South Africa

A Caretaker for Future Leaders

by Manling, host of China Plus

Nothing on the Internet shows any personal life traces of this already much exposed man, because of Tsinghua, and mostly because of the Schwarzman Scholars Program under the University's new centennial plan. So, to prepare him for softer questions, prior to the camera time, I explained to him how personal stories could better catch listener's ears and he agreed that stories of humanity always touch people regardless of races, ethnicities, cultures and boundaries. With this consensus, we slipped into a lengthy but quite fruitful talk of almost two hours.

His English is better than I expected, prejudging from the only video clip I saw him making a speech on the podium. Not eloquent but expressive enough. Typical of his generation who followed the prevailing trend of a brainwashing slogan: if one studied mathematics, physics and chemistry, then one would never fear to travel to any part of the world (be able to survive in any corner of the planet Earth 学会数理化走遍天下都不怕), he, without exception, landed himself on the major of applied mathematics and computer science for a Bachelor's degree. Later Pan switched from math to Economics and Finance majors respectively for his Master's and Ph.D. degrees in the same prestigious university of Tsinghua, because the country was desperately in need of talents in these fields since China had steered itself further away from a planned economy towards a market one. For these life changing decisions, Pan is lucky, as it so proved that he could well manage and even excel in these majors, unlike many others of his generation, years or even decades later at some point of their life, they would have to change track and start from scratch in a new field of their own interest.

Pan Qingzhong: the caretaker for future global leader

Pan Qingzhong, Executive Dean of Schwarzman College of Tsinghua University, takes an interview from China Plus. [Photo: China Plus]

For Pan, the decision of going abroad to study is also a choice of trend and out of pragmatic consideration. If not, he might have missed his hard found love and would now regret more about his late start of romance in life. When asked about regret in life, he answered, quote what he said "the only thing I regret in life is that I started to date girls too late." Tsinghua has always been a paradise for men who have preferred science and engineering to humanity and liberal arts majors. Chances for classroom and campus romance is slim, clever boys go to the equally famous neighboring Peking University to look for better halves. Once again Pan was lucky to have found his significant half who majored in Spanish language and literature. Pressured by his fiancée, in fear of going back to singleton, he consented to pursue a Master's degree in Engineering Economic Systems in Stanford University. Pan arrived in the United States with only $30 in cash, the maximum amount a Chinese mainlander was allowed to convert and bring out of China. 18 dollars were spent on taxi fare, and with 12 left, he started fighting for survival on a strange but enchanting exotic soil. Besides money, he also needed to speak English. But whenever he opened his mouth, nobody understood him and when others talked he was felt like a deaf and mute person. His English level was his examinations scores. Extra hours were spent on earning money. Even more extra hours were spent on practicing English with all means and ways possible. His efforts paid off. After one year or two, life became easier and eventually he got his Master's degree and chose not to go back, mostly because salaries in the United States was about 20 times that of what people got on the Chinese mainland, simply too good a temptation for anyone to resist. His life was an envy to everyone he knew back home, plus with all the convenience and pleasure a modern and wealthy society could offer, he settled down and had her daughter born there.

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