May 11

Taking Real Love to China

May 11, 2011

A consortium of businesses, as well as the Chinese government, invited me to share the message in Wenzhou, a city of eight million people that is noted for its business dealings throughout the world. I was there for nearly two weeks.

After interacting with thousands of people in a wide variety of circumstances, I saw reconfirmation that we human beings are united by similar emptiness and fear, along with our responses to those conditions. On one occasion, for example, our plane had engine problems, so we had to return to Beijing, rather than continuing on to Wenzhou. While waiting on the ground for another flight, I observed that Chinese people react to waiting and stress much like Americans--probably more like New Yorkers. While standing in line, the man behind me was yelling at the flight agent while hitting me in the back with his fists.

The first event was a presentation at Wenzhou University, famous for its business college and boasting a student body of more than 30,000. I spoke to an enthusiastic audience of one thousand students and faculty, also signing hundreds of books for a line of people that snaked from the stage far to the back of the auditorium.

For several days we participated in informal gatherings with the influential people of the city, in order to promote the remaining two events. I met many educated and wealthy Chinese, and again my observation was that they are very much like people anywhere in the world. They are driven to be successful and wealthy, but the acquisition of those qualities leaves them with a sense that something is missing.

At some of the events, a few people tried to bait me into making comments about political and social issues in China and the U.S.: Why does the U.S. meddle in the affairs of other countries, what do I think about abortion, how should we feel about people wrongly imprisoned in China, and so on. It was easy to frame the responses in terms of our universal need for Real Love.

At the second event, a thousand business leaders and government officials attended from all around the city. When I pulled up in front of the hotel, we were greeted by twenty photographers, a video crew, and dozens of security people. Girls in traditional costumes presented us with flowers and escorted us everywhere we went. It was like being a rock star for a day.

As I spoke, my image was projected behind me on a huge screen, so people could see facial expressions. An interpreter was on stage with me, but after half an hour or so, I sensed that the interpretation just wasn't going well, so I pointed to a lady in the audience that I knew to be bilingual and summoned her to the stage. She did a great job. I learned later that the first interpreter had been amplifying and modifying what I was saying, with enough distortion that it was distracting from the message. I mostly talked about Real Love in the workplace, but I also described how the audience might increase love in their individual lives, their marriages, and their parenting.

Over a period of several days, I had more photos taken--usually next to one or more attendees--than I'd experienced in the previous twenty years. I also ate more unusual dishes than I've ever seen: fish heads, chicken feet, sea cucumbers (you do not want to see this one), many kinds of seaweed, fruits with unpronounceable names, and more. The food bore no resemblance to what we call a Chinese buffet in the United States.

The third event was even larger than the second. It was held in the Great Hall of the People, the official government auditorium for the city. It was a beautiful building, and we experienced the same kind of lavish preparations that we saw at the second event.

China's industry is exploding. Children are getting a better education in many of the cities than in any other place in the world. They're on fire to prepare for material success, and it's working. Everywhere I went, new buildings were going up, replacing nearly everything that was old. But all this success is not producing the happiness the people hoped for. They're looking for more. A well-known professor at Wenzhou University said, "Real Love is a difficult concept for most Chinese to grasp, but it's also exactly what we need."

We spoke to thousands of people, and the feedback has been quite positive. We're already scheduled to return to three cities in China in July, and the longer plan is to go back again in October and December. We'll speak mainly to businesses again, but it's likely that we'll add a parenting seminar or two. Overall, the first Real Love outing in China went rather well, and I look forward to continuing our efforts there.

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