Lily Tang Williams: From Mao’s China to Freedom in America
Lily Tang, a Chinese émigré who found in America the freedom to live the fulfilling life she always dreamed of, has a difficult story to tell. And yet, she does so with the enthusiasm and light heart of a curious child.
From Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province, Tang arrived to this world just before Mao’s takeover of China. Witnessing first hand what the Cultural Revolution did to her peers, she suffered tremendously, both physically and psychologically, as she tried to break away from the control the state had over her life.
From learning her parents had to ask the government for permission to marry to living through periods of virtual starvation due to food rationing, she quickly learned that the communist utopia didn’t work. With no toys, no books, no TV, and no entertainment whatsoever, she looked forward to going to school, only to learn that the communist indoctrination that served as the backbone of Chinese education would make it difficult for her to learn more than what she was allowed to.
Educational institutions in China, she quickly learned, had the sole purpose of raising a tamed populace — but she wasn’t going to cave in that easily.
As a young woman, she couldn’t dress, speak, or think differently from what she was told. Unlike girls in the West, she was taught she wasn’t an individual but a mere reflection of the collective.
The indoctrination was so effective that when Mao died, she wondered how it was possible. “I thought he was God!”
During her October 15 presentation of “My Stories of Growing Up in Communist China” to America’s Future Foundation attendees, Tang said that while her story is the reality of countless others who weren’t as lucky as her, young people in America seem oblivious. Preferring socialism over capitalism, these young Americans can’t understand that a life under the control of central planners is a life of misery.
In America, Freedom
When Tang arrived in the United States in 1988 with only $100 in her pocket, she finally tasted the kind of life she had only dreamed of. Finally, there was a world of opportunities waiting for her. But getting to America wasn’t easy.
After graduating from Fudan University in Shanghai with an undergraduate law degree, she decided to leave everything behind thanks to the sponsorship of a Fulbright professor from the University of Texas in Austin.
Unable to speak the language at first, Tang turned things around fairly quickly, earning a Master’s degree in administration and planning from the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin. In no time, she had become a married and working mother.
In America, she learned that hard work paid off. She also learned that communism robbed the lives of her countrymen. In a nutshell, communism robbed their humanity.
As she sees the American political environment becoming more welcoming to the empty promises of socialism, Tang sees her story as a means to inspire others. But for people to feel compelled to refuse a future of servitude to the state, the ideology must be exposed for what it is. That’s why she travels across the country talking to Americans of all backgrounds and ages, sharing the reality of what it means to give up your freedoms.
At America’s Future Foundation, we highlight stories like Tang’s because there’s power in sharing personal experiences. And while we know America is special, we understand that nothing comes for free.
If we don’t fight for our freedom, liberty will perish.