Their country, home to one of the greatest and most ancient civilizations in the world, long a leader in science and technology, was largely isolated from the great wave of military and technological advancement that began in the West in the 16th century. It was late coming to the powerful economic gains that began with the industrial revolution in the 18th century. It was dominated by outside powers during the 19th century.
And for the last century — when this Chinese couple’s parents and grandparents were alive — China suffered through a collapsing Qing dynasty, civil wars, a brutal occupation by Japan, a prolonged battle between the forces of Chiang Kai Shek and Mao Zedong.
Mao won that struggle but then plunged the country into 30 years of highly charged, revolutionary experiments, from the Great Leap Forward to the Cultural Revolution, all of which failed.
By the late 1970s,…