I saw the following blog post on the top university in China during WWII, https://infoproc.blogspot.com/2020/12/lianda.html, which Steve Hsu’s father attended, majoring in aerospace. I learned about Steve Hsu’s father’s background when I was still a university student. And lianda I learned of in high school as the university where CN Yang studied. I had thought of Steve Hsu’s father as being from a rather elite background; after all, very few people could attend university in China during that time.
Now that I am older with much more knowledge and social experience, especially in China, I actually consider Steve Hsu’s father’s outcome rather disappointing. To give some context, lianda was famous for training many distinguished scientists and scholars during a time of material hardship. It has become more evident to me that much of this is due to the wealth of opportunity for that generation to original and impactful work in science and technology, as well as to do foundational work in the construction of PRC’s economy and defense. I don’t think the younger generation is any less talented, especially innately, to be honest, but they do not have opportunity to make history as the lianda graduates had done, simply because much of the heavy lifting has already been done.
Both of the linked blog posts of Steve Hsu mentioned Nobel Prize winning theoretical physicists CN Yang and TD Lee. This only brought me to realize that Steve Hsu’s father, who was merely an aerospace professor Iowa State (which is a third tier or at best second tier American university), was in some sense quite lacking in judgment. It was clear by 1955 that he was very unlikely to do genuinely first rate work in science and technology in America. Why didn’t he return to China then? At that time, PRC actually really needed people highly trained in modern science and engineering as he was.
Steve Hsu brought up the idea that maybe if his father returned, he would have had to go to the countryside. That is ridiculous given how lacking China was in such human capital during that time. All the important organizations related to aerospace would have competed fiercely for Cheng Ting Hsu. The CPC would not be so stupid and dogmatic to alienate an aerospace PhD from a good American school like Cheng Ting Hsu unless there was actually an extremely good reason to. Besides, Steve Hsu is a distant relative of KMT elites through his mother, not his father, and given that he was born in 1966, I doubt his father had married by 1955, when Chinese with STEM PhDs in America were allowed to return. All this is indicative of poor political judgment on the part of his father. As I’ve mentioned, generally speaking, the problem with the Chinese STEM immigrants in America is not one of intellect; it’s one of personality, taste, and judgment.
It’s rather odd and politically foolish that Steve Hsu is borderline alienating me as well. Such as his asking me the likes of,
Don’t you think that if the KMT won the war, China’s GDP would be higher than it is now?
and saying the likes of
If I became a billionaire in China, I’d want to get out, because I’m afraid that the government would take my wealth.
I would have hoped for a relationship of a more cooperative nature with Steve Hsu, but I have given up on that by now. I don’t make enemies without a really good reason, and neither does the PRC. There is also that I have pretty much nothing to fear from Steve Hsu, a Chinese-American half under fire by SJWs and closeted anti-Chinese racists in America who does not speak the Chinese language.
Steve spoke of how his father knew more than American intellectuals (academic fools) about “communism”, with his family in China having had to live with the Cultural Revolution, etc. First of all, politically distrusting his father’s family in China due to his father’s immigration to China is not entirely unjustified. There is no such thing as “freedom” in the absolute sense; you make decisions and there are consequences for yourself, and also indirectly for how your family is perceived. There is also that given the heritability of personality and social attitudes, I would not be surprised if the reality were that Steve Hsu’s father’s family in China during that era was not politically tactful, or even politically foolish. It’s also not unreasonable to by default view the descendants of KMT elite to be politically less shrewd; they were the losers of the major 20th century political battle in China after all. Steve Hsu seems to not realize that he is already in a rather disadvantaged position, especially with US-China relations down the drain and only bound to get worse.
Another thing is that Steve Hsu never learned some of the most basic Chinese language and cultural skills. It’s a sign of poor political judgment. It had to do with the shitty family he was raised in, with genes of course also influencing it to some degree. Though Steve Hsu likes to portray himself as a risk taker or maverick, my perception is that he is at least still an opportunist, or at least too afraid to forgo certain prestige or alienate certain people or institutions in order to pursue genuine long-term interests. Not only that, he is not politically wise either. If he were, he would not have openly challenged the theory of racism against blacks in a video, especially as a yellow man in America; he would also have realized much sooner to develop some real connections in China before it was too late. Instead, he has exchanged with me in a way that has indirectly resulted in more negative perception of him in China as well.
