China
Shaw and Manly, 1988

On Saturday, September 3, Luigi, Dodge and I drove out to O'Hare airport in time to meet the flight that Shaw was taking from Boston; then she and I continued on the 10:00 A.M. flight to Seattle where we met the rest of the delegation of securities lawyers assembled by the Citizen Ambassador Program (alias People to People). There was a nice reception followed by a good dinner of poached fresh salmon and then a number of speeches by C.A.P people and by Dick Phillips, the delegation leader, a lawyer from Washington, D.C. His was good and brief and that of a Chinese woman named Mitzi was good, but the rest were fluff.

More briefing by a man with a beautiful voice and no brains on Sunday morning preceded a 12:40 plane to Narita, the airport for Tokyo. We arrived about 2:00 Monday afternoon without having seen the sun go down, and were taken by bus to a small hotel a few kilometers from the airport. We stayed there until time for the 6:00 P.M. Tuesday plane to Beijing, but were taken by bus into the town of Narita to see an impressive temple of some variety and a department store. The latter had a digital audio tape player for about $750 (including ordinary tape and radio). They sell ordinary audio tape for about $5 for 90 minutes. Shaw said this was about twice what a tape of this sort would cost in the U.S.

The plane ride to Beijing was uneventful, though it took an exceedingly long time for the baggage to appear. We were met by Li Detian, Chief of the Liaison Section of the Foreign Affairs Department of the Ministry of Justice, and one of his underlings, Li Jiali who speaks English well and acted as translator throughout our time in China, although various local guides tried to do so from time to time with varying degrees of success. A bus took us to the Jinlung Hotel, which had been owned partly by Canadians and partly by Chinese, but recently the Nikko Hotel people of Japan bought out the Canadian interest. The hotel was much like a luxury hotel anywhere else, although there was a sign on the mirror over the washbowl saying that the cold water from the tap was potable. Nevertheless, Shaw and I did not drink from it except for that which I put into a plastic water bottle and sterilized with iodine capsules. This process leaves a slight iodine taste which is easily overcome by Bourbon Whiskey. In all the other hotels we got carafes or thermos bottles of drinking water. All the hotels we stayed at were good by American standards (though under-elevatored) and the laundry service was far better, faster and cheaper than in the U.S.

On Wednesday morning the delegates were taken to the main office of the People's Bank of China (the central bank) where we met the deputy directory of the legal department and several other staff personnel. We learned that the Chinese authorities had recently determined the difference between stocks and bonds in that country: A holder of stock does not get his principal back, but a bondholder does. Presumably the stockholder gets enough current return to justify his investment, but this was not made clear. In any event, the State is the ultimate owner or equity investor, in most major enterprises and the shareholders do not control management.

While the lawyers were meeting with officials, the others were visiting the zoo where they saw numbers of both greater and lesser pandas. After lunch with the lawyers, they went to Tian An Men Square while we met with officials of the Division of Registration and Supervision of Foreign Enterprise of the State Administration of Commerce and Industry. We learned fully as much as we wanted to know about the requirements for registration to do business in China as a corporation.

It turned out that Tian An Men Square was hot and the women were getting thirsty. Their lead guide was Li Detian, the pleasant and knowledgeable man who met us at the airport but does not know English; whatever he said had to be translated by Miss Wang, the number three guide. Li Jiali, the number two guide and an "official" of the Liaison Section, was with us at the meeting, doing much of the the translating. As their thirst grew the women were surprised when Li Detian walked briskly away and then returned with a supply of banana popsicles for them, which he had bought from a street vendor. The entire group had been warned strictly against eating anything sold by street vendors, and hesitated to eat them until one asked Li what would happen if they ate a popsicle and got sick. Li cheerfully replied that the man who sold the popsicles would be punished and his vendor's license revoked. That cheered them, and all but Shaw, who does not like bananas, ate and enjoyed their popsicles. Shaw later suggested that, for making American tourists sick, not only would the vendor be punished, but possibly Li as well.

Dinner was at a famous restaurant named the "Peking Duck" in English. All of the dishes were very good except for one, the Peking Duck, which had an excellent sauce, but which seemed to consist only of skin and fat. All of our luncheons and dinners were served Chinese style, with eight to twelve people sitting around a circular table and helping themselves from a succession of dishes brought by waiters or waitresses and deposited on a large lazy susan. Plain water was never served at a meal: the beverage choice was among mineral water with lots of salt, Coca Cola, orange crush and beer that was locally made and quite good. We drank virtually no mineral water and not much orange crush or Coca Cola. In accordance with a Chinese practice which the government is trying to change for sanitary reasons, we all used our own chopsticks to serve ourselves from the common dishes. In time we all came down with colds.

On Thursday, September 8, the lawyers had an excellent meeting with three members of the legal staff of China International Trust and Investment Corporation (CITIC), the investment arm of the government. CITIC operates in many capacities and through several subsidiaries, as an investment bank, as a development corporation and as a consulting service to foreigners who want to invest in Chinese enterprises. CITIC is involved in 140 joint ventures as a shareholder; it also provides loans to other joint ventures as an industrial bank, and it sometimes guarantees loans from abroad or borrows from abroad and re-lends the money to Chinese enterprises. Sometimes it invests abroad for specific purposes, such as in partnership with a foreign firm in a high tech venture so as to obtain technology and bring it back to China. Citic is currently involved in a joint venture with a Wisconsin firm to produce enzymes, partly to get the enzymes and partly to get the technology to make enzymes. I asked how they finance public improvements, such as roads, and was told that they are financed by loans from the World Bank, but that recently a road has been financed by a firm that wanted to develop real estate near a harbor and was told that in order to be able to develop that land he must build a public road to the harbor.

