The Chinese Boy and the Bicycle: The Extraordinary Wrapped in the Ordinary

July 5, 2010

(Counterpunch) I graduated with a degree in Chinese Studies in 1976 from Yale. By coincidence a neighbor was a Yankee trader and entrepreneur who secured one of the first visas to China a few years earlier, when President Nixon helped push doors open to a nation that had been as closed as North Korea is today. I was hired at the age of 22 to be his door opener to unknown, future business opportunities and, in the summer of 1976, crossed the border between Hong Kong and the mainland. The rail line was controlled tightly as Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin.

Through a college friend, I met a wealthy Chinese woman who lived in Hong Kong. Half of her family had emigrated to Hong Kong when the Communists consolidated control of China in the 1940’s; half remained in Shanghai where the family fortune had been established over many generations. In the intervening thirty years, the family in Hong Kong had built a new fortune in textiles. The half in Shanghai had been forced into poverty and oppressed as enemies of the state. By her description, they were prisoners in their own tiny apartments.

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