Feng Cuil­ing: A Breath of Fresh Air

China Pictorial (English) - - Contents - Text by Hu Zhoumeng Pho­tographs by Chen Jian

Ed­i­tor’s Note: The 19th Na­tional Congress of Com­mu­nist Party of China (CPC) is sched­uled to be­gin on Oc­to­ber 18 in Bei­jing. It is an im­por­tant meet­ing of the CPC dur­ing a key pe­riod of the com­pre­hen­sive con­struc­tion of a mod­er­ately pros­per­ous so­ci­ety. Ac­cord­ing to reg­u­la­tions set forth by the Party Con­sti­tu­tion and ar­range­ment of the Party Cen­tral Com­mit­tee, 2,287 party mem­bers from 40 elec­toral units have been elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives to at­tend the Congress. They rank among the most out­stand­ing party mem­bers, and many are model work­ers that have made re­mark­able con­tri­bu­tions in their po­si­tions. The “Peo­ple” col­umn of this is­sue fo­cuses on such stars.

It wouldn’t be hard to run into her some­day out­side the teach­ing build­ing of the School of Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Science and Tech­nol­ogy (SPST) un­der Tian­jin Uni­ver­sity: She often takes a yel­low shared bi­cy­cle to work and is known for per­sis­tent smiles and a ten­der voice but firm re­solve in her eyes.

Feng Cuil­ing is sec­re­tary of the school’s CPC com­mit­tee, a post that proved a chal­lenge when she first ac­cepted it in 2003 as the SPST teetered on the verge of break­down. Her joint ef­forts with two for­eign deans brought dra­matic changes to the school af­ter the im­ple­men­ta­tion of teach­ing re­form. “She is my most re­li­able part­ner,” de­clares Jay Siegel, the school’s cur­rent dean from the United States.

“Ac­tion is an ex­ten­sion of thought,” as­serts Feng. “Party mem­bers should fol­low the Party’s ob­jec­tives and serve the peo­ple with heart and soul.”

Con­quer­ing Dif­fi­cul­ties

Feng Cuil­ing suf­fered her first big blow the day af­ter she took of­fice, when dean Zhao Kang claimed to quit. Zhao had lived and worked in the United States for a long time, and he re­turned to China to es­tab­lish the SPST in 2001. Over the pre­vi­ous three years, the school’s op­er­a­tions had de­te­ri­o­rated se­verely due to dif­fer­ences in man­age­ment phi­los­o­phy be­tween Party and ad­min­is­tra­tive lead­ers.

Feng Cuil­ing knew that Zhao Kang was de­ter­mined to re­form. “You founded our school, which can be eas­ily re­formed be­cause of its small size,” she pleaded to Zhao. “Start­ing over on your dreams else­where might be dif­fi­cult. Give me some time and I’ll work right next to you. You can leave at any time if you feel things are not work­ing out.”

Feng even­tu­ally per­suaded him to give it another shot, and they got to work. She per­formed a lot of re­search among teach­ers and stu­dents, brain­stormed plans for re­form with the dean, and com­mu­ni­cated with ev­ery de­part­ment.

Her un­remit­ting ef­forts pro­duced solid re­sults. Most of the un­der­grand­u­ate and post-grad­u­ate classes at the school were soon taught in English. The num­ber of prac­tice cour­ses was in­creased. A cir­cu­la­tion sys­tem was es­tab­lished to en­able grad­u­ate stu­dents to work with tu­tors in dif­fer­ent lab­o­ra­to­ries and in­crease ev­ery­one’s choices. As for im­prove­ment of the teach­ing staff, the school started of­fer­ing great au­ton­omy, al­low­ing teach­ers to en­joy an as­sess­ment sys­tem in­stead of life­long em­ploy­ment un­der con­tract in ad­di­tion to eval­u­a­tion in the form of an­nual re­ports.

Un­for­tu­nately, in De­cem­ber 2001, Feng Cuil­ing was di­ag­nosed with a ma­lig­nant tu­mor and se­ri­ous breast cancer. Af­ter a year of chemo­ther­apy, she went into re­cov­ery and started her work at the SPST.

“I’m so hon­ored to be ap­pointed to serve as Party sec­re­tary,” she ex­claims. “It’s about trust and cred­i­bil­ity.” In 2011, her breast cancer re­lapsed and wors­ened. Feng still didn’t stop work­ing and main­tained her big smile even while wear­ing a wig to the of­fice.

