After I read Mike Cooper's recently featured post: I learned trust when it was the only thing I had. I literally had "flash backs" to my time spent in Mainland China during the time that China was still closed to the rest of the world. I was there in the early 80's as the first buyer from America. Being sent there to represent the company I worked for at the time, made me realize a life time dream of traveling all over the world. I never dreamed specifically about going to Mainland China; I had been to Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, India and Turkey and so when I was told that I would go to Beijing to work on the merchandise we were beginning to develop in Mainland China, I was thrilled and honored to go!
I spent many months in Mainland China, before they opened their doors to the world. I was doing business there and had a Hong Kong Chinese market representative that traveled with me. I always found the Chinese searching me out for information about America--Some how the word got out to the people on the street that an American was in their midst and they wanted so much to be like us, to talk like us.
Students would follow me to ask if I would let them speak "American" with them. They came to my hotel, asking the front desk to ring me up to see if I would come downstairs so they could practice their skills at speaking English, the American way! I was followed where ever I went--to the only store that I could shop in, the Friendship Store, to the sights that were so important to see, like the great Wall or the Ming Tombs.
I stayed in Beijing, Shanghai, Dalian and was so close to the Manchurian boarder that it was common to see Sherpas with their large 2 wooden wheeled carts and oxen, coming down out of the mountains with their wares, hides, tools and other items to sell. They looked like ghosts from a century long ago, they walked with the immense weight of their hides and sherpa skins into the square, as if nothing was amiss....as if they stepped out of the clouds from a land like Shangrila....
There was a cruel need on the part of the Chinese to think about hopeful things, even though there seemed to be no hope for them at that time.
It was in the 80's when no one owned anything in Mainland China--where they lived literally stacked in layers on shelves, one on top of each other in hovels that could barely stay upright. The smell of kerosene hung heavy in the air as small, kerosene operated motor bikes took individuals long distances to the rice patties and other places of work. There was a constant din of noise as the only automobiles, government owned and all the same grey color, raced from one destination to another, honking their horns all the way.
The Chinese people were indentured servants to the ruling class and the level of "secrecy" in their lives was such that a driver would wait, with bated breath, for the moment when he could whisper to me: "Do you have a car?"
I never felt fearful but there were moments when human suffering became so oppressive that I could hardly breathe or think clearly...starvation, strange diseases and deformities were seen everywhere and agony was a red cloak of fear; a symbol of domination. I don't think I will ever forget it...
The Chinese people are the most hopeful people on the planet---I can tell because the most obvious signs were the huge bill boards, as big as the bill boards with Chairman Mao's face---with one statement on them: ON TO THE YEAR 2000!!!...with young and fervent faces looking up to the flag flying with "2000" emblazoned upon it. The Chinese looked to the millennium as the marker for their world dominance---when they would be the most powerful nation that overshadowed all other nations.
Hopeful and driven, they have arrived, not quite the dominant nation they dreamed of but very close to it!