From Yitang Zhang's asshole Taiwanese advisor to why I mostly dislike non-PRC Chinese

A relative of mine who did undergrad at Beijing University once told me that he met and talked with Yitang Zhang at some union of Beijing University alumni on the East Coast of America. He described Yitang Zhang not only as "not a nerd, can memorize a lot of ancient poetry, can drink a lot" but also with

And he also organized a memorial held by Chinese students in America for commemoration of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Note that ironically, pretty much every word spoken here was in Chinese except for "Tiananmen Square massacre". I was a little astonished that this relative of mine sounded almost as if he were regurgitating American propaganda, and when I hinted that to him, he was like

就是个 massacre 啊!

From this, I remembered how Yitang Zhang, the mathematician who did groundbreaking work on the twin primes conjecture out of nowhere, had some fallout with his advisor, which resulted in his not being able to continue on in academia afterwards. In particular, I watched a documentary about Yitang Zhang, in which he said that his advisor Tzuong-Tsieng Moh after some work he did implied a shortcoming in Moh's prior work, ended up saying the likes of

Those (mainland) Chinese students, no good.

Here is a trailer to the documentary. That quote of Yitang Zhang (quoting his advisor) is not included in the trailer, but it is what I remember from the documentary which I bought around 2015 and watched in its entirety.

Now, I actually went onto TT Moh's website. After reading a document of TT Moh trying to "justify" his decision with respect to Yitang Zhang back in the late 80s early 90s, I pretty much concluded that this TT Moh is a complete asshole. It is also shared at in addition to at Moh's website.

The appalling part was

The year 1985 was extremely difficult for the students from mainland China, they were unknown and without credits. I was the few professors who had personal contacts with them, I had taught the previous summer in the Peking University and had a vivid impression of them. The mission of education was to spread the knowledge everywhere. It was the noble American spirit. For some 10 years, I had recommended 100 mainland Chinese students to the department and all accepted by the department. I am always in debt to the trust of my judgements by the department. Only very few of them misbehaved, bit the hands which fed them, none of them intended to murder their parents/friends, almost all of them performed well and became well-liked.

Now, this is exactly why there is reasonable for people in China to be suspicious of those Chinese who studied in America. People with the slightest political discernment know that American education can easily be used as "bait" for these students to become political pawns for American liberalism. TT Moh being from Taiwan acted like a comprador savior of the mainland Chinese students. His implicit hierarchy like pretty much all Chinese compradors is one of white Americans on top, themselves second, and the Chinese Chinese the lowest. As for "bit the hands which fed them", it is ironic how an American dog from Taiwan does not even look at himself honestly in mirror, instead projecting himself onto mainland Chinese students in self-delusion.

Now to a more general issue, most of the ethnic Chinese with Taiwan and Hong Kong background I've encountered I generally had a low opinion of, not so much in their abilities but in their character. They generally possessed a very "unnatural" attitude of passive-aggressive superiority to the PRC Chinese. It's needless to say that for political reasons, it's much easier for them to win trust in American society. Some American political interests even use them to try to subvert the PRC Chinese. Back in the 80s and 90s when PRC was on average much poorer, they were almost certainly even more arrogant and condescending.

But judging from the behavior of the protesters in Hong Kong over the past year, they are obviously mostly losers in denial. Comparing per capita GDP between mainland and Taiwan/HK is ridiculous given the difference in scale/geography and also the different starting point. You don't have to that smart to realize that though there are many poor people in mainland China, there is also an elite, which in itself has way more people than the elite of Taiwan. It's like how though India is overall a shit place, it has an elite too, has nuclear weapons and so on, and the IITs are certainly not bad in terms of the quality of its students.

I encountered a few people from Hong Kong in math who used very classical Chinese language as opposed to more down to earth language. On that I will say that the KMT lost very much because they failed to incorporate ordinary people, people from all walks of life, successfully into their system and culture. Petty academic snobbery, which I've seen much of in people from Taiwan/HK (such as complaining about simplified characters), is honestly quite silly.

The Chinese in America are not well rounded. They are academically and (somewhat) economically successful, but they are political weaklings. They lack collective organizational ability, and this includes the mainland Chinese who go to America. They are also spineless people who are too afraid of pissing off white Americans and due to having little in terms of independent values, they often blindly "toe the line," often in ways borderline lacking in common sense.

They had reason to feel better than the Chinese in China in 2000 perhaps but today, in 2020, judging from their not being all that successful especially at the upper end in America, they are almost a laughing stock. But those people are so narcissistic and afraid of losing face and will likely continue on in a questionable direction. The ones who are exceptional are mostly exceptional derivatives who only became exceptional through the more or less conventional path. On the other hand, the really revolutionary or unexpected stuff tends to come out of people in mainland China. After all, mainland China is run by such an organization, one which would be considered by American mainstream as a "rule-breaker/troublemaker"; of course, given that they are doing well, there is not much reason to really care what America thinks. Simply said, geopolitical sovereignty, which PRC won in the 50s and much more of later on, in the long run is much more valuable than simply being rich or well-off on the surface.

Finally, to avoid sounding "discriminatory" I will say that obviously, not all from Taiwan or Hong Kong have these problems. Like a guy I know and am on good terms with whose grandfather was by some metric a political elite who went to Taiwan in 49 who pretty much thinks the same as I do. Of course, it's also not unreasonable for expect those with the "tainted political background" to do a little more to "prove themselves" when in PRC.


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