Meet Our Pulitzer Prize Winning Alumna Mei Fong and Her New Book “One Child”

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(Interview conducted by Department of English Language & Literature undergraduate, Nigel Choo)

Mei Fong graduated from NUS with a Bachelors of Arts (Hons.) in English Literature in 1997. She began her career as a journalist at The New Paper, then pursued a Masters in International Affairs at Columbia University before joining the Wall Street Journal as a correspondent in 2001. Her work as a correspondent at the Journal won her various accolades including a shared Pulitzer for her stories on China’s transformation ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. After leaving the China bureau, she was on faculty at University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communications and is currently a fellow at the thinktank New America. Mei Fong was recently in town in December to promote her new book “One Child,” an account of China’s failed attempt at social engineering and its pervasive effects on the Chinese people.

Q: How did your undergraduate education in NUS influence you as a writer or journalist?

I think the honours year really helped me blossom as a writer by teaching me to read and write critically, and not just on Shakespeare or Joyce but also on popular culture. There was a great class Tim White taught on film critique I enjoyed immensely, and I also remember classes by professors Barnard White, Yong LiLan, Robbie Goh and Susan Ang vividly. Professors Goh and Ang in particular were influential because they encouraged my admittedly middle-brow tastes by lending me books on everything from science-fiction to Umberto Eco’s piece on James Bond. I knew I neither had the ability nor interest to write an epic canto, but their encouragement and examples showed me that it was possible–and indeed, necessary, to write intelligently about anything, even so-called “fluffy” topics.

Q: You have come a long way from being the 16-year old who was inspired by a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II to become a journalist and writer. Has there been a defining moment in your career thus far that you could share with us?

Lots of them! One was getting into a program to encourage creative writing that was sponsored by the Ministry of Education, when I was at Raffles Junior College. The program paired us up with mentors, and my mentor was the neurosurgeon and writer Gopal Baratham, who was a kindly influence. Gopal used to invite us mentees to the Tanglin Club for tea, and was generous about introducing us to the movers and shakers of Singaporean literary society. Imagine being a scrubby teenager and meeting folks like David Marshall and Catherine Lim. All these encounters inspired me, made me think there’s more to life than a 9-9 existence as an office peon.

one child

Q: What inspired the writing of “One Child”?

I’d been reporting on China for several years, and the one-child policy was one of the most interesting and fascinating policies that really shaped Chinese society. At first, as a city dweller, it seemed as if the policy really only affected those in rural areas, who were more subject to its excesses, like forced abortions and sterilizations. Such things didn’t happen to educated women in cities. But over time, I came to realize it really shaped a lot of things for everyday Chinese, things like who you date, the jobs you choose, and how you die. But the key for me came when I was reporting on the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, China’s biggest natural disaster in three decades. A lot of the children killed in the earthquake were only children, because the area near the earthquake’s epicenter had actually been a test pilot program for the one-child policy, before they launched it nationwide in 1980. Because of the coming Olympics, Beijing moved in ruthlessly to suppress dissent and parental concerns over the nature of these deaths–many in poorly built, “tofu” schools–and so, the earthquake became not just an illustration of the damaging effects of a natural disaster, but also exposed the great hurts inflicted by that unnatural disaster, the one child policy. While I was in the midst of reporting on all this, including taking a physically taxing journey with migrant workers, I discovered I was pregnant. I subsequently had a miscarriage. That brush with parenthood, and the pain of the loss, was a trigger for me to examine some of the issues raised in the book. Why do we want to have children? What happens when that desire is thwarted by nature or government fiat?

Q: Who should read “One Child” and why?

Anyone who’s interested in China, in the kind of dystopian worlds envisioned by Orwell and Huxley, anyone who’s interested in journalism, anyone contemplating the costs of parenthood, anyone with a uterus.

Q: Finally, do you have any advice for our undergraduates?