I’ve noticed problems similar with Steve Hsu in many Chinese immigrants in America who became professors. Some are too self-absorbed in their academic excellence, even at the age of 40 or 60. The reality is that very few people have any reason to care, because it does not directly benefit others. Lots of white Americans are resentful and view those immigrant professors as taking their cake. Their counterparts in China also increasingly view them as competitors, and won’t hesitate to demonstrate their relative lack of loyalty when they try to establish ties in China after finally realizing that most white Americans don’t really care about them. Some of them blame unfairness in both American and Chinese societies towards them and their children, when really, they bear a lot of the responsibility for their politically foolish decisions and way of social relations. The problem at core is their narcissism, which results in a misguided belief that because they were academically outstanding, people are obliged to respect them or even cater to them.
I was quite narcissistic and self-absorbed too as a kid, before age of 24 at least, expecting that others should care about my academic and mathematical excellence. However, I eventually developed some cognitive empathy and social maturity, at least in a way that people like Shing-Tung Yau (born 1949), Kai Li (born 1945), Shoucheng Zhang (born 1963), and Xiaoliang Qi (born 1983) have not despite being over 35, or even over 60. It doesn’t seem like these people will change given that they are already well past the general age of maturity. Given that Steve Hsu is quite interested in the relationship between genes, intelligence, and personality, I am afraid to say that this is indicative of the thesis that many or most those academically outstanding Chinese immigrants to America are inherently deficient in personality and/or moral or political character, which from a holistic perspective is just as important as academic intelligence. I also don’t see the people mentioned above as all that high in scientific taste either (their advantage seems to be mostly one of IQ and conscientiousness), but that is another matter.
I don’t actually really care much about these people. I am okay with engaging in purely scientific exchanges with them. To the extent that I care about them, I mostly want them to stay out of China. There’s a good reason why the Chinese mainstream and the Chinese government organizations in many cases discriminates more against overseas Chinese than against whites, namely that the overseas Chinese are actually somewhat culturally subversive to China. Some of them, like second generation ABC math professor Po-Shen Loh whose math outreach efforts I regard as misguided, want to establish some ties with China, partly out of curiosity. The difficulty with this is that nowadays, China does not really lack STEM human capital, and especially don’t need more people evangelizing contest math. For the ones whose ancestors went pre-49 and stayed, it is also politically justified for PRC to by default view them with distrust, unless they go out of their way to prove themselves politically. An older person in China has also put it somewhat hyperbolically that after the PRC was established, nobody would believe the kid of a big landlord or capitalist if he said that he utterly hated members of those “exploiting classes” unless he actively took part in killing one.
80s, 90s, and 2000s PRC was the most friendly towards overseas Chinese, almost too friendly. Many of the pre-49 or emigrated thru Taiwan/Hong Kong Chinese-Americans established some ties with PRC during that period. However, time seems to reveal ever more that they did so mostly for themselves, not because they were genuinely patriotic towards China, and in fact, they and their lackeys have again for their own selfish interests much encouraged an unrealistic assimilation of PRC into the American system in hope to gaining higher status relative to the Chinese in China for themselves. Sadly for them, over the past few years, the Chinese in China have increasingly called them out on this. In this regard, Steve Hsu’s father, who never set foot on Chinese soil after going to America, is better; though he did not benefit China in any way after benefiting from scarce elite educational resources there during WWII, he at least didn’t do anything directly politically harmful afterwards. Even so, the opinion of Chinese-Americans is so low now that most people in China would also view Steve Hsu’s father with disdain and doubly so. Not only did he “defect”, he also didn’t achieve anything good or great in America, especially after considering his educational credentials.
To get an idea of what an extreme contrast to Cheng Ting Hsu among the same generation of college educated in hard STEM in China was like, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lin_Lanying.