Chapter Twelve

Loyal Hearts Across the Sea

I love you, beloved Motherland!
I love you, beloved China!
Your rolling southern seas!
Your dancing northern snows!
I love you, beloved Motherland,
I love you, beloved China,
Beautiful songs I will sing to you
The flower of my youth I will give to you
My own, my Motherland! Aaaaaaaaah!
My youth I will give to you, my Motherland!

The lyrics may not be especially original, and the melody, as it happens, would hardly stir the blood either - but this song carries a hidden and powerful message. It is sung by a person born and raised outside of China, who has never lived in China, but whose identity as a Chinese, none the less, is absolute. This was the theme song of a movie produced in China in 1981, called 'Loyal Heart Across the Sea', in which a contemporary young woman of an Overseas Chinese family pays a return visit to the Mother land and becomes caught up in the grand vision of building a New China.

The movie was directed at a home audience, at a time when Beijing's policy had been clearly stated to mobilise the huge resources of trading power, technical expertise, and investment capital represented by the twenty-four million Chinese who live in other countries. Poetically, those who return are designated `Returning Swallows', forever bound by an invisible thread to the land of their origin. The great majority of these live in Southeast Asia, where ethnic Chinese interests are said to control more than seventy percent of the trading economy. The movie happened to be released just as Deng Xiaoping was making a diplomatic sweep through these countries, trying to woo support for the anti-Vietnamese coalition in Kampuchea, but the sentiments expressed in the song are exactly what worry China's Southeast Asian neighbours the most about their own Chinese minorities. Whatever the diplomatic protestations, there is always a suspicion, throughout the region, that anyone with a Chinese ethnic background is expected, by Beijing, to regard China as their Motherland.

Suspicions like this can be very potent, when they are based on a reality of great local Chinese economic power, on the fear of Chinese-backed communist insurgencies, and China's territorial claims to almost the entire South China Sea. Beijing's official maps show the dotted line of its territorial waters virtually scraping the beaches of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, and enclosing, like a giant string bag, islands and archipelagos settled, garrisoned, or otherwise used by those countries.

The long history of Chinese settlement and colonisation of the region is a fascinating one of itself, not least being the question as to why, in the Ming Dynasty, China's then-flourishing seaward expansion and exploration was almost totally curtailed. If not for this Imperial policy decision, Southeast Asia today would likely have a far higher degree of Han colonisation than it has now - possibly even amounting to majority Han populations in several parts of the region. As it is, Chinese historians are fond of digging out the records of early colonies and territorial claims, such as the `Orchid Republic' of Cantonese settlers, which flourished for a hundred and twenty years before the Dutch colonisation on the coast of western Borneo, now Kalimantan.

China's 1982 Constitution (more a manifesto of current policy than an immutable Charter) takes account of the Overseas Chinese. Article 50 says:

"The Peoples' Republic of China protects the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese nationals residing abroad and protects the lawful rights of returned Overseas Chinese, and of family members of Chinese nationals residing abroad."

China's well-publicised official policy towards Overseas Chinese is to encourage them to take up the citizenships of the countries in which they are settled, and China does not, any more, maintain dual citizenships in these cases. None the less, those who have taken out foreign citizenship are not `written off'. The Bureau of Overseas Chinese Affairs, attached to the State Council in Beijing, operates virtually as a Ministry in its own right, and handles the affairs of millions of people holding the citizenships of other countries. The special hua qiao rates of prices and charges (considerably less than that charged to other foreigners) can be had by almost anyone with a Chinese name or face, regardless of their passport, and a whole web of preferences and privileges make sure that no overseas Chinese will be treated fully as a foreigner while he is in China. Overseas consulates maintain contacts with Chinese communities.

Governments of small neighbouring countries with large ethnic Chinese populations may be forgiven for wondering quite how Beijing would interpret `protecting the interests of Chinese nationals residing abroad' in time of crisis. In the case of Vietnam, for instance, it was clear that, during the 1978-81 purges against the ethnic Chinese of Vietnam, China was accepting across the border, as `Chinese' refugees, many tens of thousands of people who carried Vietnamese, not Chinese, citizenship.

Local suspicion of the overseas Chinese is often unfair, of course. Many Chinese settlers have been out of China for several generations, and of these a good proportion have become closely identified with their country of settlement. This is particularly so among many of the younger professionals, children of earlier immigrants, who have been educated outside of their parents' Chinese traditions. Singaporeans are a prime example of these, with a very strong feeling of their own separate nationhood.

Another proportion, though a dwindling one, are so strongly anti-Communist that they feel only nostalgic ties to a China that no longer exists, as one might feel towards a deceased parent. Yet another sizeable proportion of overseas Chinese businessmen see the Peoples Republic as a vast hinterland in which their ethnic links can open up great opportunities for themselves, in profitable trading, and with no more than lip-service to China's national interests. But those who do return to the Motherland, in the `flower of youth' or in old age, are a very visible and very interesting sector of Chinese society.

China's first modern regime, the short-lived 1911 Republic, was founded largely on the financial and participatory support of Overseas Chinese, based on Guangzhou. Dr Sun Yat-Sen, still honoured on the mainland and Taiwan alike as the founder of modern China, had in fact spent so much of his time and effort rallying support outside of China that he had not built any substantial political base within China itself, and his regime soon lost momentum. Within a few short years, Dr Sun was back in exile, and there are grounds to believe that he is honoured in Communist China today largely on account of his extremely high standing among the Overseas Chinese, including the contiguous, but politically independent, regions of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao. A giant portrait of Sun Yat-sen is erected each year in Tian An Men Square for a few days around October 10th, commemorating his role in the first Republican revolution.

A very high proportion of those who contributed to the flow of new ideas, political, social and technical, into China in those early days of the century were returned students from overseas - from Japan, Europe and America. Organisations founded by these people were precursors of the Nationalist Party, the Communist Party, and a host of other reform groups, some of which survive in rump form even today, under the guiding hand of the Communist Party's United Front Work Department. One of the tasks assigned to such groups, now, is the encouragement of Overseas Chinese to return to the Motherland and contribute to its development. From the beginning, such people have been vital to China's progress towards modernisation.

It was a surprise to me, at the end of the 1970s, to discover just how many of an older generation of urbane, foreign educated professionals were still to be found in Beijing, populating government and academic institutions. Many of them had been severely persecuted during the Cultural Revolution for their foreign contacts, but as they trickled back from the farms and remote exiles where most of them had spent at least part of that decade, they also began renewing contacts with their former friends and colleagues who had chosen, much earlier in life, to pursue their careers outside of China. Now, as it appeared that China was at last in a mood to appreciate expertise regardless of class background, many of those Overseas Chinese became interested, once more, in lending a hand.

