talks to Jil

Jialiang Yu is the translator of the China Summit Report (2017) written by Jil Hrdliczka after she attended the 5th Global Economic Leaders Summit and opening of the 11th China-Northeast Asia Expo, Jilin Province, China Aug / Sep 2017

Jialiang talks to Jil

“China saved me. I found my roots and identity. I excel at Math and physics but that is not my real passion. The study of the human mind is. In my academic life, I want to change how the study of the human mind is classified. Princeton University is where I want to be. My role model Daniel Chee Tsui is there, he is 79. My granny said “I remember Daniel, he did not even have enough clothes – he was so poor. But look at Daniel Tsui. He is not poor. He won the Nobel Prize in Physics (1998). He is a dean of a university faculty at Princeton. Money does not have to define you. I represented South Africa at the International Physics Olympiad in 2017. Like most teens, depression got me – but getting back to my roots grounded me – I like to excel, to win, to achieve, to be as perfect as I can be on the day, Chinese food is delicious, a special childhood memory is lamb dumplings my grandpa makes, it is a festive food, also poue pout pot chinese food – the sizzling sounds, the smells, mouth wateringly delicious, I do “instant noodles. My name is Jialiang Yu.”

Powerful, balanced, open and free talk from an 18 year old with big dreams, life plans.

Jialiang is Chinese, South African born Chinese. One of us and unmistakably Chinese.

He is tall, slim, controlled, wants to do things right the first time, is polite, has a gentle manner, is warm, decisive, direct, is somehow protective, respectful of elders and fiercely competitive.

Not to forget a great sense of humour and interesting use of wit. Some of his comments I am sure said for their reaction and his amusement – for example, yes Chinese food can be exotic – snake, frogs, the intestines of pigs, faces of fish prepared of course the Chinese way which is healthier – a cooking method that locks in freshness and “grips your taste”.

Jialiang has the will to achieve, to pursue excellence, to be at the top of his game (and yours) and in control of the situation. One gets the feeling he is in control of his destiny, he is in no rush but has his end goal clearly in his sight and within his grasp at all times, fluid and purposeful.

Jialiang is the translator of The China Summit Opinion Report (2017).

I asked him where he, a South African born Chinese learned Mandarin. Impressive Mandarin for South African schooling where Mandarin is not offered by all schools, Glenstantia Primary School, Crawford College and the African Leadership Academy being his primary and high schools.

Not knowing Mandarin myself, I had run his translation by a businessman from Changchun, Jilin, China and local Chinese language professionals – they rated the translation “mistake free”.

How did he learn Mandarin – simple answer. “My Mum taught me. Taught from a text book in sync with The National Chinese Curriculum of China. My Mum stayed at home to teach me Mandarin. Look how beneficial this is for me now.”

Yeah – when all his friends were out playing cricket he was learning Chinese. He asked me how many Chinese cricketers I knew. I smiled.

His Mum is from China, a graduate of the Institute of Technology in Shanghai, studied Chemical Engineering. His Dad from China Agricultural University in Beijing, with Agricultural Engineering as a major.

His pre-school was spent in China – 07:00 to 17:00. 3 meals a day. Taught good habits. Learned Chinese, Pinyin, English alphabet, did skipping and ball games with a midday nap, the all important rest time never to be sacrificed for other activities. The body needs rest time to function.

Learning in China is difficult. A typical day at a Chinese College could be – Morning study session starting at 04:30 – 06:00, breakfast, then session until 12:00, 12:00 – 14:00 lunch and rest time, next session until 17:00, 17:00 – 18:00 dinner followed by evening study from 18:00 – 22:00. Then rest. This in preparation for the GaoKao University Entrance Exam. It is very difficult.

“You could think of it as at monster-scale SAT exam with high stakes. For many, it is the only way to get into universities. Students are ranked based on their combined GaoKao scores. In a country where getting a degree is required to obtain a good job, the GaoKao is seen as a make-or-break opportunity. Those who achieve poor scores and do not get into their dream school often spend another year studying and sit for the exam again.” Quoted from background info on the GaoKao entrance exam.

Academic achievement is essential in China. Life is competitive and the achievement bar is set high. Does the same not hold true for Universities such as Princeton?

“You mentioned you represented South Africa at the International Physics Olympiad in 2017. Who won?”

“China. China gets golds every year. Winning matters to China.”

“South Africa came 80th out of 87 countries.”


China trains for months.

South Africa trained for 2 weeks.

In China competitiveness is a survival strategy. Everyone strives for the perfect score in everything they do. The survival strategy is simple, effective and it works.

It is common for people to re-take tests until they score the points they need. Why settle for less when, with some extra effort, one can achieve more, score more, get what you want.

If a University like Princeton is in your heart, then all you need to do is find out what score you need to get there, then go get the score and hope the “bad day factor” does not change your calculation. Simple.

The recording of The China Summit translation video did go through a few re-takes, Jialiang determined to score the highest possible rating for both the translation and recording.

You said China saved you. “Yes, like many teenagers I went through the dreaded depression phase. Not easy. I found my roots, my identify, who I am in China.”

Jialiang is Chinese – and those traits and culture that almost seem uniquely Chinese belong to him.

“I went home to China. I was brought back to a village where my role model Daniel Chee Tsui was born into a peasant family. Fanzhuang Village is about 7.5 kilometres from Baofeng, Henan, China. I was standing in his childhood cottage – an unbelievable feeling engulfed me. Like standing on top of the world, I felt the power of one, how far one can go, together and unified. “ About Daniel C Tsui, my granny said, “I remember he did not even have enough clothes  to wear, they were so poor. His nickname was Luwan, meaning little ball.” Poverty did not define Daniel’s life. From such humble beginnings he was able to carve out a life for himself and follow his dreams which awarded his style of living with the Nobel Prize in Physics (1998).

“I am on my way from that same cottage in Fanzhuang Village to study and re-define the way the study of the human mind is classified and the way it interacts with the body.”

“Thank you Jialiang – I am honoured to know you and shall observe your life with great interest.”

I think, in a way, China saved me too.” Jil Hrdliczka吉林 (Jilin), 夏凝非 (Xià Níng Fēi)