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  6am when I put on this ZARA dress, I found its label writes this: “Designed in Spain. Made in Vietnam.” And it is now available all over the Chinese market. ZARA is the fastest among various fashion brands. With advantages generated by globalization, from raw material to labor, from warehouse to shipping, it takes only 12 to 15 days for ZARA to turn a design on sketch paper to clothes on shelves.

  Globalization has eliminated numerous barriers and made the world flat ever since it gained momentum in the 1990s. But recently it seems to be rolled back by someone like Donald Trump in US and Marine Le Pen in France. Public opinions are being misled by their claim that recoiling from globalization seems to be the panacea to the two most urgent problems troubling many people in the west—employment and refugees. But can we buy the story?

  Withdrawing from TPP seems to be an act that can move factories back from third world countries so that new jobs can be created and therefore unemployment rate reduced. However, the cost of the products would also be raised since the labor at home and the transport of raw materials are more expensive, which causes greater pressure on all the families in terms of household expenditure. People may manage to get new jobs but the living standard does not improve. And this is the story that anti-globalization politicians would never tell to the voters.

  In addition to the concern of employment, the influx of refugees also touches a highly sensitive nerve. Rejecting asylum seekers may promote domestic security in the short run, but it tramples what’s equally important--humanitarianism and responsibilities. Refugees such as those from Syria are not born refugees; they are made refugees by the Wars that shattered their homes and countries. The real solution therefore is not isolation but globalization because globalization promotes interdependence among nations whereby conflicts and wars are more likely to be prevented.

  Yes, there are defects in globalization, such as environmental deterioration, polarization between the rich and the poor, and exploitation of workers, to name just a few. But what we need to do is not putting an end to it but putting it right. As the second largest economy of the world, China should hold a lead. We should promote global governance fight against contamination. We should strike a balance between efficiency and equity so that different countries, different social classes and different groups of people can all enjoy the benefits of globalization.

  Globalization has just stepped into its twenties, pretty much like us young adults. Every twenty something is so energetic, striding to achieve more and surely deserving a second chance to pull back from the deviation. As we consumers are enjoying benefits and convenience brought by ZARA and other international brands, we see clearer that the question now is not whether to accept or reject globalization but how to make it fairer, cleaner and a win-win for all.


  Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,

  When I was little, I lived in a remote village in southern China with my grandparents. Like many kids in the countryside, I enjoyed digging a hole in the opening among paddy fields, using branches and hay to bake sweet potatoes and playing hawk-and-chicken with my friends. Every Chinese New Year Eve, my grandmother would prepare our festive food called Guo. It was a tradition that neighbors help each other prepare Guo. While adults were busy pouring flour on the cutting board, pressing the paste flat and moulding it into beautiful shape, kids would run around in the village’s ancestral temple and immerse ourselves in the enchanting and cheerful smell of holiday.

  Having lived in the city for the following ten years, I always feel the changes happening in my hometown every time I go back--the village looks surprisingly similar to the coastal city where I live! The opening field where I baked potatoes was leveled and a manufacturing factory has been built there, blocking the sunlight of our yard. The ancestral temple has been torn down and is now a small supermarket for villagers. The number of people knowing how to prepare Guo is diminishing and young people seem to be more interested in fast food and oblivious of traditional arts and skills. The village seems quite empty because most young people have become migrant workers in cities and only return home once or twice a year.

  In the course of urbanization, villages gradually languish and die out when the passing on of traditions lose its population base. The total number of Chinese villages has declined from 3.7 million in 2000 to 2.6 million in 2010. Approximately 300 villages in China are disappearing every day. It’s saddening to see that many ancient villages, which survived warfare and natural disasters over thousands of years, have been demolished or annexed by cities in peacetime. Lulei Village, hometown for the famous mathematician, Chen Jingrun, was an affluent village in southern China with a history of over 700 years. Since the village obstructed the construction of the local railway station, it was almost torn down, including the former residence for Chen’s family.

  We Chinese have been reveling in urbanization for decades. What worries me is that one day on this way to modernization, we turn back but are unable to see the link with our origins and ancestors. When we’re surrounded by skyscrapers and neon glamour, what defines us as Chinese? Urbanization does not mean brutally encroaching upon the countryside and strangling rural culture. It should not sever the ties with our beloved homeland. While promoting the country’s economy, it should also allow space for cultural diversity. In the ideal urbanization process, we should no longer emphasize the binary opposition of city and village, but endeavor to form a reciprocal relationship between the two.

  Ladies and gentlemen, fallen leaves return to the roots. If we do not redefine and reorient urbanization, we will not be able to save millions of villages, neither can we revert to the origin where we belong.

  Thank you.


  Ladies and gentlemen, youth is precious. It is a time of our lives where we are energetic, idealistic and passionate but also clueless, insecure and naive. This small fragment of time in our lives may sometimes feel like a grey area between childhood and adulthood. A time where most of us feel lost but yet excited about what’s to come. It is a mixture of bliss, toxicity and adrenaline. Youth is bright and sunny but it is also dark and stormy. Let me explain.

  Youth is happiness. Youth is trying things for the first time. It is being a bit braver, a bit bolder, a bit... mercurial! Perhaps, for some, it is the first time we fall in love and it’s magical - like a story in a fairytale. Youth now, is spending time on the Internet, with our friends, on our hobbies, on the things we enjoy - but, all this time is not time wasted because we are happy. Youth is a Pandora’s Box of memories with childhood friends and high school classmates - making fun of our teachers behind their backs and sometimes copying each other’s homework.