My advice is to those contemplating creative careers, in the arts, in writing, in journalism, filmmaking–all the so called “unsafe” jobs that your parents are horrified by. There are a million obstacles, but if you really want to do this, then YOU can’t be the first obstacle, you’ll never get anywhere. To those who want to go into it, I say, Find a Way.

And for those who’ve had some success in these fields, I say, Make a Way.

For a more comprehensive Q&A with Mei Fong, head to http://www.meifong.org/author-qa/ where she responds to questions about “One Child” in greater depth.

The way forward for intra-Muslim peace

29 January

The Straits Times

In an article contribution, Associate Professor Syed Farid Alatas, Department of Sociology and Department of Malay Studies, discussed the conflict between majority Sunnis and minority Shi’ites in the Arab Gulf States. He also discussed the Amman Message by King Abdullah Al-Hussein of Jordan that was issued more than 10 years ago which in essence, called for tolerance and unity among Muslims of the world.

Assoc Prof Syed Farid  opined that the Amman Message, which is an expression of the spirit of religious pluralism that defines the understanding and practice of Islam, is now in danger of erosion due to narrow-mindedness of the religious establishments and the willingness of politicians to sacrifice religion for material interests. Its message and appeal for tolerance is now more vital than ever.

To read the full article, click here.

Professor Jean Yeung interviewed on BBC’s Asia Business News

Professor Jean Yeung (NUS Sociology Department and Research Leader of ARI Changing Family in Asia Cluster), Director of the Centre for Family and Population Research, was interviewed on Photo 1BBC’s Asia Business News on January 27th 2016 discussing the connection between economic growth and birth rates in Asia, commenting on the falling birth rates in the region and government policy in Indonesia as well as other Asian nations aimed at reducing fertility rates. Prof Yeung noted that “there is no clear link between population policy and economic growth” and that the focus of current policies is to reduce infant mortality and improve sexual health. She added that it is important for Indonesia to focus on the human capital of the population and the fact that it has a healthy age structure now is a plus.Photo 3 (008)

The call of peace

24 January 2016

Lianhe Zaobao

In an article contribution by Associate Professor Thang Leng Leng, Department of Japanese Studies, she discussed efforts by the Hiroshima Singapore Association to promote peace, such as initiating cultural exchanges at grassroots level.

Graduate Opening at Pacific Conferences

Pacific Conferences Logo-Web_031Pacific Conferences (www.conferences.com.sg) specialises in organising business conferences aimed at providing interactive, insightful information and analysis about issues facing businesses in Asia-Pacific.

We believe in providing maximum returns to our speakers, delegates and partners and are dedicated to providing total customer care. We strive for every conference to make a long lasting impact on our attendees through the provision of insightful information, practical case studies, in-depth discussion, and intimate networking opportunities. Over and above all, we take great pride in being a catalyst for the growth of all businesses and individuals. Our client and speaker portfolio include leaders from various industries in both local and foreign markets as well as Fortune 500 companies.

Are you bold, entrepreneurial, creative and dynamic? Do you have a flair for discovering new business trends? Can you take on new challenges? Above all, do you love meeting people? If you believe that you possess these traits (or more), then we at Pacific Conferences would love to talk to you.

The Conference Producer is responsible for developing quality conference programmes targeted at senior executives in the Asia Pacific region. It involves:

– conducting market research to identify hot issues

– drafting programme topics

– recruiting qualified speakers

– copywriting

– vetting presentation materials

– performing on site event duties etc.

The Conference Producer will need to work closely with colleagues in the Administration and Marketing department to deliver a successful conference.

Requirements:

– University graduate with excellent interviewing & research skills

– High interest in analysing new markets & discovering business needs

– Aptitude for digesting a high level of information in a short space of time

– Able to write compelling sales copy & communicate with senior executives

– Strong academic background with good grades in English

– Ambitious & creative in developing ideas into events

– Possess entrepreneurial aptitude with determination to succeed

– Thrive on pressure and pride on making a difference

– Able to handle multiple projects concurrently and meet tight deadlines

Interested?

Please email to recruit@conferences.com.sg with :

  1. Cover Letter
  2. Resume
  3. Photo
  4. Current Salary
  5. Expected Salary

FASS Internship Programme

Happy New Year and Greetings from the FASS Dean’s Office! We trust you have had a great start to another semester. The Faculty is embarking on a new internship programme called the FASS Internship Programme (FASS IP).  The FASS IP is open to NUS students whose first major is in FASS. There are three modules in this programme:

FAS2550 FASS Exposure Internship.  This module is offered to students who, have completed an internship (from AY2014/15 onwards). You may register this module in any subsequent regular semester, including your final semester. This module is a 2 MC UE module to recognise your internship effort. The deadline to register this module for AY2015/16 Semester 2 is 5 Feb 2016 (Friday). All you have to do is to follow the instructions in this webpage. Internships performed in AY2015/16 Semester 2 would be acknowledged under this module.

FAS2551 FASS Internship and FASS2552 FASS Extended Internship. Students who are planning to intern during the forthcoming AY2015/16 Special Term and subsequent semesters will benefit from these two modules. You are expected to source internships and secure them on your own. To find out more about the FASS Internship Programme, please visit http://www.fas.nus.edu.sg/studentlife/fassip.html. The Faculty will use the new Arts/Social Sciences Internship Management System (AIMS) to connect you with your Academic Advisor and manage written work for these modules (Work Plan, Journals and Reports). It also contains internships that are pre-approved for the FASS IP. Internships for FASS IP are approved on a rolling basis so check back often.

A/Prof Loy Hui Chieh, Vice-Dean (External Relations & Student Life), will be conducting a briefing for FASS students who wish to embark on internship, called “An Internship for Me?”. Present at the briefing will be key people in the Faculty who will assist you in your journey. The briefing will be held on 28 Jan 2016, 6:00 to 8:00 pm, AS7-01-17 Seminar Room B. A light meal will be served.

Please sign up HERE by 25 Jan.

Apply now for a teaching position with MOE!

Calling out to all final year students interested to be a General Education Officer (Teacher)!

 MOE will be opening an exclusive application window just for you! Shortlisted candidates will be given priority and interviewed earlier than the official window publicised on our website.

If you feel teaching is your calling, apply by 9 Feb at moe.gov.sg/uniapplication!

Find out more at the MOE booth at NUS Career Fair on 1 Feb!

MOE uniapplication

 

Children will forever be the future of humanity

17 January 2016

Lianhe Zaobao

In an article contribution by Associate Professor Koh Khee Heong, Department of Chinese Studies, he commented on global conflicts and children.

Assoc Prof Koh noted that the core of Chinese culture is Confucian, which condemns violence, and that its long complex history has been grounded in virtue and humanity, which respects the value of life, believes in reason and mourns for the loss of innocent young lives.

Advisors Alliance Regional Case Competition 2016

AA

Advisors Alliance is calling for all creative, bright minds and problem solvers to join the inaugural Advisors Alliance Regional Case Competition (AARCC).

Gather your best team players in cracking a management case challenge to stand a chance to win attractive cash prizes, an internship with a leading financial advisory group, and the chance to compete on the international stage!

What’s in store:

This case competition welcomes entries from students of all faculties in NUS, NTU and SMU. Participating teams of 3 members each would tackle problems that top management handle in a bustling and exciting industry, and be exposed to the work that experts in the field perform. The rigorous case training provided would also be a great opportunity for learning and personal development. The finalists would be given the opportunity to compete overseas and attend a seminar by a world-class speaker in Boracay on an all-expenses paid trip!

The prize:

The top three teams can look forward to attractive cash prizes of $10,000, $5,000 and $3,000 respectively.

What are you waiting for? Sign up today! Visit www.facebook.com/aarcc2016 for more details and sign up at http://tinyurl.com/AARCC16 by 14 February 2016.