China's rocketry and nuclear weapons programmes had been led by one such man. Dr Qian Xuesen had been a member of the original allied Manhattan Project team that built the world's first atomic bombs, and had remained in the forefront of American nuclear research until persuaded to return to China in 1955, at the height of McCarthyist harassment of people like himself in the USA whose loyalties could be questioned. In China, he was given a hero's welcome by Chairman Mao, Premier Zhou Enlai and all the luminaries, plus, one must suspect, a deeper satisfaction that he was at last working, in his own way, for his own people. Qian was one of the very few foreign returnees who was spared persecution throughout the Cultural Revolution, as Premier Zhou Enlai ensured that China's nuclear programme remained a top priority.

That welcome was repeated, on a smaller scale, time after time in my period in Beijing. Overseas Chinese scientists of any distinction returning to China, even just on a visit, could be assured of a personal reception by a leading political dignitary, often Deng Xiaoping himself, and flattering notices in the national press. Often, the form would be that Xinhua would release a notice that such and such an `American physicist' or `Australian computer expert' had met Deng Xiaoping, but the name that followed was Chinese.

In 1980, many of the generation who had just begun their overseas professional careers when the Communists won China were now approaching retirement. On handsome superannuation payments from their host country, they were now willing to return to a position of some honour and gratification in the country of their birth, perhaps also to expiate some lingering guilt for having deserted China, thirty years earlier, when it needed them. I met several such people, suave and fully westernised on the surface, but still feeling themselves deeply to be Chinese, and wanting to help. One, I remember, was an aeronautical engineer, retiring from a long career with a high security clearance at a leading United States defence aerospace manufacturer, who came to Beijing prepared to offer his services and knowledge to China, asking nothing for himself. The quid pro quo, in many cases, would be the extension of special favours to relatives of the returnee who had never left China - a better job, return of housing or property confiscated during the Cultural Revolution, facilitation of applications for foreign study, and so on.

It is often remarked that China is almost never caught out in high-level espionage activities of the type we consider routine between the USA and the USSR. One factor may well be that, so far, China has seldom needed to run extensive operations to steal information, when so much is brought to China freely in the heads and briefcases of returning Overseas Chinese, either for the reasons above, or, in the case of traders, in an attempt to curry commercial favour. A Hong Kong resident businessman, Zheng Daquan, was arrested in New York in 1982, charged with being head of a technical spy ring pursuing a `shopping list' of advanced telecommunications technology required by Chinese organisations. Zheng's contacts in the USA were exclusively ethnic Chinese, working inside such institutions as American Telephone and Telegraph.

In this case, the motivation would appear to be simply commercial gain on the part of that Hong Kong entrepreneur. The flow of restricted technology through Hong Kong into China has been well-known for many years. But not all the tasks undertaken by overseas Chinese are entirely venal, if the following story is considered.

Lin Zhihua is a forthright young woman, whose family were landlords in old China, and had been thoroughly committed to the Nationalist, anti-Communist cause. On the communist victory, Zhihua's father went with the Nationalists to Taiwan, taking with him his wife, Zhihua and a brother, but leaving behind two elder brothers and a sister, in the care of a relative. Such family splits were all too common in those days, and have scarred a whole generation. Thirty years of separation from living family can be more painful, they say, than knowing that family members are dead. The wound does not heal.

In the mid-1950s, Zhihua's father became disillusioned with the situation in Taiwan, and emigrated with his family to Canada. There Zhihua grew up, and was educated. Her family ties to China remained, however. On college graduation, Zhihua wanted to explore her `roots', and went back to Taiwan for two years study and re-orientation in Chinese culture. Student life in Taiwan had a political content of anti-Communist activity, which, in her first year, she accepted as natural, if not with enthusiasm. She also spent a lot of time with old friends of her parents, including a number of people with some position in the political and academic life of Taiwan.

In her second year, Zhihua began to lose faith in Taiwan's official aim to `liberate the mainland', although, like so many others on that island, she was aware that close relatives of her own were right then, in the mid-1970s, suffering miserably under a political tyranny. But Taiwan, too, began to suffocate her, and she returned to Canada. In the end, to some family disappointment, she married a non-Chinese Canadian.

Some years later, as the Peoples Republic made clear that all Chinese of any political colour were welcome to visit, Zhihua and her husband came on a package tour to China. But what burned in Zhihua's mind was the desire to do something for her brothers and sister, all now grown up, but living in considerable hardship. After years of silence, they had written to their father, asking what he could do for them. They were living in central China, in a small provincial town near to where their family had once been landlords, but a place not open to tourists. Zhihua asked her Travel Service guide what to do, and he gave her the telephone number of the Overseas Chinese Bureau.

She went to the Bureau. The interviewing officer was very friendly, and explained that there was every chance she would be able to visit her relatives or at least meet them somewhere `convenient'. If the local authorities considered that they had accommodation of a standard adequate to receive a Foreign Guest, they would accept her visit. Zhihua's fears, grown from years of anti-Communist upbringing, melted away and she began to feel that, after all, she was really a Chinese, and this place, not Taiwan, was the real China. She was asked for all particulars of her family that she could give, and was told someone would be in touch with her. The tour group was leaving Beijing for a few days, but it would return, and the matter would be followed up then.

On the evening of their return to Beijing, the Tour Guide came to Zhihua and told her she would have a visitor that evening. Who was the visitor? Just `something to do with her family'. Attendance at an acrobatic show was scheduled for that evening of the package tour, would she mind missing it? Her husband could still go. In fact, the visitor wanted to speak to her alone. The guide laughed nervously as he said that, and Zhihua, still not at all sure of her standing, and keen to help her family, accepted the condition. Her husband was briefly offended at his exclusion, but accepted Zhihua's explanation that it was in the interests of her family.

At seven thirty there was a tap at the door of her room in the Friendship Hotel. A man in his sixties stood there, swathed in a large overcoat, wearing a peaked flat cap, and smiling. He was accompanied by a young man, apparently some kind of secretary.

`Welcome to China, Lin Zhihua,', he said, as she ushered him in. There was no-one in the adjoining rooms, as they had all gone off on the bus to the acrobatic show.

`What do you think of our country, eh? Still very backward, isn't it? But we're beginning to make progress, definitely. Soon all the Overseas Chinese will be proud of us!'

