Sign In
Register Now
Home Shanghai & Delta Shanghai-Star BBS Photo & PDF Advertisement Subscription about us  
    SEARCH:     Advanced search Sunday , December , 31 , 2006    
    Home > Shanghai & Delta
   Cover Story
  Most viewed articles
Jiang's biographer is ...
Formosa's land acquisi...
Medical logistics take...
Grassroots singers bec...
Shanghai's pollution s...
Report: Value-centred ...
Businesses, consumers ...
Lips are sealed about ...
Shanghai bird flu drug...
'Three women' celebrat...
  PDF Version
  Shanghai & Delta
  Shanghai - Star
Jiang's biographer is man of many parts
Writer Kuhn works to help Chinese and Westerners understand each other through the contemporary history of China

Xu Jitao
page04  2006-3-24

"I hope you can keep your passion for science in the future," Dr Robert Lawrence Kuhn said when asked by a student of Jiaotong University about the key to becoming a good scientist.

Kuhn, the author of "The Man Who Changed China: The Life and Legacy of Jiang Zemin," had been invited to Jiaotong University on March 21 to speak to students. Hundreds of students, including many from overseas, attended the speech because for them Kuhn is an especially interesting person, and in some sense also a mystery.

Many Chinese, including students at the university, knew of Kuhn because of his book about Jiang.

A story for the world

"The book was really a continuation of a long-term desire to tell the true story of China to the world," Kuhn said. In 1989, he was invited by Song Jian, the former chairman of the then State Science and Technology Commission, to come to China and advise on reforms started in the areas of science and technology. It was the first time Kuhn had visited China and he was impressed by many of the things he saw and heard.

After 1989, he travelled between China and America many times. "I had a growing sense of frustration because people in the United States and the American media had really a very simplistic and distorted image of China," Kuhn recalled. He decided to help both Chinese and Americans to understand each other better through his work.

In 1999, an eight-episode Chinese documentary series called "Capital Wave" was broadcast in China on China Central Television (CCTV)channel 2. The documentary was produced by Kuhn and was the first co-production between China and the United States on economics and business to be broadcast in the country. It was also the first series dealing with mergers and acquisitions to be shown on CCTV.

Starting in 1997, with his Chinese friend and partner Adam Zhu, Kuhn began to produce a series of documentaries about China. Over the following three years, using US$1.5 million of his own money, the documentary "In Search of China" was completed and shown on PBS in the United States. The series was well-received by its American audience.

"But I thought something was missing in what we were doing," he said. "I didn't explain the importance of Chinese contemporary history. The turbulent history of the 20th century brought the nation trauma, tragedies, opportunities and challenges."

"People would understand today's China better if they could understand the contemporary history of China. And I found that President Jiang's life was a wonderful personification of that history. He became a vehicle through which to tell the story of China to the world," Kuhn said.

Starting in 2001, it took Kuhn more than four years to finish the book about Jiang. In those four-and-a-half years, he tried to discover and absorb everything he could about Jiang. In addition, he interviewed many of Jiang's friends, teachers, relatives and college roommates.

"It was not my full-time job, it was my night job. I wrote the book at night because during the day I was running an investment bank. I wrote this book from five or six in the evening until three or four in the morning everyday," he said.

At the time Kuhn was executive manager of Citibank, the chairman of Geneva Companies and the chairman of Kuhn Media Group and his companies' business kept him hard at work every day. Writing the book occupied all of his spare time.

"The core of the book was provided by the special and exclusive interviews with people who knew Jiang personally in each area of his life," he said.

Over the four years, he conducted many interviews himself. From Jiang's sister Jiang Zehui to his college roommates, from Jiang's best friend from work when he was still employed in an automotive factory to his mentor Wang Daohan, Kuhn tried to talk with every relevant person he could find.

Not for business

After the book was finished and published, many people were impressed.

"People in the West who have read the book may not agree with everything I wrote, but they said it had offered them a new understanding of China. They take it seriously and recognize that the book is presenting a complex story they have never heard before. Some people disagree with my approach in the book, but they see it as reflecting part of the reality of China," he said.

After the book was translated into Chinese and published in China last February, many Chinese also read it. Although Jiang made no comment about Kuhn's book when they met, he commented on it to others.

"One of Jiang's best friends, Shen Yongyang, who worked with Jiang in Changchun First Automotive Factory from 1958 to 1962, asked Jiang's opinion of the book in the year after it was published. Jiang told him that he thought the book was very objective," Kuhn said.

But Kuhn was questioned by many people about his motivation in writing such a book. Some wondered whether there was some business or political purpose behind it.

"In my life, I spent at least half of my time doing things which have no relation to business. When I wrote this book, I just followed my own passion. I spent tens of thousands of hours writing it. If I had been interested in doing business, I could have spent those hours more profitably doing something else," Kuhn said.

"I've been fortunate in my life that I've been very successful in business in the United States. I built big companies and sold them to other big companies, so I don't have any financial needs," he added.

"I like to do business and I do so, in investment banking and many other areas. I put the same energy and dedication into my business activities as I put into my writing, but I don't do business to do writing and I don't do writing to do business, they are two separate elements of my life. I have done and want to do business in China, but while I was writing the book, I did not do any business."

Write like a scientist

Born to a rich Jewish family in 1945, Kuhn showed talent in business and writing.

He has a PhD degree in neuroscience from the Anatomy and Brain Research Institute of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and a master's degree in management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School. He taught psychology at MIT, anatomy at UCLA and business strategy at New York University.

Being a scientist helped Kuhn a lot when writing his book.

"I understood that many words in the book could be interpreted in many ways, so I tried to be very cautious and to make sure that everything in the book was as true as anything I wrote in my academic writings," Kuhn said.

Being a serious scientist and successful banker, Kuhn was asked by the Chinese government for advice in many areas, including science, technology and economic reform.

"To write such a book made me a better and richer person. My understanding of China became deeper. It gave me confidence that I really understood China-that's a very good feeling," Kuhn said.

    Home    |    Shanghai & Delta    |    Shanghai-Star    |    BBS    |    Photo & PDF    |    Advertisement    |    Subscription Back to Top   
China Daily Home    |    Copyright © 2006 China Daily   ( Recommended resolution:1024*768 )     ICP 06026043Powered by MANRO