A trip to Beijing University School of Law in the afternoon was pleasant but not terribly instructive, and I slept through most of the lecture by a professor of law.

That evening we went to the Summer Palace, which was established in the 13th or 14th Century and much improved by the Dowager Empress in the late 19th century. She used money that had been allocated to building a navy. Dinner was at the Dingling restaurant on the grounds of the Palace; walking about after dinner Shaw and I heard what sounded like an animal howling in pain because its ears were being hurt by a rogue bagpipe. It turned out to be a Chinese opera rehearsal in a gazebo on a small peninsula in a lake on the palace grounds. The singer was accompanied by a man bowing an instrument that resembled a croquet mallet with strings.

On Friday the ninth the group visited the Great Wall in the rain. The bus left us very close, and a couple of flights of stairs took us to the top of the Wall where we could see it running off across hill and dale in both directions into mists -- the mists of antiquity no doubt. That afternoon we visited the Ming tombs; a subway station would have been more interesting.

On Saturday morning we visited the forbidden city where, despite the efforts of our guides, we all went our separate ways, meeting from time to time by chance. The immensity of the Forbidden City is hard to comprehend until you get lost several times. Shaw instructed one guide to look out for me particularly as I have a poor sense of direction. Fortunately I took a bearing on the sun when we entered at the south end and was able to keep going north to the meeting place outside the north wall, though it often turned out that the way led into a group of buildings with no north exit. I suspect that Chinese scientists were observing us to see how long it took us to find our way out of a maze.

After spending much of the afternoon at a Lama temple we took the 6:15 plane to Xian. The aircraft was a Russian TU that performed well, but the seats were very close together fore and aft. The backs were simply canvas over a tubular frame. My knees were continuously pressed into the back of the man in front of me, and I could feel his backbone and ribs with my kneecaps.

We stayed at the Xian Hotel in Xian. On Sunday morning we were taken on a bus for an hour and a half ride to the place where the Terra Cotta Warriors were excavated and where most are still. En Route we saw a real live new steam locomotive pulling a freight train. The exhibit is under a large barrel vault and was very crowded. The warriors are standing in ranks of four, separated by dirt walls, and spectators walk around the perimeter on an elevated walkway. If you stand where you can see, you get jostled. One of our members failed to observe a "No Photographs" sign at the Terra Cotta Warriors and started taking pictures. A guard or policeman came up to him and did not say anything, but took his camera, opened it, removed the film, and handed it back.

On Monday the 12th we visited the Great Wild Goose Pagoda and a jade carving factory and the Shaanxi Provincial Museum, all in the rain. Xian is an interesting city, and I would like to spend more time there sometime, but only after they get rid of the terrible air pollution. I particularly enjoyed looking at (but not trying to cross) the bicycle traffic. Few people have automobiles, but bikes are very common and are used not only to transport the riders, but also, with large tricycles, to carry cargo and sometimes other people. On one occasion I saw a man riding a tricycle and in the box in back sat a woman nursing a baby. Honey carts were common in Xian, though I didn't see them in Beijing or Shanghai -- these are like large barrels on wheels and are used to carry human excrement from wherever it can be found to nearby farms for use as fertilizer.

On Tuesday we took an early flight to Shanghai where we stayed at the Hua Ting Sheraton. On Wednesday there was a meeting with members of the staff of the Shanghai Economic Reform Office followed by a trip to the Yuan Gardens, a magnificently landscaped park in the middle of the city that had probably been the residence of someone rich before the Japanese or the Communists took over. Charley Hager, one of the lawyers on the trip, mentioned that his grandfather had once owned all the movie theaters in Shanghai, and Charley wanted to look up the grandfather's old associate, one Percy Chiu. He was able to Locate the old man, who is 91 years old, and brought him around to the restaurant where the group was having lunch. Mr. Chiu looked quite lively, though no longer rich. He had been a director of the central bank of China, and from that position was assigned, during the Cultural Revolution, to sweeping streets and cleaning latrines.

After lunch I felt poorly and returned to the hotel where I stayed for the next 30 hours with diarrhea and a slight fever. I missed another couple of exciting meetings (one with the only securities dealing firm in China) and an evening program of singing and dancing in the style of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.). The next evening we all went to an exhibition of Chinese gymnastics and trained animals. Shaw felt particularly sorry for a poor little baby elephant that was required to do balancing acts, including standing on his right forefoot.

Friday morning we did something worthwhile, but I don't recall exactly what it was. That afternoon Shaw skipped, but I enjoyed, a trip on a cruise vessel down the Whangpu River through miles and miles of port and industrial facilities to the China Sea.

On Saturday we flew to Hong Kong and spent the rest of that day and all of Sunday there. I mostly rested and relaxed at the hotel after a morning of shopping and riding the Star Ferry to and from the mainland. Shaw went off by herself in the afternoon and promptly got lost in the Hong Kong subway system. She was befriended by a couple of Chinese high school students, both girls, who spent the afternoon with her and brought her back to the hotel in time for her to join me at the final dinner of the delegation. On Monday we took an early flight to Seoul, an afternoon flight to Seattle (where we arrived that same morning) and then another Monday afternoon flight to Chicago. As you might guess, we were tired.

By and large, I consider the trip a great success, and found the people with us congenial, some even more so than others, of course. The pleasantest was one Tom Monahan, a large, very friendly man in his fifties from Philadelphia; his job is chief of the enforcement division of the local office of the Securities and Exchange Commission. He filled Shaw in on what one had to do to get a job with the S.E.C. She had quit her job with Pepperidge Farm and was looking for another.