He sat down in one of the two armchairs, heaved a sigh, and placed his flat cap on the bed. The young man moved over by the window and sat on the plain wooden chair by the desk. They had not yet identified themselves, so Zhihua asked, politely, who they were.

`Oh, don't worry about that!,' said the older man with a hearty chuckle and a beaming smile.

`Just call me Old Cadre (lao ganbu), and this is my assistant. We work with Overseas Chinese, and we would like to help you. Tell us about your family.'

Zhihua went over what she had told the interviewers at the Overseas Chinese Bureau, and expanded a little on the immediate problems of her family in the provincial town. They had told her that their confiscated housing had not been returned or compensation given, as the current policies promised, and that one of her brothers was unable to get a job, apparently because local Party officials still classified him as a Landlord, thirty years after his father's entire landholdings had been nationalised. Only one house had been left to the family, and that had gone in the Cultural Revolution. Now the two families shared two rooms.

Old Cadre nodded sympathetically as she spoke.

`There are many deficiencies in our work', he acknowledged.

The policy is clear. Housing that belonged to Overseas Chinese, and was confiscated during the Ten Years of Chaos, must be returned to its rightful owners. We must build unity with the loyal Overseas Chinese, encourage their patriotic feelings. Don't you agree?'

He gave Zhihua time to begin murmuring some vague response or other, then went on.

`Cadres at the local level have problems, too. Sometimes their understanding of Central policies is not very thorough. There are difficulties in finding enough money and enough housing to make compensation. Sometimes, they pay too much consideration to the personal history of people claiming compensation.

`Of course, it's much easier for you, as an Overseas Chinese, to receive compensation, than for your family members inside China to receive compensation. Without your help, I'm afraid they must wait at the end of a long queue.'

He paused a moment for Zhihua to absorb this, then changed the subject, adopting a thoughtful expression.

`Your father and you spent some years in Taiwan. Actually, we know all about you'.

He smiled again. Zhihua was trying not to blush, uncertain whether her Nationalist connections were going to get her into trouble. Could she be considered a traitor or a spy?

Old Cadre reached out and patted her hand reassuringly.

`Old cadres like me have many friends, many old comrades, now on Taiwan. Many of us have close relatives there. Patriotic Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Straits long to be re-united, long for re-unification of Taiwan with the mainland. It is our policy not to discriminate against patriots who come forward, early or late, to serve the Motherland. The people will forgive past mistakes'.

Zhihua had read these policy statements in the press, but she was not too comfortable with the turn the conversation was taking. She did not consider that she had done anything that required `forgiveness', but Old Cadre was clearly putting her in that position. She said nothing, however, thinking of her family and the chance that she could help them.

Old Cadre began to question Zhihua, in the most friendly of ways, about certain old friends of her father who held positions of political influence in Taiwan. From the questions, Zhihua realised that he already knew a great deal, not only about her father, but about what Zhihua herself had done and whom she had associated with during her student days back in Taiwan. His underlying theme seemed to be that there were people in responsible positions on Taiwan who would return, now, to the Peoples Republic, if they could be contacted correctly. If they could receive the right messages, through people they trusted.

Old Cadre came back to Zhihua's own situation.

`Lin Zhihua, as an Overseas Chinese (actually she held Canadian nationality) you are entitled to full compensation for your father's property. We can pay you in any foreign currency you choose, send money to any bank account you nominate. We don't ask questions about your personal affairs. We can pay you the full amount.'

Zhihua sensed that she was being tested. Would she take the money and sell out her long-separated family? It was true that she had almost no personal relationship with them, having been separated in such early childhood. If she declined the money, however, she would demonstrate that the welfare of her relatives meant a great deal to her. Would that also invite pressure? She suddenly felt trapped.

`I would need to think about that', she hedged, trying not to show her feelings. `And I want to make contact with my family as soon as possible. I can't decide what to do unless I know their situation.'

`Naturally. Of course', said Old Cadre. `I can arrange for them to meet you in the provincial capital. But I'm afraid it will take some time. Perhaps you will not be able to meet them on this visit. In the mean time, I will see what I can do for your relatives' accommodation, and for your brother's job. `If you can help us, then I am sure that we can help you'.

His meaning was clear to Zhihua: help for her family was conditional on her agreement to carry messages from Beijing to Taiwan. Was there anything wrong with that? She couldn't see any reason to object, although she was uneasy about such a deal as the basis for the future of her relatives. Without her, they were helpless. If she refused now, things could get worse for them. If Old Cadre's people asked for this innocent assistance now, might they give her more difficult assignments later on, all pegged to the welfare of her brothers, sister and their young families?

Zhihua replied in vaguely positive terms, wanting only to test the water, and certainly not wanting to spoil things without ever seeing the family she had come to rediscover. Old Cadre could see that there was no more to be said, and rose, smiling again, to leave. The secretary leapt to his feet and passed Old Cadre his cap. He gave Zhihua a scrap of paper with a telephone number on it, which she was to call next time she was in Beijing if she wanted to be in touch. As they moved towards the door with a series of polite goodbyes, Old Cadre turned again, remembering something.

`Of course, when you come again to China to see your relatives, it will be easier if you don't bring your husband. He's a foreigner, and we can't let him go to meet your family. It wouldn't be convenient.

`And don't tell your husband what we have discussed tonight. It's a matter between Chinese people. We Chinese have to work together, eh! We are one blood!'

With that he left, leaving Zhihua in considerable internal turmoil. Naturally, she told her husband everything that had transpired on his return from the acrobatic show, and he became very angry, especially about the attempt to exclude him from an important part of his wife's life. He wanted to complain to the Canadian Consulate, but Zhihua persuaded him to do nothing.

`I am Chinese, my family are Chinese. If I am to help my family, it will have to be in a Chinese way', she told him.

They agreed that she would leave things as they were, and return to China the following year to try to see her family. She kept in touch with her family by letter, and heard, within a few months, that they had in fact been moved into a new, relatively spacious housing block, which they were very pleased with. The local officials responsible for the compensation on their father's property had told them that they would get their compensation `when the money was available'.

Zhihua did make her return visit to China, on her own, and went to meet her family. Their circumstances had improved quite dramatically, though there was still no comparison to be made between their small-town provincial life in China and her own middle-class, Canadian affluence. It was an emotional visit. She brought them the present expected of a returning overseas relative - a colour television set. There were tears, but they were tears of nostalgia for the infant memories they had of each other. As adults, they had grown apart. They talked for hours, but the more they talked, the more Zhihua felt that she lived in a world they would never share nor understand, and that she would never share her brothers' world.

