|(Shanghai Daily/Zhou Tao)|
China is modern, we are often told and in turn tell amazed first-time visitors.
Many of my countrymen, rightfully proud of our nation's achievements in modernization, will point to the great number of skyscrapers, high-speed trains and state-of-the-art technological parks.
Indeed, in terms of hard power, China has everything to earn itself a place among the world's most modern nations. But on the soft side of the definition of modern, or specifically, concerning the issue of brainpower, China still has many anachronisms.
It is burdened by self-imposed shackles that stifle its potential and mar its vaunted modernity. One such shackle is the so-called qualification test required of any professionals hopeful of stepping to the next rung up the ladder.
Renowned writer Tie Liu is a victim of the tests, having flunked them for 12 years and as a result failing to secure the coveted title of "second-level writer" conferred by the Shandong Writers' Association of which he is a member.
Tie Liu, the pen name of Huang Zerong, has been applying for the position of second-level writer, for which he is eligible only if he passes the tests in English and computer skills, his nemesis. Starting January 1, Tie set aside his writing project and rededicated himself to the grueling preparation for this year's tests.
We don't know if his tenacity will pay off this time and help him finally emerge a winner from his epic struggle against the dreaded tests, or whether he will suffer defeat yet again and maybe quit trying out of despair. But many people simply do not appreciate the writer's seemingly quixotic efforts.
Better pay and perks
The title Tie strives for will bring him better pay and perks; for many, the respected writer is sacrificing his literary flair for mere material benefits, a pursuit detrimental to the greatness of his undertaking.
That may be too harsh a charge, for Tie cannot be blamed for doing as his peers do. The hard fact is, those less skilled and prolific than Tie outrank and out-earn him after passing the qualification tests, a source, perhaps, of shame and all the more reason for him to work harder.
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