The people I met were in their late forties and early fifties. I did a quick calculation in my brain – they would have been growing up during the Cultural Revolution when ignorance was celebrated and intelligence was suppressed.
However their crave for truth and knowledge pushed them to study and live in various countries until they found their academic careers back in China. Facing the many constraints, they decided to always take a positive view. Their faith was probably constantly tested by turbulences but they appear peaceful and calm all the time.
On the way out of the campus, I run into a Western professor who speaks perfect Chinese. I was told he understands China better than a lot of Chinese and decided to stay and teach here.
Some people are born to be smart. Some people grew to be wise. I guess that is what education ultimately brings out of people.