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  • In the Eye of the China Storm: A Life between East and West by Paul T. K. Lin with Eileen Chen Lin
  • Franklin J. Woo (bio)
Paul T. K. Lin with Eileen Chen Lin. In the Eye of the China Storm: A Life between East and West. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2011. 327 pp. Hardcover $39.95, ISBN 978-0-7735-3857-3.

In the Eye of the China Storm is an account of the Canadian-Chinese family of Paul T. K. Lin (1920–2004), who with his wife, Eileen, and two young sons (ages four and five months) spent fourteen years (1950–1964) in Communist China participating in its revolutionary nation building. It is the saga of how one person whose passion and commitment for a new China contributed to the slow process of transforming North American Cold War attitudes and contentious relationships with the People’s Republic. The book was put together after Lin’s death by his wife, [End Page 358] who carefully selected the significant material from his personal archives and manuscripts.

Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1920, Lin was the youngest of five children of the Rev. George Lim Yuen and Chiu Mon Son. Lim Yuen had come to Canada at age fifteen after a traditional Confucian education in Xinhui county near Guangzhou, leaving in 1897 a weak China, plagued with Western and Japanese encroachments. Supporting himself at first as a laborer in Canada’s salmon cannery industry and later as a domestic servant for a devout Christian, Lim attended church-sponsored Bible classes in English. Through his study and experience with church people, Lim became a Christian and eventually was invited to be the first Chinese clergy of the Church of England (Anglican) in Canada.

Attributing to his father much of his diligence in learning and his compassion for a strong China and a better life for its people, Lin flourished in mind and spirit, growing up in the town of Vernon outside of Vancouver, as a Canadian-Chinese who was fully aware of his Chinese heritage and the need for a stronger China amid foreign hegemony. Despite his fondness in being a Canadian, he was equally aware of the endemic racism in white society, but his own “experience with racial discrimination was not as bad as that experienced by the ‘peasant Chinese,’ scorned by most white Canadians” (p. 8), as shown in Canada’s Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923, which lasted until 1947.

Being a hyphenated person with dual attachments to two cultures, Lin in the late 1930s “was deeply anguished by Japan’s atrocities committed against the Chinese people” (p. 11). He was an active member of Vancouver’s Chinese Youth Association (CYA) and participated in the Student Christian Movement (SCM), being especially attracted to its social gospel. Unusually good at speech making with passion and intelligence, Lin became a much sought after orator, even at an early age. He won a scholarship to the University of British Columbia, where he stayed briefly with a major in engineering, before relocating to the United States.

Lin continued his studies in the United States at the University of Michigan. Recognizing Lin’s talent in intellectual leadership, his wise and caring counselor (in engineering) persuaded him that engineering was not his calling. Lin, in turn, switched from engineering to international relations. At Michigan, Lin represented his university and was the unanimous winner of the first prize in the Northern Oratorical League Contest held at Northwestern University in 1942. (His gift as an orator and skillful use of the English language are attested to by the many speeches and excerpts over the years, gathered in this biography.) He graduated a year later, in 1943, with a BA degree (with honors). During his time in Michigan, Lin courted and then married, in 1944, Eileen Chen from Shanghai. They became parents of their first son, Christopher, in 1945, and their second son, Douglas, in 1949.

His interest in international law led Lin to pursue graduate studies at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where he earned a master’s degree, followed by another master’s degree from Harvard’s Graduate...


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