Smooth and Quiet

In 2013, to wel­come new dean Jay Siegel, Feng Cuil­ing re­searched Siegel’s fa­vorite colors and styles from pho­tos of him from his ten­ure at the Uni­ver­sity of Zurich, his pre­vi­ous em­ployer, to pre­pare a com­fort­able of­fice for him in ad­vance.

“Siegel doesn’t speak Chi­nese,” she ex­plains, “So he might have felt help­less when he first ar­rived. I wanted him to feel wel­come and re­spected.”

Af­ter the ar­rival of the new dean, the school be­gan large-scale re­cruit­ment of for­eign teach­ers, hir­ing about 10 in one year, which ex­erted great pres­sure on Feng. A seem­ingly in­nocu­ous in­ci­dent sent her into a frenzy: One teacher had been in the of­fice for many days but still lacked a waste­bas­ket. Feng im­me­di­ately or­ga­nized of­fice meet­ings, re-ar­ranged the re­cep­tion process for for­eign teach­ers from air­port pickup to of­fice lay­out and cre­ated a de­tailed ad­dress book and sur­vival guide.

Now, nearly half of the school’s fac­ulty of 80 are for­eign teach­ers from 18 coun­tries and re­gions. Mark Olsen, an Amer­i­can pro­fes­sor, re­marked that Feng’s “metic­u­lous work” made him feel com­fort­able and happy to work in China.

To help fresh­men solve aca­demic con­fu­sion and dif­fi­cul­ties in life, the school im­ple­mented a men­tor­ing sys­tem: Ev­ery teacher pro­vides two to three stu­dents with pro­fes­sional guid­ance and each out­stand­ing up­per­class­man men­tors a dor­mi­tory of fresh­men. Stu­dents who fall be­hind re­ceive more at­ten­tion from Feng.

In re­cent years, no one has dropped out of the school be­cause of aca­demic prob­lems, and the em­ploy­ment rate has re­mained per­fect. “Ev­ery stu­dent de­serves guid­ance, ap­pre­ci­a­tion, re­spect, trust and equal hope.”

Role Model

Feng Cuil­ing was born in 1964 in a small moun­tain vil­lage of Liaon­ing Prov­ince in north­east­ern China. When she was a child, her fa­ther was a vil­lage Party sec­re­tary who often me­di­ated dis­putes. Feng re­calls her mother wor­ry­ing that he would of­fend oth­ers and her fa­ther al­ways re­ply­ing, “As a Party mem­ber, my re­spon­si­bil­ity comes first.”

She still freshly re­mem­bers the tears rolling down her fa­ther’s cheeks as he read the eu­logy to mourn the death of Chair­man Mao Ze­dong. She had never be­fore seen her fa­ther cry. “I can’t de­scribe how much he loved Chair­man Mao and the Party.”

In 1982, Feng Cuil­ing was ad­mit­ted to Tian­jin Uni­ver­sity. Ev­ery Fri­day, the mon­i­tor­ing teacher would bring or­anges and snacks to her dor­mi­tory and chat about the week. “Our teacher was a Party mem­ber,” she says. “He cared about us like we were his chil­dren.”

These ex­am­ples left Feng feel­ing like all Party mem­bers love to con­trib­ute their time and en­ergy to serv­ing oth­ers. Her sopho­more year, Feng be­came the first stu­dent in the class to ap­ply for ad­mis­sion to the Party.

Over the past 14 years un­der her lead­er­ship, SPST’S Party com­mit­tee has grown from one branch to 10 to­day, pro­duc­ing over 400 Party mem­bers. At present, some 170 Party mem­bers can be found among fac­ulty and stu­dents, and they play a lead­ing role in the school’s ba­sic ser­vices.

The school’s Party branches often in­vite for­eign teach­ers to par­tic­i­pate in cam­paigns such as vis­it­ing the me­mo­rial halls for Zhou En­lai and Deng Xiaop­ing, two key Chi­nese states­men, and the Me­mo­rial Hall of Beip­ing-tian­jin Cam­paign, to learn more about the Party’s his­tory.

In ac­cor­dance with Party-build­ing stud­ies, Feng bought Dean Siegel an English-ver­sion of Xi Jin­ping: The Gov­er­nance of China, which he fin­ished read­ing dur­ing his hol­i­day and re­sponded by prais­ing Xi’s Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive.

A while ago, Feng Cuil­ing at­tended a sem­i­nar for se­nior Party mem­bers. “I was touched by mem­bers who show great con­cern for our coun­try and the peo­ple,” she said af­ter the meet­ing. “Upon learn­ing that I would at­tend the 19th CPC Na­tional Congress, they of­fered many sug­ges­tions, hop­ing I would speak to the CPC Cen­tral Com­mit­tee on their be­half.”

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