The Deng Family 邓家

by Tatiana Luna

I have a new tutoring job as the main English tutor of two young sisters, Vicky and Nicky.  Nine year old Vicky is a sprite in look and spirit, seemingly unstifled by the scheduled activities constantly rolling over her.  Folk dance lessons, flute, homework, English lessons, and I don’t know what else, but I’m sure there’s something.  From my first encounters with her and her family yesterday and today, I can see why she told me today, “I don’t like class,” and resisted my attempts at teaching after only 20 minutes today with, “Okay, that’s it, bye bye!”  Very cheerful and perfectly bratty.  If I didn’t have a child of my own, who I am pretty good at controlling, I would be intimidated. But she’s also the smartest nine year old I’ve met in China so far, and she fearlessly speaks and reads English with clear pronunciation, and even clearer charades when she doesn’t know a word.  I didn’t realize a nine year old could have such a presence.

Nicky, so far, at the age of almost three is already prone to bratty behavior, but I wonder if she has much hope of getting out of it.  She grabs, she hits, she cries, she does whatever she wants and without the kind of resistance I would hope for and expect from her mother.  Ivy, Mrs. Deng, is amazingly calm with these two little whirlwinds flying around her, and yet I also get the sense of a deep well of energy meant for dealing with them.  Mrs. Deng is the Master Planner, the architect of her children’s education, scheduling lessons, and meetings, and driving them to their various obligations.

Does this family represent something entirely new in China? The nouveau-rich family training a brood of polymaths, while living in luxury and style in the Golf Club of Zhuhai. The first time Mrs. Deng was driving me home taking a short cut through the nearby village of Tangjia 唐家, I looked back at the children in the backseat and realized, the sight of relative poverty, filth, and ugliness that is Tangjia is as foreign to them in many ways as it was to me the first time I came to China. Have these children ever taken a public bus? I seriously doubt it. They have grown up in their sleek black car, without any restrain such as a child seat or seatbelt mind you, in much the same way I grew up spending hours in a car every week. This is the Chinese version of the American lifestyle.

Having these thoughts in the passenger seat of their car it suddenly struck me how totally idiosyncratic and possibly insane this period of China’s history is in light of its recent past. The aristocrats and the bourgeois have arisen again in greater strength and larger numbers, and this time this group of people is powerful on a global scale. The Deng Family would be rich in America too, and two of their children have foreign passports, one in Hong Kong and one in Canada. They are being groomed to conquer the world, while the majority of China’s population is still working like mules, hauling dirt and trash, breathing in toxic chemicals, and pissing in the street.