A Story of A Poem: “What Do You Really Want from Us?”

Washington Post published a poem named “What Do You Really Want from Us?” in January 2011. According to Washington Post, the poem was written by Duo-liang Lin, a retired professor of SUNY-Buffalo.

What Do You Really Want from Us?
Duo-liang Lin
  When we were the sick man of Asia, we were called the yellow peril.
  When we are billed to be the next superpower, we are called the threat.
  When we closed our doors, you smuggled drugs to open markets.
  When we embrace free trade, you blame us for taking away your jobs.
  When we were falling apart, you marched in your troops and wanted your fair share.
  When we tried to put the broken pieces back together again,
  free Tibet you screamed, It was an invasion!
  When tried communism, you hated us for being communist.
  When we embrace capitalism, you hate us for being capitalist.
  When we have a billion people, you said we were destroying the planet.
  When we tried limiting our numbers, you said we abused human rights.
  When we were poor, you thought we were dogs.
  When we loan you cash, you blame us for your national debts.
  When we build our industries, you call us polluters.
  When we sell you goods, you blame us for global warming.
  When we buy oil, you call it exploitation and genocide.
  When you go to war for oil, you call it liberation.
  When we were lost in chaos and rampage, you demanded rules of law.
  When we uphold law and order against violence, you call it violating human rights.
  When we were silent, you said you wanted us to have free speech.
  When we are silent no more, you say we are brainwashed-xenophobes.
  “Why do you hate us so much﹖”we asked.
  “No,” you answered, “we don’t hate you.”
  We don’t hate you either, but, do you understand us?
  “Of course we do, ”you said, “We have AFP, CNN and BBC’s ……”
  What do you really want from us?
  Think hard first, then answer, Because you only get so many chances.
  Enough is enough, enough hypocrisy for this one world.
  We want one world, one dream, and peace on earth.
  This big blue earth is big enough for all of us.

The poem became a hot topic in China as soon as it was introduced to Chinese people. The research result amounts of 林良多, which is a transliteration of Duo-liang Lin, increased to 117,000, all of which are related to the poem. It aroused the sympathetic responses of millions of Chinese medias and citizens.

The interesting thing is, SUNY-Buffalo does not have any faculty named 林良多. However, there is a 林多梁 in Physics school. According to Prof. Lin, he found this poem by accident in 2008, then he sent this poem to his friends. Maybe some of his friends misunderstood the origin of the poem and sent it to Washington Post.

Prof. Lin also said that he only thought the poem was interesting, but he could not agree some content in it. Prof. Lin is a pacifist. He believes that peace and development are the most important themes for the whole world at present. He appeals for the win-win relationship between China and US.

Though the event itself was proved to be a misunderstanding, we can still find something useful through Chinese people’s and medias’ attitudes.

People’s Daily, one of the biggest newspapers in China, commented to the poem, ”The poem reflected the depression and resentment of millions of Chinese Americans. It is like an arrow towards the prejudice of western opinions.”

From my perspective, the fast spreading of this poem reflects a structural inconsistency in the Sino-US relations. The prejudices exist both in China and in the US. American people feel anxious for China’s natural development and its new international standing: Chinese products resulted in millions of unemployments; China is going to be another superpower which will threat the international standing of the US. On the other hand, Chinese people are still somewhat hostile to the western world. China wants more discourse power as its comprehensive strength keeps growing.

About ShuzeChen

Shuze Chen is a full time graduate student at SPR, Annenberg, USC. He comes from Jiangsu, China. He did his undergraduate in Advertising, Nanjing University.
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