  But youth is also pain. It is a time of metamorphosis and sometimes we learn things that are simply excruciating. For those who fall in love, youth is your first heartbreak and it feels like the end of the world. Youth is a time for goodbyes - the friends we used to see every day are now scattered across the globe and everyday becomes once a year. Youth is a time for acceptance - where we get rejected by universities, by our parents and even by ourselves. We beat ourselves up over things we can’t change yet don’t understand - why did that university not accept me? Why am I not good enough? Why?

  Youth is both happiness and pain. It has moments of highs and lows, light and dark. It is the zenith and the nadir. You can’t have one without the other. Rather, it’s a balance of both - a yin and a yang, a complete whole.

  So ladies gentlemen, do not fear the darkest of nights because it will always be followed by day - the boy or girl who broke your heart will never meet the spouse of your future, the friends you thought you’d never see again come back to you - perhaps on your wedding day and to those who didn’t think that we were good enough, well, look how far we’ve come.

  Thank you.


  “Way to Blue. Everybody Hurts. Glad to be Unhappy.”

  These were some of the chart-toppers announced on the radio while I was at the barbershop a year ago. Quite depressing, huh.

  I asked my brother, Joe, why songs that display such unhappiness reach the charts. Joe is an established businessman who is always confident with his viewpoints. He reacted quickly and questioned me in a matter-of-fact tone, “can’t you relate to the song?” He then confidently pointed to the Buddhists’ explanation of happiness, explaining to me that happiness is never a constant state, but rather only a temporary escape from suffering. While I respect the Buddhist explanation, I couldn’t help but ask: so what is keeping you from experiencing happiness? Joe lost his assertiveness when I mentioned this and he replied, “While I gain acceptance from my peers and family, I feel like I’m a nobody. These songs act as a route for me to escape. I don’t see happiness as attainable in my life.”

  While Joe transformed from a confident speaker to a soft-spoken melancholic within a matter of a minute, my barber offered him a sympathetic smile. He spoke up. “I was exactly like you - once upon a time, I deceived myself into thinking I was happy. I followed the majority’s norms of a stable job in brokerage and felt I gained society’s acceptance. I was loved! But deep down, I loved songs like these because I felt so useless. I felt that whatever I did made no difference in the world. I found an escape from this mainstream music as a means of explaining myself. Then the next day, I’d put on my suit and be a nobody again.

  Then I asked, but how about now? “Now?” The barber said, smiling. “Now, I don’t think this music deserves its place on the charts.” He flipped over to his playlist and played us a song - “Mayfly” by Cheer Chen.

  The lyrics goes “Everyday when we open our eyes, we are all mayflies. Living a simple life, chasing a dream vigorously, searching for nothing but happiness.”

  “I think this music deserves a place on the charts. I wish people could search for happiness by only looking forward, and be brave enough neglect harsh criticisms and mockeries along the way - just like a mayfly. A mayfly only sees what is ahead of it - why else would their lives be so simple otherwise? I became a barber because I wanted to attain happiness - sure, I experienced disapproval from peers and such, but I did not want to become “a firefly without light”. I find happiness when I mix with trendy young people that are eager to make their customers look better - sure, some may not understand why this brings me happiness, but does it matter?”

  My brother Joe and I had a long conversation that evening. We debated vigorously on our different values of happiness - while the conversation with the barber relit my childhood dream of being a conductor, Joe still questions whether stable happiness can achieved even if his dreams are fulfilled. But ultimately, we agreed that one should not let others decide your own standard of happiness. Don’t deceive yourself into sadness and despair; pick yourself up and find your own definition of happiness. Thank you.


  Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. My topic today is “The pursuit of happiness” and am I going to start with a definition? NO! That is not how I am going to approach this. After knowing the topic, I can imagine students cutting directly into the definiton of happiness, sharing their little happy stories, setting criteria for happiness and using puns to show what happiness consists of. But that is not where I am going.

  To be honest, there is actually not much to talk about happiness and there is no need to hold an open discussion about it, because the sense of happiness is a mere personal and private concept. We define our own happiness. Some people like peace and nature, so they prefer to live tranquilly in the countryside; some people are drawn into arts and literature, so they become wild and let imagination take their wheels; while some others are simply fancy about the betterment of life, in other words, to make big money, so they work their asses off to get to the top of the pyramid, like me. Am I happy? Yes. Are they happy? Of course. People have different beliefs, different targets and they are simply different beings and they deserve the rights to pursue their own happiness.

  However, there is a popular set-pattern catching on recently, claiming to be the happiest way of living and it goes like, “Enter a key school! Then a pretigious university! Get a decent job! Large houses! Stunning spouse! Children! And finally rest in peace with four generation crying and remembering you besides your coffin.” And the pattern passes on to the next generation. There are actually a lot more set-patterns and stereotypes in our lives: “Boys go for science; girls are for arts.” “English major? You’ve gotta learn a double degree. Economy will be the best for boys.” “Don’t ever listen to Lady Gaga, that’s for women and gays.” And whenever I want to fight against those stereotypes, the responses will all be like, “That’s how it works in China! Be a man! You are too naive [Sigh], you’ve gotta learn the systems, boy.” The seemingly-established patterns are dangerous. They make us lose our ability to think and analyse, or become too realistic to think: if we make one step out of the set-circle, we will be outcasted and no longer experience happiness. But that is not true. I became an art student in a class of only 5 boys; I broke the first pattern. I didn’t apply for the economy degree, because I hate math; I broke the second pattern. I am sure there will be many more patterns for me to break, but I am not afraid; a little excited actually. If I followed any of those patterns, I swear, I couldn’t be happy like I am now.

  I don’t want to live like a bee flying in circles: “Get the honey! Get back to the hive and get ready to die!” No. Even though I can’t make big money in the future, I still want things to be in my way, not from the pattern. I want to live my life, not a life. I can only be happy if I can be true to myself.

  Thank you.