Chinese transfer student worried about his family, himself in light of North Korean nuclear tension

Fengyi Zhang is not sure how much longer he will be in America. He is a transfer student from Dalian, China, which is near the North Korean border. As global tensions rise in response to North Korea’s fervent displays of nuclear power, he spends each day questioning the fate of his hometown, dreading the news of nuclear escalation that would send him back to China. @@[email protected]@

“North Korea wants to use nuclear weapons,” Zhang said. “If that happens, my city will be in big trouble. If they have some problems, I think that I cannot be here … if things happen there, I do not have support, and my family might be needing me there.”

In the event of a nuclear war — regardless of which side China fights for — he claims his hometown will be prime real estate for civilian casualties. Should China move to aid or defend against North Korea, they will likely move through Dalian, a thriving port city, to reach the border. What’s more, its proximity to North Korea makes it vulnerable to becoming collateral damage during an assault.

Either way, this city is in the danger zone.

“(North Korea) is close, and if a war happens,” he said, “no matter which countries (it’s) between, it can cause lots of problems for my city. You can see a different country from across my river.”

Jane Cramer,@@[email protected]@ an associate professor of political science at the University of Oregon, claims North Korea’s nuclear demonstrations are most likely theatrical in nature. According to her, Kim Jong Un’s@@[email protected]@ mounting threats of nuclear display are a response to domestic resistance to his assumption of the dictatorship and an attempt to extort money from the Chinese government.

Should North Korea initiate a nuclear war, it would most likely collapse and  be consolidated into South Korea, according to her own studies. Because sharing a border with South Korea would mean sharing a border with an American ally, China is determined to maintain the stability of North Korea. Personally, she believes North Korea’s current nuclear threats are nothing more than their latest demand for money from China; however, she concedes that their true intent is impossible to determine, especially considering Kim Jong Un’s relative inexperience on the national stage.

Should nuclear tensions escalate, Zhang’s return to China is the last thing his family wants. Despite their constant reminders that he is safer in America, he is determined to return to protect his family should the need arise.

“If things happen badly,” he said, “they don’t want me to come back home. The more they don’t want me to go back, the more I want to go. I am the only son of my family. If my parents have something bad happen, I do not want to be away from them.”

His rationale for returning to China is strategic: His parents, who he currently believes are safe from harm, will most likely choose to remain living in Dalian, despite escalating military tension. If he believes their situation has become dangerous, he will return home to force their relocation.

“They think of me as the future,” he said of his parents. “They care about me more than themselves. If I come back home, they will have to move away from my hometown to keep me safe.”

For Zhang, returning to China would mean not only the loss of his close friends, girlfriend and social sphere here in America, but also the deterioration of his career prospects. In order to resume his education in China, he would have to return to high school to prepare to retake rigorous university entrance exams. Then, assuming he passes the exams, he would still be faced with the challenge of finding a college willing to accept him—  despite his nontraditional student background and advanced age.

“I think I would be really pissed off and really disappointed,” he said. “If I come back to China in this way, I have nothing. I have no degree. I have friends here, I have my girlfriend here — if I go back, I have just kind of lost everything.”

Cramer believes that although North Korea’s threats sound intimidating, Zhang’s family and educational goals are safe for now.

“It can feel big to us because it’s so outrageous,” she said. “They’re going to be very careful not to do anything to cause a war because a war is suicide for them.”

For now, Zhang will continue his studies in America, facing the future with an optimistic outlook.

“I really enjoy to spend time here,” he said. “I’ll just be positive and think it won’t happen.”

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Sami Edge

Sami Edge

Sami is the Editor In Chief of The Emerald. Former intern at Willamette Week and aspiring international investigative reporter. Swimmer, writer, dreamer, reader, thinker, explorer and drinker of strong coffee.