She returned to Beijing with a sense of some loss. If she undertook, on her own, to bridge the gap between them, she would be making an open-ended commitment for an unknown price, and with no certainty that what she could achieve for them would be worth that price. They had their own lives, and China was now offering better opportunities to everybody than in the previous twenty years - even to those without foreign relatives. Perhaps they would eventually receive the rest of their compensation, perhaps not, unless Zhihua got in touch with Old Cadre.

Telling me the story, Zhihua said that back in her Beijing hotel room, the day before her return flight to Canada, she pulled out that scrap of paper with Old Cadre's telephone number on it and stared at it for half an hour, unable to make up her mind. Should she be an agent of the Peoples Republic? What possible harm could there be in it? Didn't every Chinese, including those on Taiwan, want an end to the separation? But on whose terms? Finally, on an impulse, she dialled the number, feeling that she was diving into a pool of unknown temperature.

The line was busy. She never dialled that number again, but she often wondered how many Overseas Chinese like herself had been in that position, and what they had been asked to do.

The political stand-off with the Nationalist regime on Taiwan has its seasons, but, under Deng Xiaoping, the principle has always been `softly, softly'. The normalisation of diplomatic relations between the Peoples Republic and the United States was a severe diplomatic blow to Taiwan, though it has since shown that a modus vivendi could still be reached. There were a number of scraps over membership of international bodies and participation in sporting competitions. Xinhua announced one day that a telegram had been sent from the All-China Sports Federation (Beijing) to the Chinese Sports Federation (Taipei), inviting them to send the measurements of their selected athletes to join a combined China team at the Asian games, so that the uniforms could be tailored in good time. Replies to such telegrams were never received, of course.

The ritual artillery `bombardment' of disputed coastal islands, about two shells per week, was discontinued in early 1979. The Peoples Republic dropped all customs tariffs against goods imported from Taiwan (it was authorities on Taiwan who officially banned all trade with the `Communist bandits', while turning a blind eye to the high level of indirect trade through Hong Kong). Truckloads of cartons boldly labelled `Colour TV, Made in Taiwan' could soon be seen rolling through Beijing.

On National Day, 1981, President of the Peoples Republic Ye Jianying announced a new package of offers to Taiwan for consideration. These promised extensive autonomy to Taiwan, in exchange for sovereignty. Under the terms of the offer, Taiwan would be permitted to keep its own armed forces, its own political and economic system, its own cultural and trading relations with foreign countries, its own foreign investment. All the Nationalist Government on Taiwan would be required to give up would be its claim to be the legitimate government of the whole of China, its flag, and its national anthem. Political figures from Taiwan would be allowed to `take up leadership posts in political bodies of the Peoples Republic of China'.

It was a bold ploy, but it did not escape many on Taiwan that, once their claim to their own sovereignty had been dropped, they would have no recourse whatsoever to outside support if Beijing later decided to reneg on any of the promised `special conditions'. All previous periods of `United Front' with the Communist Party had ended in disaster for the Nationalists.

In all probability, Deng Xiaoping and his colleagues had no expectation of positive response from the older generation of Taiwan leaders, but issued this `offer' for the benefit of third parties, and as a talking point for the younger generation of Chinese living on Taiwan, many of whom are deeply fascinated with the liberalising developments on the mainland, and who might, as time goes by, be prepared to compromise over their sovereignty. Long-term, Beijing's fear is not that the Peoples Republic faces a counter-attack from some magically rejuvenated Nationalist force, but that young Taiwan-raised Chinese will simply lose interest in China as a single nation, and head down the road of an avowedly independent and separate Taiwan. The 1981 offer and other statements assured Taiwan and the world that Beijing was interested only in a `peaceful re- unification', not a forcible one. But any future declaration of an independent and separate nation of Taiwan could be relied on to provoke the strongest possible response from China, including maximum military force if required, to keep Taiwan within the fold.

One of the weird features of the Taiwan stand-off is the irregular exchange of pilot defectors. Each country offers a huge bounty to pilots from the rival air force who fly their planes across the strait. Every few years, a disaffected pilot of one or other side runs the gauntlet, and is given a hero's welcome on the other side. The score seems to remain approximately even. The standing reward in Taiwan is a million yuan in gold, while on the mainland it is a million yuan. Major Huang Zhicheng made the big jump in his Nationalist Airforce reconnaissance craft in August 1981. He was immediately inducted into the PLA Air Force, appointed to the sinecure of Deputy Director of an Air Force academy, and sent around the country on a propaganda tour. He addressed the assembled press in Beijing with the fervour of a born-again patriot, but seemed rather vague about the actual conditions of life in the Peoples Republic. After a decent interval, a suitable wife was found to compensate him for the one he left in Taiwan.

The vast majority of returnees, however, come on a much less complicated basis. They are the millions, mainly from the South China coastal provinces of Guangdong and Fujian, who now live in Hong Kong, Macao, and Southeast Asia. In those two provinces, currency remittances from expatriate relatives are a normal and significant part of the economy. And when the Overseas Chinese return, it is not so much as visitors, but as locals who happen to be living somewhere else. In some counties, for every two in the resident population there is another, non-resident Overseas Chinese, who considers the county to be his real home. They come back bearing real and practical gifts, and to admire the fruits of their overseas labours as sent back to the old home town.

Practically every family has its overseas branch somewhere or other, and there is a steady traffic of the young and vigorous departing overseas, to replace the old and frail who come home to retire, or to die. Some of these may have been away for over forty years. The movements have been going on for well over a century - urged by human and natural devastations at home, by a determinedly fecund population, and by the early efforts of European traders in indentured coolie labour - virtual slaves - for the plantations of Asia and the Pacific, including Australia.

The most famous, in China, of the `Patriotic Overseas Chinese' is the Malayan rubber tycoon Tan Kah-kee, whose remittances to his old home town of Amoy (Xiamen in Mandarin) totalled many millions of US dollars. In the 1920s, Tan conceived the idea of building a university for the city he had left twenty years before, and began to plan it, along with local officials. Amoy, then, was one of the Treaty Ports, where foreign powers had forced the failing Manchu Dynasty to grant them special legal status, trade rights and territorial concessions.

As well as giving his own money, Tan Kah-kee tirelessly cajoled fellow Overseas Chinese from Amoy to donate to his project. He died before its completion, in 1961, but he left an estate of over twelve million dollars which finished Jimei, now the most spectacular university campus in China - an impressive string of buildings along the seafront, combining tertiary and secondary levels, vocational as well as academic training, and sports grounds. Facilities and generous funding attracted a faculty of foreign-educated academics, who built an enviable scholastic reputation for the college which lasts today.

