Wednesday, September 10, 2003
Dear Family and Friends,
On September 27, I will embark on a 13-day trip to remote region in a desolate and isolated county in central China. For those of you who know me, traveling across the world is not unusual. However this trip is different, usually my trips are to glistening cities. My destination this time is one of the poorest counties in the region.
I asked myself: Why would I go across the world, to spend my vacation in a poor rural village in Central China? I would find my answer in a short message my friend wrote while traveling:
“Funny thing is that this business center [in Brazil] is like a micro version of Shanghai's… Well, at least it's cheap”
Thus it became clear… Why am I going?
Answer: I’m going because there’s an internet café there.
Central China is a stark contrast to the glistening cities that I am accustomed to. The gap between rich and poor is most apparent when comparing the southern and eastern costal regions with the central and western interior. The Chinese government has made a point to address the issue of widening social inequality, therefore it is high priority that modernization must spread throughout the entire nation, rather than letting it cluster in a few areas. As a result they are spending heavily on roads and infrastructure to link the inland counties and provinces with the outside world.
Together with a small team of other professionals from the United States, I will be working with a Chinese software company bringing internet access to remote regions of China. With internet cafés built in partnership with local schools, rural young people will have access to computer instruction, and online information that will open new horizons for them. This is a model to increase economic development in the villages and hamlets of China. Since the first week in October is a national holiday in China, I will be working with teachers invited from around the region. Through a short English immersion program, I hope to build relationships and be myself changed through the friends I will meet there.
Currently, I’m an engineer working for a semiconductor company, hardly the type of person to be trekking to central China for a vacation. Yet, there is a link between my career and this internet café in central China. A year ago I read an article in the LA times about a charismatic CEO of a semiconductor company, who in addition to building a semiconductor factory in China, felt a spiritual calling to strengthen Christianity in the world’s most populous nation.
Semiconductors are the chips that power the engines of the modern era. They are used in everything from computers, telephones, and electronics to cars, airplanes and traffic signals. The high-tech community has a great deal of power in dealing with governments. Politicians dream of having a microchip plant in their districts, and gladly provide grants and incentives to attract companies to their shores. China was once thought to be generations behind in the technology race to manufacture semiconductors. Currently outside Beijing, they’re putting up a state of the art plant on technology’s cutting edge. No longer at the trailing edge of the semiconductor manufacturers, in a great leap, China is racing to the leading edge of the technology curve. In less than five years this semiconductor manufacturer may be considered an equal with Intel, Samsung, TSMC, and Sony.
This is the second reason why I’m going to China. Although this semiconductor company is a business, driven by stakeholders and capitalists, it seems to also possess a rare combination of vision, technology, and healthy community. They have a school, a church, and sincere vision to be far more than simply “a great place to work”. There’s a youthful “can do” attitude amongst the employees, tempered by the realities of running a real business in the most competitive environment in the world.
On my last trip to Shanghai, I spoke informally with some employees there. This time, unencumbered from the interests of my current employer, I plan to interview for a position after my visit to central China.
Justin Gee Cambridge MA
During my earlier travels, I was fortunate enough to be seated next to a minister from Malaysia, named Mark Chin. He told me this.
“A call is very different from a career. Hence, a call is not a career. It is possible to speak of one's career as the road one took in life (the companies you work for, the designations you were given, etc.). It is the path one chooses and plans to travel professionally. The destination is primary. The road is well marked. The rest is up to the traveler.
“A call, on the other hand, has no maps, no itinerary to follow, no destination to envision. Rather, a call depends upon hearing a Voice. The organ of faith is the ear or our heart, not the eye. Everything depends on the relationship between the listener and the One who calls.”
Most of all, I need your support through prayer. I am funding this trip on my own, and do not need any financial support. The total cost of this trip to me will be approximately $2500, a small sum in which to bear for the privilege of this remarkable opportunity. If you do wish to financially support this program, additional tax-deductible gifts can be sent to the organization sponsoring and coordinating this trip: Let me know if you want to help.
For further information: