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Before I left for my summer trip to China with 200 other university students from around the world, I wrote in my application essay for this Hong Kong-based China Synergy Program that I want to "participate in China's assimilation of Western economic ideals." Little did I know that China's development relative to the most advanced country today, the United States, has grown exponentially since I left China eight years ago. My fascination with China's economic direction was sparked by my conversation with a Computer Science major from Xian Jiao Tong University. As we were talking about the future of e-commerce in China, he mentioned that one of the greatest assets for a fledgling company in today's new economy is "vision." I was not only surprised by this ultra-modern view, but was also taken aback by his way of substituting the word "vision" in English when we had been conversing in Chinese all along. In today's China, foreign language is synonymous with English, which is taught from the first grade. China's passion for the new economy that has driven the U.S. to unprecedented prosperity was most intensely shown in Beijing, the city with the most Internet users in China. Not only does one often hear from the media that some university students are quitting school to earn an e-salary 10 times that of an average worker, but even my family members are participating in this frenzy. My cousin, once the chief executive officer of a successful elevator company, is taking classes in Human Resource Management -- he calls it Human Image Packaging -- in preparation for his next business venture in e-commerce. Another cousin, who just finished her first year in college, is participating in a business plan competition hosted by McKinsey, which will provide seed money to the entrepreneur who comes up with the most promising e-commerce idea. The willingness of the Chinese people to open up to the most up-to-date lifestyle after thousands of years of closed-door policy is truly impressive at sight. Culturally, the Chinese, or at least the young generation, are not far away from the Americans either. Rollerblading has become the latest fad in Beijing with the introduction of the X-Games on TV, while pirated DVDs of Britney Spears and the Chinese version of Backstreet Boys are easily found. When I introduced myself to a History major from Beijing Normal University, I told him that I went to school in Philadelphia, the place where Thomas Jefferson used to work. Because of the often-inaccurate translation of English names into Chinese, the History major thought I was talking about Allen Iverson, the leading scorer in the NBA a year ago. He and his baggy basketball shorts told me that the Philadelphia 76ers is a popular team in China, where basketball rivals soccer as the most watched sport in China. A little amused, I went on to explain that the Jefferson I was referring to wrote the Declaration of Independence more than a hundred years ago. Upon hearing this, the History major promptly went on to recite the preamble to the Constitution without stuttering a bit. In my heart, I was saying, "How America-centric!" With an insatiable demand for logging onto the World Wide Web, China has been never been more liberal economically and culturally. More and more overseas Chinese are going back to China not only for their love of their country but also for historic opportunities. Just as Richard Li, CEO of Pacific Century CyberWorks -- the Chinese version of AOL -- pointed out to us, "The competition for advancement in Asia is almost non-existent for those with language and technical skills." As for me, a Computer Science major who has lived in Beijing for 12 years, it will be my own idiocy if I don't return to the land of opportunities.

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