At the time, the college Tan built in China was bigger than anything that existed in Malaya, the country where he had lived and made his money for almost all of his life. This kind of `patriotism' is blithely praised in China, but it is exactly what creates the local suspicion and resentment of Overseas Chinese minorities in Southeast Asian countries.

Few overseas patriots try to emulate the scale of Tan Kah- kee's endeavours, but medium-scale expatriate philanthropy is common enough throughout Guangdong and Fujian. County Associations of people from this or that part of the country get together, in an adopted land, to raise funds for a school or a hospital to be built back home. Rural districts of Fujian province are dotted with large, new, spacious houses, built, with remittances from prosperous expatriates, for that part of the family that has remained at home. Around Guangzhou, whole estates of new apartment blocks are funded in the same fashion, with money sent in from overseas.

The flow was slowed during the Cultural Revolution, when foreign connections were deemed to be traitorous. But with the changes in economic policy, remittances were once more actively encouraged by local officials. It had even got to the point in late 1982 when the Communist Party's Disciplinary Inspection Commission had to issue a firm instruction to the party cadres of Fujian province: they must cease their practice of demanding donations from any Overseas Chinese who happened to come through, must cease canvassing those still overseas for `donations' to help the development plans of their localities, and must stop asking those already giving to give even more. There was also the embarrassing matter of a few cadres dipping their own fingers in the till of this tempting flow of largesse.

The road to Zhongshan County winds across the flat, sodden Pearl River delta country, crossing branch after branch of the mud-coloured streams that cut the land into slices. You could lose your sense of direction in this watery maze, but for the herringbone TV antennae that wave high on flimsy bamboo masts over almost every house. Infallibly, the herringbones point towards Hong Kong, from where beam commercial television programmes which have captured local hearts and minds. Hong Kong's Cantonese television programmes carry commercial advertising directed specifically to this silent, mainland audience, knowing that the demands they create will soon be felt in requests to the hard-currency relatives outside, in Hong Kong itself.

Packing-case stalls beside the ferry offer a selection of foreign knick-knacks - American cigarettes, plastic novelties. Girls working in the fields around here are wearing tight Hong Kong jeans, as they bend and hoe under a low, grey sky. Older peasant houses are decorated with strange little towers and balustrades of cement, reflecting the Iberian style of Portuguese Macao, just down the road at the mouth of the delta.

A Hong Kong businessman has invested five million US dollars in a Hot Springs resort complex for returning Overseas Chinese who can pay in hard currency. A forest of luxury concrete villas, hotel blocks and bungalow compounds has risen from the sticky mud of the paddy fields. Girls from those fields have been brought inside and put into tailored polyester uniforms, to wait on dining tables under plastic chandeliers. They stand about shyly. One girl tweaks at the unfamiliar texture of nylon stockings that she is wearing for the first time. Another tells me that they feel strange, a bit like movie stars. A bustling maitre d'hotel from Hong Kong chivvies the waitresses, touching up the parsley garnish on a large butter-sculpture of the Goddess of Mercy. At another table, a slick young man from Hong Kong lavishly entertains his shy family of peasants - he is their hope for the future. An air-conditioned coach from Macao stands in the parking lot, and the clatter of mah-jong tiles issues from the top floor of a concrete mock-Ming pavilion. On the low hill above the resort, the sound of mah-jong still rises faintly, and a red electric light bulb winks slowly in a small, modern Buddhist shrine.

At the port of Zhuhai, concrete ramps are going in for the hovercraft service which will bring the Special Economic Zone to within one hour's commute from Hong Kong. Hotels, apartments and industrial estates are rising along the fore- shore, to lure hard currency business onto the mainland. A hundred million dollars have been invested here. The fisher- men's cottages now boast washing machines and refrigerators.

Zhongshan County has been sending people abroad for a hundred years. San Francisco, Hawaii, Vancouver, Sydney - they each have their Chinese names, and the million-strong population of this county know them all well. Half a million of their relatives live in these places. The county capital, Shiqi, looks like any other steaming South China town, but it's different. County officials usher me through their hospital, the best equipped in rural China, built with two million US dollars. At the county high school, students wear free uniforms, use well-equipped laboratories, swim in their own pool. I am led into a video training room, where young teachers are studying teaching methods from imported cassettes. Facilities like this are unheard of, even in the elite schools of Beijing. They are bought for this county- town school with remitted Hong Kong and US dollars, and with a healthy endowment fund left over.

Ruby Tinyu sits in a cane chair in the cool of her Shiqi shop-house, slowly fanning. A framed portrait of Chairman Mao is on the wall, but arranged about the modest family altar are photographs of suburban Australian families with Chinese faces. Ruby was born in Melbourne in 1917, her father a market gardener. She returned to China as a young girl, but now she plans to rejoin the family who are still in Australia. Her brother has fourteen children and grand- children there. Ruby will take her son of 34 and a daughter, but her husband will stay in Zhongshan county. He's too old to emigrate. The family have lived well on remittances for as long as she can remember, and it is time for the next phase of the cycle. A new generation will go out to Australia, and, perhaps, more of the old will return to prepare their own graves on the Zhongshan hillsides.

Zhongshan County received over twelve million US dollars in remittances during 1979, an average year. In the following wave of consumerism, the money remittances dropped off slightly, as returning relatives, instead, carried consumer durables in with them (the ubiquitous colour television sets). Government currency regulations meant that for every ten dollars of foreign exchange sent to a family, only one dollar could be spent on foreign goods. It was a much better deal to receive the goods directly.

Not all returnees come to give, however. Some come to die, some for treatment in Chinese medicine. A proportion of young people are sent by their parents to be educated in Chinese schools. Ettina, a 160-kilogramme maiden from Singapore, came to China in search of the husband she had failed to obtain in Singapore after ten years of trying. With the resources of the Overseas Chinese Bureau, a suitable 150-kilogramme match was found for her, a wharf labourer, and it was joy all round. But thieves and charlatans also find a place among the teeming throngs of returnees who come into South China, especially during the festival seasons. Apart from the smugglers, there are counterfeiters selling fake Hong Kong dollars, commercial swindlers and con-men, and innumerable seducers of young women with the sweet, sweet promise of a trip across the border.

The interface for all this is the burgeoning Special Economic Zone on the border at Shumchun (Shenzhen), where Beijing plans that Hong Kong capital, enterprise, and technology will marry Chinese labour, land, and raw materials, in a zone where the normal restraints of a socialist, fully-planned economy are suspended. The zone has been a mixed success, with many once keen foreign entrepreneurs finding that they cannot get a fraction of the productivity out of mainland labour that they could expect in Hong Kong. There has been frequent friction at management level, as well, over fees, charges, and profit-sharing arrangements.

