July 13, 2001
Beginning of the Road
By Dane Sorensen
It was about 10:20 in the evening when it all started. My wife and I were back at our hotel after a very busy day in the factories. We had inspected the plating department and saw the new trombone division that had been set up in the old part of the factory. The use of the word factory must be taken lightly in this area because it more resembled a peasant's hut than a workshop. When Mr. Zhou and Mr. Chin began their enterprise they truly did start in a peasant's hut. So this area of the factory was dark with little windows, uneven cement floors and no ventilation. It was a lovely 39 degrees Celsius which works out to something like 104 degrees in Ely Temperature. So on this evening we were happy to be back in our air conditioned hotel room.
With a refrigerator full of soda pop, tea and beer we relaxed watching Chinese TV. In Beijing you can get CNN in English. In Wouchang everything is in Chinese. Wouchang has plenty of channels and it was fun to see what the average Chinese citizen has to watch after working all day in high heat and humidity. Chinese TV is a mixed bag. Usually, at any given time one of the channels will have a historic drama of the heroic struggles of the Red Army. That is the only place you see those old baggy Mao uniforms. In these drama will be both the military struggles and also the personal struggles of love.
On other channels they do have good old American style soap operas. On these you see very handsome Chinese men and women. They are all dressed in very stylish western suits and Vogue dresses. Even though I don't understand more than 5 Chinese words I instantly understood the familiar tone of a soap opera. Low voices talking short fast sentences with searching eyes. The scenes with the elder father instructing his daughter to not see "him" were right out of Edge of Night. The lover's fight scenes were always followed by a final kiss. Some things are universal and love is alive and well in China.
Commercials are another fascinating thing to see. We hear in our press about all the wonderful Chinese herbal medicines and in China they are a very big deal. On TV are many commercials with computer graphics showing how their little pill will make blood energized, your ying and yang balanced and give you a long youthful life. Watching the computer graphics almost made me a believer. Along with pills are many devices that will cure stress in the neck and brain, enlarge your breasts and other socially important improvements for only a few Yuan. I never tired of the commercials. They were a hoot, especially the Michael Jackson commercial where he pimps V26 - a kind of Slimfast drink.
Any who, I was cooling off and enjoying a game show where two lovely Chinese girls had to show off talent and brains. They were neck and neck in the score when we heard fireworks. I got up and looked out the window to see, but they were very far away and partly blocked by buildings. I went back to contestant two who was answering questions in the sound proof booth when we heard louder fireworks. I went back to the windows and now fireworks were happening much closer to our hotel. We stood and watched noticing that it was still raining hard. Within five minutes the entire city exploded with fireworks. They were in front of us, beside us and in back of us. In the pouring rain the Chinese were launching a barrage that reminded me of Baghdad in 1992 when our stelth fighters took out their command centers and milk factories.
It is then we remembered our host saying word from Moscow was expected at 10PM on whether Beijing was to be the host city for the 2008 Olympics. I switched channels and found a news broadcast where they were most definitely showing that is what had happened. News clips showing Moscow and the International Olympic Committee voting and suddenly an entire section of the audience stands en masse and gives a bonsai-like shout.
For over an hour we saw fireworks in the rain. On television live broadcasts from Beijing showed that city under a far bigger attack of fireworks. The streets were filled with people, military bands, and dancers waving giant red banners. A full blown Broadway like production was also under way that would last for over three hours. I had no idea on how important this was to China. They truly feel it will be their chance to show the world the new modern China. I remember seeing many posters and highway murals showing the Olympic logo and the English phrase "Official Olympic City Candidate."
This excitement which is shared by the owners and managers of Jinyin as well as all the citizens of China (as far as I can see) is truly a shared golden moment. Like all Communist countries, China has a deep inferiority complex and needs to show the world, and itself, that they are truly a great nation. China now has a chance to showcase a very modern looking capital. They will rightly be proud of the incredible rise of personal wealth many Chinese citizens have achieved under the economic freedoms.
Most Chinese admit their government has a heavy hand when it comes to dissidents. However, their eyes see a nation that is coming richer and richer. The piles of bricks are ever-present. I truly think they wish to convince the world they are just as good and just as modern as the West. It will be interesting to see how the US Press treats China in 2008. I think they will be amazed considering that the Chinese economy has another 7 years of double digit growth in which to build an even more prosperous nation.