My Seven Favorite "MY FIRST IMPRESSION OF CHINA" Stories of Washingtonians (Posted 10/30/2014)
1. Most moving: John Spellman
Governor Spellman had a brother, an older brother and his only brother, who was killed in the Korean War. It was very hard on his family. For many years, Governor had mixed feelings towards Asia. Fast forward to 1982. Governor Spellman led a delegation to China. There he signed in Chengdu the friendship agreement between the State of Washington and the Province of Sichuan. Looking back, Governor told me, that visit was the biggest accomplishment of his administration.
2. Most dramatic: Stan Barer
Stan Barer was in China in 1975. As an attorney, he was there to talk to fireworks manufacturers and exporters about a new U.S. regulation on labelling and testing. That he did. But he also wanted to find a way to resolve a long-standing collision dispute between a Chinese fishing boat and one of his client's. For that, he would like to meet with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, at that time in charge of maritime affairs. Every day for eight days, as he travelled from Guangzhou to Beijing, he asked for an appointment. But no appointment. So, the night before the last full day in China, he and his wife Alta sat down by the table, under the chandelier, in their room at the Beijing Hotel. He said, Alta, I am going to read you a letter I wrote to Sen. Magnuson. "Dear Sen. Magnuson," he read, "I know how important you believe trade is as a link. I work very hard to solve this collision problem so we can move on to re-establish shipping. But I can't get an appointment..." He went all the way. He was really reading into the chandelier, with a listening device in it. Next day, it was the Great Wall. Stan and Alta were gone most of the day. Four o'clock, back in town. There were Red Flags, the VIP limo, parked in front of the hotel, waiting for him. He got his appointment with the minister, in style, through the chandelier. That was the beginning of the end of 30 years of no shipping between the U.S. and China.
3. Highest level encounter: Ruth Walsh McIntyre
Ruth Walsh McIntyre was KOMO TV news anchor in 1979. She went to China with Governor Dixy Lee Ray as the invitation of China's leader Deng Xiaoping who had been in Seattle earlier that year. After the Deng-Ray meeting in Beijing, Ruth got to interview Deng Xiaoping for ten minutes. One question she asked Deng was what he foresaw as the near future of China. Deng said, "China is entering an era of communistic capitalism." Communistic capitalism? That may be what has evolved into "socialism with Chinese characteristics" in China today, a combination of socialism and market economy. Ruth was probably the first American journalist to hear directly from Deng that concept.
4. Funniest: Steve Harrell
Steve is just funny. He had become a "China expert" by the time he went there in 1980. To a China scholar, the up till then closed off China was the "Sacred Land," or 圣地. Yet, first day first morning in Beijing, the local guide said, "We are going to the Friendship Store first." Steve felt so deflated. He said, I came all the way to go shopping? Steve also describes vividly what happens in those years when a foreign group of visitors arrived in China. They take you to a factory, a school or a commune and sit you down in a room and give you a 热烈的欢迎, or warm welcome, and a 简单的介绍, or brief introduction, which was often full of statistics, all in the same format.
5. Best description of obsession with China: Dennis Bracy
Dennis Bracy told me the story of Morris Udall of Arizona. Udall said,"There is a disease in Washington, DC called presidentitis. The condition makes it impossible for a politician to give up hope of becoming president. The only cure is the embalming fluid." Dennis said, "China is like that. You can't get out of your blood." With this China condition, Dennis had made over 150 trips to China since his first one in 1985. Has to be a record of the whole of Washington.
6. Best separation of China's government and people: Paige Miller
Paige Miller as a Port of Seattle commissioner visited China Ocean Shipping Co. (Cosco) at its headquarters in Beijing in 1988 and met many of China's port officials. Next year, in June, Tiananmen happened. She worried about those she had met a year earlier. Port of Seattle was also hosting a port conference in three weeks, with a number of ports attending, including Port of Shanghai and Port of Tianjin. To cancel it or not? Paige said they decided to go ahead and host the Chinese friends. "Those events were not their doing," Paige told me. She was right. And that commitment paid off.
7. Most meaningful in terms of Nixon-Mao breakthrough: Ed Nixon
Ed Nixon, as President Nixon's youngest brother, went to China many times since his first in 1984 as a business consultant. In 2012, the 40th anniversary of President Nixon's 1972 visit, Ed was back in China, and back at the Diaoyutai State House in Beijing, and had dinner with Mao's daughter Li Min. Both Li Min and Ed toasted to the families, the Mao family and the Nixon family. Ed then toasted to the children, the younger generation. That's right. It is the younger generation that will carry on with what Mao and Nixon started 40 some years ago.