For many years, Shumchun railway station was almost the only permitted entry point to China for foreigners. Even in 1978, I had to trudge with my baggage across that railway bridge, still closed to through traffic on the Guangzhou-Kowloon line. By 1983, Shumchun was transformed. The zone had attracted US$2.6 billion in investments and export contracts. Was capitalism knocking dangerously at the door? The Communist Party remained watchful.

Li Jiangzheng, secretary of the Provincial Disciplinary Inspection Commission of the party, issued a warning:

`In running the Special Economic Zones, great attention must be paid to building socialist civilisation. No one may exercise special powers or enjoy special privileges. We shall never be soft on economic criminals.

`We must be watchful against underworld organisations from Hong Kong, which are trying to penetrate the Special Economic Zone at Shumchun. They engage in smuggling, narcotics, extraditing escaped prisoners, procuring women, and other crimes.

We must crush them relentlessly and not give them any foothold. `We must maintain an especially strict legal system, public hygiene, and lead a rich, colourful, and healthy cultural life in the Special Economic Zone.'

Whatever the success of this policy, there is no doubt that the most exciting gangster movies and TV dramas of the period issued from the studios of Guangzhou.

Other Party stalwarts ventured to suggest that Shumchun and the handful of other Special Economic Zones were now the focus of China's real Class Struggle - a term which had gone out of fashion for a couple of years. Their thesis was that the only remaining bourgeois class of China were those in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, and that by their very ingrained class nature they would be bound to seek to undermine China's proletarian ethics by every means. Shumchun must not be allowed to be the crack in the door by which such poisonous influences to gain entrance to a new generation!

These voices were drowned in the din of cash registers, not least in the booming Shumchun Duty Free Store, operated under Chinese Customs supervision, and which turned over more than $50,000 per day in hard currency with tourists and hua qiao travellers.

It was all very sapping to the revolutionary ardour of the staff of the Shumchun Railway station, who spent their days watching their Hong Kong compatriots flowing to and fro, laden with the glittering prizes of their life in the capitalist wonderland of Hong Kong.

An education campaign was organised to correct their thinking. The hazards of Hong Kong's laissez-faire economy were spelt out in grim detail to a generation who had grown up to presume that the state felt at least a moral responsibility for their welfare. Not so in Hong Kong, where the weak may starve. High rents, long hours, no job security, no sick leave, no chance to find a wife or afford the bride price - these realities might be familiar to many Chinese peasants, but are unknown to the feather-bedded industrial workers, such as those in the railways, whose passive welfare state they take for granted.

The lessons were hard learned by Wang Peng, a cadre with a Guangzhou heavy engineering works, who believed the tales of Hong Kong as a land of opportunity and took up a chance to emigrate. He returned to Guangzhou after eight months, to the jeers of some but the applause of Party workers.

`It took me a month to find a job in a small factory. I had to work all day, over ten hours, so hard that I felt dizzy. Living costs were so high that my salary was not enough to support me and my son. I almost died through overwork and poor industrial conditions.

`In Hong Kong, relationships are based on money. When I asked help from relatives, they all flatly refused. My son and I were kicked out of our own relatives house, because we could not pay enough rent. We slept in the streets.

`Working later as a food peddler, I was threatened by standover men from one of the underworld gangs. They would have killed me if my boss didn't pay them off. The police didn't dare to touch them.

`I was disillusioned with the `paradise'. The sweet words of my relatives had come to nothing. I wrote to my unit, asking to come back, and to my surprise I was welcomed back with open arms.

`Since my return, I have been promoted to deputy section chief of supply and marketing. Where is the `paradise' that so many people are looking for? It is in this socialist land for which we are all now working diligently'.

But not, Wang Peng might have added, working ten hours per day or to the point of dizziness. His paean was published in the Liberation Army Daily.

But the first generation of returnees, those who had come back from comfortable, established lives in the developed world to help rebuild China, often saw things from a different perspective. These were people who had come with motives of idealism, wanting to be given a chance to do what they were trained to do, and, in most cases, not expecting any special privileges in return. But a structure of privileges did accrue, in the early days of the Peoples Republic. Special housing, special rations, access to special shops and tailors, appointment to honorific committees, invitations to state occasions - the qualified returnees sometimes found themselves forced into an elite they had not planned on joining. Come periods of political strife, and they were immediately marked for the envy and manic suspicion of the leftwing extremists. Countless numbers died under persecution, but, for the living, the bitterest pill was often to be forbidden to use their qualifications in the interests of their nation. It was a mania that can only be compared to mediaeval witchhunting. The peasants, and their representatives in positions of power, feared knowledge that they did not share.

Guo Li's father was of the old scholar-landlord class, like most of the early reformers. He went with one of the first groups of independent Chinese students to study in Japan, in the early 1930s. Most of his fellow students of that time became Nationalist generals, but Guo, according to his son, had views further to the left. In the late thirties he went to London for further study, and, Guo Li told me, became an underground communist. In London he met and married an overseas Chinese woman from Indonesia.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Guo senior joined the Bank of China's London branch, then the most important office for any international bank, and at that time, naturally, very much under the control of the Nationalist government of China. Keeping his communist sympathies concealed, Guo senior was promoted to the rank of deputy branch manager.

When the Peoples Republic was declared in 1949 in Beijing, the defeated Nationalist Government attempted to transfer all the considerable assets and gold reserves of its London Branch to the new Taiwan regime. At the crucial moment, Guo Li's father prevented this by the simple device, according to Guo Li's story, of `locking the Bank's strongroom and going out to lunch with the keys in his pocket'. By the time he came back from lunch, the Bank officially belonged to the Peoples Republic of China, and Deputy Manager Guo became Manager Guo, on behalf of the Peoples Republic.

Guo Li himself was born in England during this period, and was educated at English schools right through until he was seventeen. In the mean time, his parents had divorced and his father had returned to a senior post in the Bank of China in Beijing. Aged seventeen, in a act of rebellion against his English upbringing, Guo Li went to Beijing to join his father and to `make revolution'. Thousands of young Overseas Chinese from all over the world were similarly inspired at that time. As the son of a kind of revolutionary hero, or certainly of a `patriotic personage', young Guo Li was admitted, without too close a political scrutiny, to a new elite group of six hundred who had been charged with creating Radio Beijing as the international voice of the Peoples Republic.

English was in fact Guo Li's mother tongue, and he became an announcer in the English service. He planned to study Mandarin as part of this return to his roots, but his superior officers would not permit him to study Mandarin with a native-speaking teacher, for fear it would `spoil' his English accent for broadcasting. Guo Li, in Beijing, had to learn Mandarin from a foreigner! It was a weird idea, but the result is that Guo Li, to this day, speaks Mandarin with a plummy British accent.

Guo Li was instructed to keep the British passport he had earned by virtue of his birth, but he was given Chinese citizenship as well, to regularise his position at Radio Beijing. `We increased our broadcast hours three hundred percent in one year, and we had all been complete amateurs at the beginning.

`There was a great spirit then... Beijing was still a small city, if you counted only those who mattered. You could bump into any of the big generals in any local restaurant. We used to take our girlfriends to the Western-food restaurants... in the Dongfeng market there was the Peace Cafe (American built, selling sodas and doughnuts), Kiesslings (Kiessling and Bader.. an Austrian firm based in Tianjin) and the Black Cat..

`I liked the Black Cat.. it had naked ladies on the walls.. I remember a mural of 'Aphrodite Rising from the Sea' that gave a certain daring cachet to the place. The whole feeling of Beijing was good, really, until old Mao went mad.'

`When the Broadcast Headquarters was built with Russian assistance in 1958, they put in an auditorium with a perfectly sprung ballroom floor. Being a top-security unit, it was a place were the bigwigs used to come in the evenings for their relaxation..

`I remember Liu Shaoqi (then President of the Peoples Republic) opening the studio door by mistake one evening while I was on air reading the English news bulletin.

`When Marshall Chen Yi chose to come, sometimes after midnight, the orchestra and singers attached to the Broadcasting Bureau would be summoned to perform 'Return to Sorrento' and such hits of the time. We broadcast twenty-four hours a day, of course, and sometimes in the middle of the night a message would come down to the announcers' preparation room: "Send up six pretty girls". Marshall Chen Yi liked to dance with various partners in an evening.

`When things began to get politically tight, in the late 1950s, other returned Overseas Chinese were among the most "radical" of the crew there.. always ready to criticise you. I was regarded as already contaminated with Western culture. Because of my work, I needed to read all kinds of Western journals and papers.. they were all available to me. But I was forbidden to pass any of the information in them on to others.. it was "sugar-coated bullets", we were told, which would undermine our ideological strength..

`I remember one other cadre who was in charge of the monitoring department.. listening to foreign broadcasts to summarise them for the leadership. This man had a long revolutionary history, was a peasant in origin and didn't know any foreign language, so he was thought safe from bourgeois contamination. One day I opened the door of the monitoring section and saw him swaying and jigging with a dazed look on his face, to the sound of Voice of America's Jazz Hour.

`These peasants, you know, they didn't have any resistance at all to music they had never encountered before... they were really susceptible.

`In 1961 the Party suddenly sent in a batch of three hundred demobbed army officers to act as "political commissars" to our unit. We were all intellectuals, many of us from upper class families or Overseas Chinese, and we despised those clods who knew nothing about anything except Marxist politics. The unit was seriously divided for a while. Then the top man, General Mei, dealt with it well.. he sent them all down to Guiyang, in Guizhou province, to "learn from the masses and spread revolution" there. That gave us a breather for a few years.

`All these units are riddled with old rivalries you know. In meetings, it wasn't just a matter of people getting up and saying "I remember you supported such and such an incorrect line in 1957.." They go right back to the 1942 Party Rectification Campaigns in Yenan and even further. When a new man gets promoted he always wants to bring in his own people.. they're the only ones he can trust. People have a lot of old scores to settle. I had a fight with a woman who'd had me under attack in the Cultural Revolution.. her name was Liang. She'd come back from the United states, but wanted to be redder than red. I got stuck into a few people myself, in my time there.

`Finally the Cultural Revolution caught up with me. The whole lot of us were sent down to the farm for re-education. Old Mei, the peasant general, was there for three years, and he just reverted to type. He just got stuck into the work and worked like a peasant. Once, I was sharing a room with him while they were "struggling" some poor blighter outside, pulling his hair out, beating him. The fellow was screaming with pain, and I was terrified, I can tell you. I saw myself in a mirror and my eyes were literally popping out of my head with fright. Old Mei just told me to roll over and go to sleep. He'd seen it all before, campaign after campaign, and he wasn't afraid of anything any more. He knew being afraid wouldn't help one way or the other, so he wasn't afraid.

`Another of my bosses, Lao Han, was there with us. He was driving a tractor while I was shovelling dirt. But we all got to know each other pretty well, better than we could have staying in Beijing, and across the factional lines. Sometimes you could even think you were enjoying the fresh air and the physical exercise, but the study sessions were killing! Bore you to death!

`That all finished me though.. I knew they didn't want anything from me and I didn't want what they were handing out. After I came back from the farm I wanted out, but the authorities wouldn't recognise me as a British citizen because I was holding a Chinese identity card and was registered as the "son of a revolutionary hero". I went to the British Embassy and claimed their support as a citizen. I could have got into big trouble for that, but again General Mei protected me.

`They never agreed to my status, but eventually they just told me to "go on leave", and I've been "on leave" ever since.'

After many years, Guo Li came back to Beijing on business, representing the London-based Visnews television newsagency in negotiations with Chinese Central Television. He found that, as far as the Chinese organisation was concerned, he still belonged to them.

`Coming back now, I find there's been hardly any change at my old unit. I still have my seniority and class.. if I'd stayed I would have been a department director now, like my contemporaries. And now the experts are getting right back in the saddle.. my people, the forty-five to fifty-five age group. The old military commissars are going to get thumped at last! Even people like Lao Han, good hearted and not hurting anybody much, are just going to be tossed aside.. its inevitable.'

Guo Li still felt some of the old sense of excitement that had first brought him back to China as a youth - there was so much to be done, such great opportunities in remaking such a great land! It was a deep hurt to him that what he thought he could offer to his country had been cast aside as dross in the furnace of revolutionary ideology. `They invited me back again. I told them my condition.. the right to sack people. I know I won't get it, so I won't come back, for good.'

Guo Li still suffers the confusion of identity that can beset an Overseas Chinese. I asked him whether he now considered himself to be a Chinese, an Overseas Chinese, or a Foreign Citizen of Chinese Descent, and he could give no real answer.

`Blowed if I know what I am!'.

But other Overseas Chinese, with a very firm idea of who they are, find that their visions of New China can run aground. The Chinese-American architect I.M.Pei, highly regarded, even reverenced, by the intellectual elite of the United States for his bold and impressive work on major national monuments such as Washington's National Gallery of Art and the J.F. Kennedy Library in Boston, found his architectural path far from smooth when he came to Beijing.

From 1978, a large number of foreign building and investment groups showed interest in joint-venture construction of international-class hotels for the Chinese capital, which was suffering a severe shortage of such accommodation in the light of is rapid expansion of foreign trade and tourism. Most proposals fell by the wayside, but a small number, all led by Overseas Chinese, got under way. Invariably, the Overseas partners soon found themselves enmeshed in a nightmare of bureaucratic restrictions, suspicion, and incessant demands for an ever-higher proportion of the costs to be borne by the foreigner, with ever- dwindling prospects of getting a fair return on investment.

First of these to be completed was the Jian Guo Hotel - a small but efficient establishment designed and financed by the Californian-Chinese architect and entrepreneur, Clement Chen. The design, in fact, was an almost exact copy of the Chen's Palo Alto Holiday Inn.

I.M. Pei does not see himself as a scavenging entrepreneur. He is of a patrician Shanghai capitalist family, and grew up in one of the famous landscaped house compounds of Suzhou, not far from Shanghai - the Lion Stone Garden - owned by his banker father. His view of these packaged foreign hotels was lofty. `I am not interested in building this kind of hotel', he said in an interview.

`I am not in the travel business. If I had been asked to build a high-rise tower with aluminium alloy and reflecting glass windows, what good would it have done China?'

`If you simply mix foreign words with native words, all you have is a kind of "pidgin". The same goes for architecture. We can't just go to a library, master foreign styles, and then tack on a few Chinese features and think we have created an architecture with true Chinese flavour'.

Pei was invited to design a hotel by the Beijing Municipal Government, only one of many authorities then engaged in hotel- building for the capital. But this authority had the advantage that it could offer a much greater range of possible sites than other organisations and ministries which had only limited land.

Pei's imagination was captured by a site in the Fragrant Hills Park, a former hunting preserve of the Manchu emperors, still redolent with imperial architecture and garden landscaping. Among 700 year-old trees, he would recreate, on a grand scale and in a modern idiom, the classic garden architecture in which he had lived as a child in Suzhou.

`There is a Chinese temperament in me that cannot be changed', he said.

`Chinese architecture has deep roots. Naturally, some roots, such as the palaces and temples, have died, but the main roots are still deep and alive. Trees can be grafted... I came here from abroad, and I will graft only what can be grafted, and not what cannot be done naturally.'

Pei's design, and his vision, was a grand one. The building began to rise in that ancient Chinese landscape, blending ferro-concrete construction with the subtleties of traditional court- yard ornamentation and the harmonious placement of selected rocks. Pei's partners wanted the interior decorated in red and gold, the grandiose colours of Chinese palace and temple. Pei prevailed to use the soft greys and whitewash of the Suzhou gardens. A huge glassed atrium soars over reflecting pools, and picture-windows bring the careful landscape inside the building. The Fragrant Hills Hotel official opening was an event on the international social calendar, attended by Henry Kissinger and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

A few days later, I visited the Fragrant Hills Hotel with my wife and infant son - a pleasant Sunday afternoon drive into the hills, away from Beijing's endless drab boulevards and identical apartment blocks. To be in a building which embodied any architectural vision whatsoever was an almost overwhelming change from daily experience. We wandered around the atrium, decorated with fine paintings by expatriate Chinese artists. We noticed that, already, the spare lines of the public spaces were gathering a small accretion of crudely-lettered plastic signs directing visitors to souvenir counters and the like. We went to the dining room for a drink.

The bill of fare was as in every other Beijing hotel except for Clement Chen's Jian Guo, which had managed to persuade its Chinese co-owners, the China Travel Service, to accept Swiss hotel management staff and the importation of foreign delicacies for its guests. At I.M.Pei's Fragrant Hills Hotel weak coffee, sweet soft-drinks, lardy biscuits and plain icecream thickened with corn-flour were the only choices, though guests would be paying a hundred US dollars per night to stay there.

At the next table was a party of prosperous American- Chinese, the women all wearing the tightly-curled hairstyle that for some reason is favoured by the Chinese matrons of San Francisco. One of the women appeared to know I.M.Pei, and didn't care who knew it, as she laid out a sorry tale.

`I.M. lost a lot of money on this. You know, it was originally costed at 12.5 million, then it went up to 25 million. All that landscaping.. I.M. wanted rocks that really suited the place. The locals kept saying "but we've got plenty of rocks here in Beijing". They tried to push the whole extra cost off onto I.M.'s company. I.M. was trying to reintroduce Chinese architecture to its roots. But these people just don't have any roots. You know what a calm man he is.. but here he turned into a real blood pressure case.

`This place is managed by the Number One Service Bureau.. you know, the people that run the Beijing Hotel and the others. They're so arrogant and they know nothing. We took the whole management team to the Jian Guo Hotel with its Swiss managers, to see how international-standard serving should be done. They just didn't see it. They said "We've had foreigners here for two hundred years.. We know how to serve Western food".

`That woman cadre, you know, one of the deputy managers.. she asked me "Why do people want to stay in the Jian Guo.. its twice as expensive as the Beijing hotel?" I said "Because they get their phone calls put through and the telexes passed on." `She said "But the rooms are much smaller". They just can't conceive what foreign hotel guests want, and simply they refused to accept any foreign advice or training.

`The Swiss Trade Mission got some Swiss interested in managing the bar for them.. they have this bar out here, but nobody knows how to mix a single drink. The manager knows how to drink them though, and he's never seen in the place. Anyway, the Swiss offered to run the bar and train staff, for fifty percent of the profits.. a really generous offer considering the costs of keeping Swiss staff out here. The local hotel managers would only accept to have them on local staff and to pay them a Chinese salary! Six months after the Chinese staff were recruited, they still don't know how to mix a cocktail.

`For the opening, we had all these people come out.. Kissinger, Jacqui Kennedy.. then they served the meal. The soup was cold, and the salad was hot. You can't really blame the staff, they just don't know.. it's the management upstairs.

`I.M.'s really broken-hearted. It was his baby, and he wanted to see it grow, now he thinks it's going to die.

`You know, the hotel staff are mainly cadres' children.. it's a cushy job and they're there for life. I asked some of them what they would rather do if they had the chance. They all said "We'd rather do business".'

`I asked Clement Chen why not do another Jian Guo. He said "Over my dead body".. its just not worth the trouble.'